WHILE most of the country was quietly glued to their TV sets waiting for the Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales fight yesterday, there were text messages already going around by lunchtime that the multi-talented (he sings, dances, and acts too!) Pac-man defeated his opponent in the third round. I really wasn't concerned with this spoiler alert as I'm not into the whole boxing thing. I can't relate to a sport that gets its participants all bruised and bloodied (even brain damaged, or worse, dead) just for the amusement of an audience. That just says a lot about how human beings, despite our evolution, have retained our Neanderthal DNA.
There were more important things to do than watching two guys beating each other to a pulp...shopping! Despite the much heralded boxing match, lots of people, especially foreigners, trooped to the PICC Forum for the once-in-a-year International Bazaar, a charity event where embassies of different countries sell goods from the homeland. I've been attending this bazaar regularly but I noticed that this year, the goods were less interesting, and the number of participating embassies have dwindled. This year there were no participants from the US and Australian Embassies, and the job of selling the homeland's goods have already been taken over by local distributors. This just basically means that the goods are no longer less expensive than when sold in the usual retail outlets like supermarkets, grocery stores, or wine shops.
Gone are the days when shoppers would see the Ambassadors, consuls and embassy staff manning their booths and hawking the goods themselves. The prices of their goods were really discounted compared to what you could purchase from outside retailers and I presume it's because the embassies were able to import the goods duty-free. So by 10:30-11 am, the booths were almost empty, goods totally sold out and you'd see embassy staff already packing up to go home. You would have to be at the World Trade Center promptly by 8 or 9 am because any later than that and you'd be left with the, well, uninteresting left-overs.
At this year's bazaar, I sought out the New Zealand and Chilean embassies for their wines but found the booths manned by local wine merchants. Ergo, they were selling the wines at the same prices as their outlets. Duh. Other booths carried goods that one would normally find along the sidewalks of the home countries but these were not any less expensive than what you find in the local tiangge like Greenhills.
I still managed to pick up a few items, Spanish chorizos, espadrilles (yep, Spain's booth was one of the most popular, aside from Pakistan's with its costume jewelry), and a cake and cute T-shirt from the local section of the bazaar. A friend of mine got an interesting but pirated CD from one of the African embassies. (I won't say which one specifically as Edu Manzano may just swoop in on the embassy.) But in its entirety, the International Bazaar is now a shadow of its former fabulous self. It was just dull.
This is the second charity bazaar I've been to in the last few months. (Here in Manila, as Christmas approaches, the bazaars start popping up all over the place.) The first one, the Pink Bazaar, to raise funds for breast cancer awareness, was even more dull and boring, as there were only a handful of participants selling any worthwhile goods. The only thought that sustains me while trying to find stuff to buy in these now uninteresting bazaars is that my P100 may help feed or clothe someone less fortunate, or as in the Pink Bazaar, help educate more people about breast cancer. Other than that, shopping has been an exercise in futility so far, and the only reason I bought anything at all was because I didn't want to go home empty-handed.
Despite the unexciting start of the bazaar season, I'm looking forward to the St. James Bazaar in Ayala Alabang next month. Let's see how that pans out this year.
(Shopping tip: Unlike before, you don't need to go to all the bazaars just to get an idea of the kind of goods out there because the same retailers now hop from one bazaar to the other. So if you go to St. James, the Makati Sports Club, or Intercon, you will find the same goods, at the same prices, and with the same faces selling you the products. What's more important is to finalize your Christmas list and make the budget for the gifts you're handing out this Christmas. Let's hope that Christmas bonus is enough to cover the usual expenses, and if not, just trim your list and like me, plead poverty in style. Don't worry, your real friends will understand.)