They tore down the old public market building several weeks ago. Local town officials have said that the old building was already too dilapidated and had become structurally unsafe. Not only was it an eyesore already, it had become a public hazard and a veritable firetrap. In truth, it had been all of that for years and it is only now that the town government had finally the means and the will to tear what used to be one of Lianga's iconic landmarks.
In its place will soon rise a modern, multimillion peso, two story concrete building complex that will house not only the new public market and a bus and jeepney terminal but also spaces for commercial and business establishments. Funded by a local government loan, it will be the first major public building project this municipality will have undertaken in almost a decade.
The old public market was constructed in the 1960's. Wood which was plentiful and cheap during the heyday of the local logging industry was chiefly used for most of the structure. The architecture was simple, intuitive and nondescript as was common in the public buildings and even the private homes of that time. More like wooden boxes with corrugated metal sheets for roofing stacked and stringed together in a single line. This was, after all, before ergonomics and modern practical building design had became the norm.
The long, rectangular building with the market in the middle and two adjacent wings on each side used to house a helter-skelter collection of sea food restaurants, general merchandise stores and shops selling fishing and agricultural supplies. It had already, even during its early days, a weathered and ancient look, as if the relentless tropical sun and the constant lashing of the salty sea breezes had scraped and stripped off quickly the original protective paint layers and had prematurely aged then darkened and wrinkled its exposed, delicate wooden skin.
To enter the public market or browse any of the old shops and eateries then was like entering a warren of dark paneled, dingy, maze like and dimly lighted cubicle-like front rooms which suddenly gave way to surprisingly spacious spaces and living areas in the back with huge open windows from which streamed in fresh sea air and bright, clean sunshine. Most of these back rooms seemed to teeter on wooden stilts and piles rising high over the shallow waters of the immediately adjacent sea which hissed and murmured beneath the dark planks of the wooden floors.
Thus while having lunch or dinner in the eateries and restaurants there, customers often have the sensation of being on-board a ship or boat, that illusion often reinforced by the often vigorous wave action taking place underneath their feet during periods of high tide and strong winds. This was before the aggressive land reclamation policy of the local government pushed back the ocean on the eastern side of the building and finally left the old market building high and dry on artificial turf some years ago.
While eating or hunting for fresh fish and seafood inside, one can always take in the scent of the ocean mixed with the piquant tang of seaweed browning in the sun coming from the tidal marshlands just a stone throw away and the aroma of old wood weathering in the salty air. It was, at most times of the day, a strong, wafting smell yet strangely not unpleasant nor cloying to the nose. It was a smell I would always associate with Lianga, alternating, as each day slowly ends and the land breezes begin to blow, with subtle fragrance of green grass, wild flowers and dense foliage coming in from the deeply forested, western hills and mountains.
If I sound wistfully nostalgic then I probably am. One of the burdens of getting on in years and straddling middle age is the sudden realization that one is now burdened with the curse of being able to remember things as they once were. Reality is now split between the here and now and what once was. Nostalgia and the longing for the "simpler", "better" and "younger" times becomes an minor obsession of sorts.
Be that as it may, the new public market complex will change the way the center of the town of Lianga has appeared for decades. In fact, it will modernize the town's look and skyline, a development many residents welcome in view of the much often repeated observation by many visitors that it has looked the same and has not changed or progressed over the years.
Perhaps it will, in itself, jump start and inspire a new building boom that will forever alter the face of the entire town itself. At least that is what everyone here, the town leaders most of all, hope will happen. That will be something I could really like to look forward to, except knowing how things tend to slowly progress in this town, I might have to live really long enough and, worse, still be able to write sensibly about it.