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Sugbo Mercado, a carnival of homegrown flavors

Saturday, May 7, 2016

FOOD brings people from all walks of life together in a heartbeat, transcends cultures, and speaks to the soul no matter where one is in the world. Indeed, food is a great unifier.

This holds true for Sugbo Mercado, the biggest, fastest growing, and most talked about weekend food market in Cebu City.

The first of its kind in the metro, Sugbo Mercado opened in September last year to  showcase Cebu’s best as well as products of budding players in the local food industry.

Apart from food, Sugbo Mercado also caters to merchants providing other lifestyle products, such as clothing, crafts, beauty and wellness to cap off a lineup of tenants in a bazaar space located in the BPO and lifestyle hub  Cebu IT Park, where it operates from Thursday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Diners are presented with a variety of food choices, ranging from Southeast Asian street chow to food close to home and affordable gourmet treats. Whether alone or with family and friends, Sugbo Mercado guarantees one will never run out of options and that queuing up for food will always be worth it.

Among Sugbo Mercado’s creative offerings are meat-wrapped rice balls from Nikumaki, Pad Thai from Banana Pancake Trail, Mie Goreng from Cribs, rice meals in banana leaf from Native Wraps, freshly squeezed lemonade from John Lemon, shaved ice from Sno, ice cream sandwiches from Frostbites, Puff and Pasta, Papa Churros, Halla Paella, and a lot more.

Thursdays are the new Fridays for avid foodies and those looking for a cool place to hang out with Sugbo Mercado not only showcasing local food startups, but also homegrown musical talents such as Wally, August Afternoon, Strongline and other regulars.

“People come here for the food. To hang out and listen to the music are an added bonus,” said Michael Karlo Lim, one of the organizers.

Organized by a team of five, Sugbo Mercado has become a favorite food haven, attracting thousands of locals and tourists alike each night from Thursday to Saturday.

What started out as a 700-square-meter food bazaar has now evolved into a 1,900-square-meter carnival of flavors, the number of concessionaires doubling from 25 to more than 50 in the last seven months.

The year-round weekend food market family just keeps getting bigger.

As Lim put it, “The longer we work with them, the more we become a family.”

Some have tried to replicate it, but nothing seems to come at par with the appeal of Sugbo Mercado.

With only a limited number of tables and chairs at the bazaar, patrons are encouraged to share, prompting conversations and creating new friendships. The food market also pushes for the “clean as you go” practice with signage and trash bins placed strategically around the area to remind visitors every now and then.

Looking forward, organizers plan to “upgrade” the existing tenants’ metal partitions into uniform stalls made of pinewood that is uniquely Sugbo Mercado. Aside from downloadable maps of the bazaar available on their social media accounts, there’s also a plan to install an adjustable map at the entrance of the food market to tell  guests where their favorite stalls are.

“In the next five years, we look forward to putting up a Sugbo Mercado in every key city (in Cebu),” Lim said.

In that case, Cebuanos are assured that Sugbo Mercado is here for the long haul. More than a hodgepodge of gastronomic goodness, Sugbo Mercado is a community, living and vibrant, growing bigger with each passing weekend. (CEBU DAILY NEWS)