Itinerant fiesta traders ejected from Malaybalay plaza

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 14 May) – Castillo Apolonio, 60, had just finished displaying his goods for sale at the city plaza late Wednesday morning. But within minutes he was already packing them back into sacks and detaching his makeshift tent. Selling season turned out to be fleeing time.

“We are worried of a lot of things … lunch, cargo fees, among other things but we can’t do anything,” he said as he fills a big sack with plastic wares, which he brought from Maramag early in the morning to sell in time for the celebration of the city’s parochial fiesta on May 15.

Mayor Ignacio W. Zubiri ordered him and about a hundred other itinerant traders who came to display their wares to vacate the city plaza before noon.

Zubiri told MindaNews the traders were illegal as they did not ask consent from his office and did not obtain a special permit through the city licensing unit.

He suspected that the traders, mostly from Maramag and Valencia, are organized and occupied the plaza with the prompting of a leader. The traders, despite protests, repacked their goods and uninstalled their makeshift tents and tarps in front of police, traffic, and other personnel from the city government.

The mayor, who ordered them to clear the place before noon Wednesday, was seen fuming over a group of traders. He said his move is to enforce order in the city plaza.

He said that city residents could no longer use the place for its intended purpose because it had been occupied by the traders.

Zubiri ordered another group of vendors on the other side of the plaza, citing “they have always asked permission and complied with requirements.” The other group with permit, he said, is led by Mandangan Ali, a councilman of Barangay 9.

The traders denied they took the cue from an organizer or someone from city hall.

“We came here on our own like we always did in past fiesta celebrations,” Maramag trader “Anita” responded to the mayor, who was looking for their leader.

The women vendors, many of them in tears, rushed their packing. They told reporters they went to city hall to convince the mayor to allow them “but he didn’t listen to us.”

Apolonio said they packed because they respected the order of the mayor. But he noted that in his years of going around towns in Mindanao, it was yet his first time to be driven away when he only wanted to earn a living.

He said they were willing to pay fees if they were issued tickets like how it is done in other areas.

“We go there, we display, and they come and charge us with fees. We pay, and then we earn a living,” Apolonio added.

He said they cannot disobey the mayor but then it means they go home empty handed.

“In some areas, we are lucky. Not here,” he added.