V is for the Vendors of Old Manila Who Sold You Just About Everything


Life in Old Manila would not be complete without the sound of street vendors selling their wares from the crack of dawn till night.  With baskets over their heads, or baskets hanging form a long piece of bamboo over one’s shoulders, V is for the street vendors of Old Manila, the ones who sold everything from bananas and fish to jugs of milk and fresh drinking water, and kerosene lamps of all sizes.

Jose Honorato Lozano. "Vista de la entrada de la Calzada de San Sebastian hasta la Yglesia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen" (View of the entrance from San Sebastian Street to the Our Lady of Carmen Church). 1867. Watercolor on paper. Approximately 36 cm. x 49 cm. Private Collection.
Jose Honorato Lozano. “Vista de la entrada de la Calzada de San Sebastian hasta la Yglesia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen” (View of the entrance from San Sebastian Street to the Our Lady of Carmen Church). 1867. Watercolor on paper. Approximately 36 cm. x 49 cm. Private Collection.

Women vendors sold tobacco leaves laid out on large woven trays called bilao, which the buyer would then cut up and roll for smoking.  I used to watch my grandmother’s servant Gertrudes do this with the tobacco leaves my grandmother would buy for her every time she went to the outdoor market.  After she’d tell Gertrudes that smoking was bad for one’s health (Gertrudes was probably already in her late 80’s by then), I’d watch the old woman smooth the leaf on her lap and roll it patiently.  Then when she had the perfectly rolled cigar in her fingers, she’d  light it up and then she shoo us out of the kitchen so she could enjoy her smoke.

Besides tobacco leaves or fresh fruit and vegetables, vendors also sold snakes, which would coil along the bamboo poles they carried, or safe in their baskets.

“Pythons or sawa were sold on the streets in an age that was environment-friendly. Rats were a common household pest but people did not use poison on them because if they died in some hidden nook they would stink up the house.

Mousetraps were not popular either because these, more often then not, broke the little fingers of curious children…

Cats were not a viable option either because they reproduced so quickly they later became a problem rather than a solution.

Foreigners describe how a live snake was chosen from an assortment coiled on a long bamboo pole carried by a vendor. The python was let loose in the ceiling where it needed no batteries.

Up in a ceiling the python fed on rats and slept most of the time. With a python one was rodent-free, though most foreigners who could hear it moving about often worried that it might come down for a snack while they were asleep in bed.”

via Street Vendors.

In Old Manila, Chinese were excellent not just at selling produce but they were the go-to persons in case you wanted a really good ear cleaning.   I know you’re not supposed to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear but residents of Old Manila did not get that memo…and I bet they all probably had cleaner ears than you and me.

My grandmother used to line us grandkids up at night so she could clean our ears.  It was a strange experience to sit on her lap while she did whatever she needed to do to clean our ears with her little Chinese made tool, but it was also weirdly soothing.

Chinese ear cleaner
Chinese ear cleaner


Blogging A to Z Challenge

Share Your World: Week 13


It’s time once again to share my world with you, my captives readers.  But before I do so, I’d like to say thank you for visiting my little bloggy corner of the ‘net, where I can talk your ears off I wanted to, while you, with the option to leave whenever you feel like it, take the time to click ‘like’ or write down a comment.  Thank you.

So without further ado, here’s my world – so far this week.

Do you believe in extraterrestrials or life on other planets? 

I’m a huge fan of The X-Files, Star Trek and the original Star Wars trilogy, so that should tell you enough.  I believe, should be my simple answer.  And I’m sure that what they might think about us would be quite interesting.  They might even have the same issues we all have – like, does this make my butt look big?

What type of pet or pets do you not want to have?

I once thought I’d want a snake – a boa constrictor or a python.  I thought it would go well with my real name, you know, Velvet the snake woman or something like that.  But then life intervened to let me know the folly of my ways by having a real-life snake wrangler for a classmate in college.  He shook his head and told me that as much as having a snake sounded like a nifty idea, he told me to “wait till you have to feed it live pet rats or mice, and hear the poor things scream (the rodents, not the snake) – or you can kill the rodents before you feed it to the snakes.  Then, come back and tell me you still want a snake, and I’ll have no problem getting you one.”

I’d read enough of Silence of the Lambs to know what that is like to hear the screaming of, well, in that story, lambs.  But to hear it at every mealtime for the benefit of a pet, no thank you.

If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

Purple, baby.  Although red suits me so much better.

What type of transportation would you be? Why?

I have to be honest here.  While others might think themselves to be Porsche’s or Ferrari’s or Testarossa’s, I’d probably be a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle – oh, and automatic shift at that.  That means that while it has the gear stick with the various 1st to 3rd gears, it has no clutch pedal.

Weird, I know, but get this.  Unique and often hard to come by  (in working condition) – check.  0 to 60 in ten minutes – check.  Could break down at any minute – check.

Yep.  Sounds pretty much like me.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last Saturday night, I had a major allergy attack that surprised me – puffy eyes and tingling puffy lips.  Angioedema is the proper word for it.  Unfortunately, I had no antihistamine in the house – not a single pill of Benadryl or Zyrtec.  I did have my albuterol inhaler and so when I was having difficulty breathing in addition to the itchy feeling under the skin (no hives in sight), I used the inhaler and then told hubby to go to the drugstore at 1 am to get me Benadryl.  It could have been worse, but thank goodness, despite my ignorance about MSG allergy, it wasn’t.

For the week coming up, I’m looking forward to being more organized because taxes are fast approaching.  Because I sure as heck am not at the moment.

Share Your World