COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
One thing I observe in my three decades stay here in Tacloban is the price of commodities which is relatively higher than in most other places in the Visayas. There appears to be no government control over the prices of commodities in the market or even just monitoring of prices by consumer groups, if there is any. Businessmen or even just wet market vendors price their goods at whim, then, jack up the prices during fiestas or other holiday seasons.
When I first came here in the mid 70s, the price of pork was P16/kilo. Two years later when I went to Dumaguete to finish high school, the price of pork there was only P12/kilo. Food in Dumaguete is cheap especially fruits and even those served in posh restaurants that are of high quality. Even at present, young people here studying in Dumaguete would note that eating out in that city is comparably cheaper than here in Tacloban.
How much more in Cebu where goods are generally cheaper, from food to household items and hardware materials, to name a few? I had the chance to really shop things on my own during a one year stay in the early 80s, aside from my short trips to Cebu and the surrounding metropolis thereafter. I even remember a friend from Tacloban who saw me in Cebu sometime in 1981, shopping for blouses she intended to sell back here. The items she was buying for P60-P70 each, she said, could be sold for P150 in Tacloban. Yes, Maria. It is not that she was overpricing, but, it is simply that overpriced goods are proliferating in the Tacloban market.
My brother, who once worked with the Central Bank and was based in Iloilo, used to come to Tacloban during the holidays in the late 80s and early 90s. And every time we’d order food to take out from the few restaurants here, he’d utter “dollars man presyo dinhi” while looking at the menu. He was basing his observation from that in Iloilo and to think that beautiful city was already more urbanized at that time. Yes, I found the place so cosmopolitan in my 1985 visit but goods were reasonably priced there. Even the P16 hamburger I was buying in Tacloban then can be bought for only P12 in the neighboring RoxasCity.
Really, even just here in Leyte, prices in Tacloban are very much higher compared to Ormoc and Maasin. Even the hardware supplies are cheaper in Sogod, Southern Leyte compared to Tacloban, with discrepancies so wide in some items. But maybe one simple commodity is a good example. The chrysanthemum flowers that were sold here before at P60/dozen were sold at only P45/dozen in Baybay. These were all sourced from Cebu which at that time could be bought at P25/dozen at the Carbon market and even a few pesos lower from the middlemen. These flowers arrived in Leyte at P35/dozen and sold in Baybay for P45/dozen but at P60/dozen in Tacloban.
Three years ago, an old neighbor told me that carrots cost P7/kilo at the harvest area in Davao then sold at an average price of P15/kilo at the supermarket. The highest price a kilo of carrots can go there would be at P30/kilo when supply is low. But here in my nearby flea market, a stick of carrot costs P7 each, though lately it’s at P10. On another occasion, a friend from Iligan who was assigned here was fuming at the price of bananas in Tacloban. He felt cheated or robbed of his money due to the exorbitant price of that abundant fruit. I understood my friend’s reactions later when a piece of melon was selling here at P30 each, I had the chance to buy the same kind for only P15 each in Butuan.
I really don’t know what is it with Tacloban but is the price right in here? And how much higher the prices can get once Tacloban becomes a highly urbanized city.