Legazpi Park, one of the few pockets of greenery in Makati, will be turned into a multistory parking lot, and the main casualty of the move is the Legazpi Sunday Market.
Green, open spaces that provide ecological and health benefits to a dense Makati are giving way to real estate developments.
Mara Pardo de Tavera, organizer and pioneer of the organic markets in the Philippines, recalled that last December, Barangay San Lorenzo Business Association sent a circular to the vendors about the new development.
February is the last month to do businesses at the park. The Barangay San Lorenzo Business Association, which operates the Legazpi Sunday Market, says the market is moving to a carpark, offered by Ayala.
“It will be half the size of Legazpi’s, so we have to reduce the number of vendors in March,” lamented Pardo de Tavera.
“The real story here is that most parks are going the way of commercialization. If Makati is the premier city, why can’t it be like New York? Central Park consists of nearly 6 percent of the borough’s land area. It’s been the lungs of the city. The community can visit the park since they have no gardens at home. There are smaller parks in New York, which amount to some 15 percent of green spaces.”
She added: “The diminishing green spaces in Makati are alarming. With the new buildings in the Central Business District, the Ayala Triangle Gardens has been reduced to a promenade.”
Pardo de Tavera explained that the concept of an organic market under the trees was to remind city folks about the wellness benefits of nature.
She has spoken with Butch Campos, chair of Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. (FBDC), who offered her alternative spaces in Bonifacio Global City (BGC). They are still doing negotiations.
Plans are afoot to hold the full-scale Mara’s Organic Market on Saturdays in a park in BGC.
“I’d like to hold it on Saturdays so the farmers can earn more on weekends. They have been coming all the way from Kalinga every Sunday just to sell vegetables,” she said.
Pardo de Tavera was exposed to the organic lifestyle in Europe and in New York in the late ’80s.
“I wanted to fix the Filipino diet when I came back. Our major diseases—coronary, cancer, diabetes—can be controlled by eating the right foods,” she said.
She organized the country’s first organic farming conference at the Philippine International Convention Center to convince farmers about using natural methods to cultivate and protect their crops.
In 1994, she established MOM in the then tree-lined Greenbelt Park, made picturesque by the lagoon, the aviary and the Ayala Museum.
She used tribal rice from the Cordilleras and made them into suman and lugaw. She also introduced talbos ng kamote and kangkong to the Makati crowd by using the stems for relish and making iced tea from boiled root crop leaves.
She convinced the affluent shoppers that kamote leaves gave the blood alkaline—a deterrent against mosquito bites. The farmers were pleased by the brisk sales.
“It changed the perception that kamote tops and kangkong were poor man’s foods,” she said.
MOM’s reputation spread after its tie-up with the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP). Her suppliers provided the organic ingredients for HRAP’s dinner “Cuisine Naturelle.”
Pardo de Tavera organized the Organic Producers and Trade Association of the Philippines. Last year, the group encouraged 100 mayors to promote organic farming in their municipalities.
MOM flourished in Greenbelt for 10 years until Ayala Land informed her of the redevelopment of the commercial center in 2004. Pardo de Tavera filed a petition for the organic market to remain at Greenbelt, but it failed.
Food from soil
“Makati’s original plan was to have an oasis from Makati Avenue to Paseo de Roxas, thus the name, Greenbelt,” she said. The market was transferred to smaller pocket spaces in Greenbelt until it gave way to the construction of Greenbelt 5.
Fortunately, Ernie Moya, chair of Barangay San Lorenzo and a regular customer, offered to include MOM in the market plan. He negotiated a space at the Legazpi Park.
MOM has been holding its Sunday markets for the past 13 years. The sections include organic produce from farmers from Luzon and Mindanao, a vegan/vegetarian section, homemade local and international foods that don’t use processed ingredients, natural personal care products and artisan crafts.
The sense of community is enhanced by the performance of live music provided by leather goods maker/musician Django Valmores, and Pardo de Tavera’s table where she meets up with friends.
“I want Filipinos to eat foods that come from the soil—not from plastics or cans,” said Pardo de Tavera. —CONTRIBUTED