Night markets: the case of Baguio City

Much of what happens in cities takes place in great streets.

Tim Stonor

This is Harrison Road nights.  The night market, already featured on Trip Advisor, opens at about 9PM and shuts down before dawn.  The photo above was taken past 1AM.

What wares sold in this market are worthy of buyers from near and far?  Clothes.  Shoes.  Bags.  Used, mostly.  Wagwag in local lingo (the term is derived from the act of shaking dust off used or old clothes).  Or, more popularly, ukay-ukay (from the act of rummaging through things especially of diverse things).  But these are not ordinary used wear and accessories mind you.  They’re branded.  Originals.  Theme.  Nine West.  Ferragamo.  And they’re sold starting at 50 pesos.  There is your price of motivation these days.

General Francis Burton Harrison may be twitching with amusement at the way this side of the City dedicated to him has turned out.  Well, this is the hill station now.  At least American brands are among the labels sold there and for all our anti-colonial sentiments there’s nothing that will stop us from grabbing American Apparels off the racks.

But I’m more interested in how night markets such as this shape or determine urban culture, economy, and space.

Obviously in as far as commerce for the local informal economy is concerned it’s a success, garnering more and more buyers over time.  But what’s interesting is it appears that a big number of buyers are not from the City.  What does this mean for the entire City? for planners and decision-makers at City Hall?

For one, the night market i.e. retail of used clothing and increasingly, imitation goods apparently has over time re-configured the image of the City.  Is this new image beneficial or hurtful?

The retail of second hand-clothing is part of an intricate international supply chain of entrepreneurs mostly women. From the main suppliers in, say, Hong Kong, sources come from China and South Asia the goods passing through layers of buyers and sellers until these finally arrive at the wholesaler in the City.  Imagine too the exchange of money in this web and of course the amount involved yet the wares come to us at 20 pesos per at the minimum. It’s quite an intriguing trade. But issues such as supplier-countries’ prohibition of second-hand clothing importation hound the trade which has blurred the lines of what’s legal and illegal, ethical and unethical business practice.  And what’s even more amazing is Baguio City finds itself a significant participant in this global enterprise.

Also, although it’s a subject for another post, the trade as mentioned borders on, if not, in fact smuggling and what’s disturbing is it’s largely run by women.  The country has just concluded hosting the APEC Summit in which we heard critical and moving arguments for the quality integration of women in economic trade and justification of their value-added role in business.  We need to go back to those in light of issues in the second-hand clothing enterprise.  How can countries especially APEC members assist women entrepreneurs integrate into the formal economy without hurting their business?  This requires a study of policies and will to reform these if that’s the need.

Second, to what extent has the night market since 2012 transformed or impacted on the local informal economy?  What is the profile of this slice of the informal economy?  Is there significant positive change in their lives as a result?

Third, to what extent has the night market directly contributed to City Hall coffers and in turn what percentage of this has been allocated back to infrastructures and services to support this economy? what percentage has been portioned off for upkeep or upgrade of the City at least in that area (one would think that with the frequency and volume of business happening there every night there’d be some visible improvements at least)?

Last, the use of space in the social, political, and cultural sense of the word.  Who determines the use of public space?  How is the use decided?  Who are displaced because of such use?  Who benefit from the use?  And of course the concluding cost-benefit analysis:  is it worth it?

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