Ask about the Legazpi market and chances are you’ll hear many testimonials about how it’s been an integral part of so many people’s Sundays. People from all walks of life gather in an open parking lot to let loose and unwind after a busy work week. The market is as much a ritual as Sunday mass and brunch with the family. Any given Sunday, you’ll be sure to see stars, expats, and locals strolling by, happy for a respite from the bustle of Manila life. You might meet Dingdong Dantes, beautiful wife and child in tow, but you could also see ambassadors and habitués from far-flung city corners. But, as the Joni Mitchell song famously goes, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Which is what is about to happen to the Legazpi market space. The market has been relegated to a smaller space to make way for a new parking lot. Which is sad news for all of us who have been visiting the market all these years.
The Legazpi market is the brainchild of Mara Pardo de Tavera, the premier healthy living advocate in the country. In place of the market’s current space—you guessed it—will be a new parking lot. The good news is that there are now two markets: one every Saturday in BGC, and the Sunday market in a smaller space in Legazpi (an area that can be used only until parking lot construction begins).
Beginning last Saturday, there’s been a new space at the De Jesus Oval in BGC which services some of the Legazpi market’s vendors and clientele—it’s a smaller space, which means it can only service about half of the original market’s vendors. But there’s been a decided shift in ambience and scenery, with the BGC location surrounded by balmy breezes and the kind of greenery fast growing obsolete in Makati. “You just immerse yourself in nature, whereas when you step into Legazpi market now, it’s the stark reality of business rules going the wrong way—because do we really need more parking lots?,” Mara says, “Are we not saying in the news that’s why traffic doesn’t improve, because cars are going in and out and people are getting more and more cars? So how can we improve that? By adding parking lots—that’s a nod of approval, right?,” Mara continues.
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Last Saturday, as Mara explored her new space in BGC, she noted one big negative. “While we were there [at the de Jesus oval], in our Sunday market space, they were busy cutting down trees. If you look at Facebook, you’ll see that there were many residents who posted about this—I also posted this. It was shocking—we arrived last Sunday, it’s our last month there, and when I walked in, I was thinking there was something—oh my God, the loss of trees and shade. It was so hot,” Mara says. “Everybody was so upset,” she continues. “In fact, this coming Sunday, a bunch of friends—a combination of artists, diplomats and residents, are all going to come to sign a petition letter, [in effect, saying] that trees shouldn’t be cut down just like that,” she says emphatically.
But Mara isn’t giving up on her original space just yet, and we can understand why, with Ayala being the country’s premier developer. “I didn’t just want to let Ayala go,” Mara says, “I met with them, and I am asking them to give me another space—another greener space to remind people of that green lifestyle. So I asked them—and it’s still not sure—to give me their space behind their office building, which has another gate on Paseo, at the other end of the Mandarin complex. I don’t know if they’re going to let me have it, especially now with all this tree-cutting publicity, but I’ve asked them. I told them, ‘you know, it’s a big answer to the fact that you need more green space to show us. Give us that space,’” Mara says.
One can only hope that the wish doesn’t fall on deaf ears—but if things don’t swing in the direction Mara wants, there is still her capacity to move a staying crowd. “The first market I had [was in] in Greenbelt, which was the institutional space. I was afraid that people wouldn’t follow me wherever I went. In the beginning, [the Legazpi market] was in a really lousy parking space but people came,” Mara says.
“If you build it, they will come,” goes a line from an iconic 80s movie, and one can be sure that wherever Mara plants herself, they will come.
Photograph by Jack Alindahao