When Arjay dela Cruz’s wife, Tina, got pregnant in 2014, he took on some of the household responsibilities that included shopping at the wet market or palengke. He enjoyed it so much that he still does it regularly, even after their daughter, Moree, was born.
“I found it therapeutic — walking around the market while the rest of the world sleeps,” Arjay, who has a full-time job, narrates. “I also enjoyed the conversations I get to have with my suki,” he added.
While most households rely on mom to plan the menu and prepare or cook food, that’s not the case in the dela Cruz household. Apart from palengke shopping, Arjay proudly shares that he also does the cooking.
“It gives me a sense of fulfillment that each dish I cooked was carefully planned and made with love and the freshest ingredients.”
How a dad does his palengke shopping
The dad of one learned the skills from his father. He taught Arjay how to check for the freshest fish and how to pick the pork or beef that go well with a particular dish. Arjay shared some of his palengke shopping tips and his routine, which can help a beginner (ahem, fellow dads!) pick up that basket and brave the wet market.
1. Make a list, check it twice – but also be flexible!
Take your family’s meal plan for the week and the list of all the ingredients you’ll need for every dish you’re planning to cook. Arjay uses these lists as his guide and makes the necessary adjustments while shopping. Seeing all the fresh ingredients might inspire you to cook something else!
2. Bring your own containers.
Pack meats, fish, and dry produce are usually in single-use plastics that puncture easily. Arjay brings his own reusable containers, not only because it’s more environment-friendly but also to ensure that his purchases stay in the bag and no juices or fluids will seep into his bag.
3. Go for meats first, then veggies, and fish last.
Arjay follows a sequence for his palengke purchases: Meat (pork, beef, chicken) first, followed by vegetables, and then lastly, the fish and seafood. Fish and seafood are last since they spoil quickly, so faster you cook them or store them, the better.
4. Mind your basket’s arrangement
Meats go to the bottom of the bag as they have less juice to spill, and also provide a cushion for the fruits and vegetables. Fish and seafood should be on top of your basket. You don’t want their juices to spill as it can be stinky and the hardest to get rid of.
Men taking on a woman’s traditional role face the same challenges
Balancing a corporate career and family life was as challenging for Arjay as any other parent. First, he made a promise to his daughter that he would always be home every day before her bedtime, which may be trickier to fulfill because of the country’s traffic situation.
Then a vice president for customer experience for an e-commerce website, Arjay also once found himself working late hours during a big online sale. “I was so busy that I neglected my palengke duties!” Arjay recalls. “It was frustrating to come home and be unable to prepare a proper meal. We had to rely on takeout food — a working parent’s best friend!” he admitted. He did not miss the irony that he was unable to shop for wet and dry groceries because he was helping other people shop.
This incident — and the constant struggle to achieve work-life balance — led Arjay to develop a solution that could help other families maximize their time together. Surely, they are not the only family that has been in the same situation, he thought.
Arjay dug deep and used the experience as an inspiration to start his own company. He launched Atreena.com, an online wet market that delivers fresh ingredients to families’ doorsteps on the same day (At the moment, it is available for Metro Manila customers.) With the app, he thought, people who don’t have the time (or the will!) to go to the market can still enjoy the fresh goods. It allowed Arjay to do his palengke-shopping duties more conveniently and not only for his own family but for other families as well!
Utilizing innovative technologies and services such as online shopping and on-call cleaning services are just some of the ways that families can buy more family time. Arjay encourages families to let everyone in the family have their turn doing all kinds of all chores at home. There is no such thing as a “mommy job” or a “daddy job.” “Everyone needs to try it out and do their part – so when the time comes that one member of the household is unavailable, the chores still get done,” he adds further, “there is still business continuity!”
Arjay believes that the role of dads have evolved, and being a “family man” does not mean only working to bring home the bacon and provide for the family. A family man is also the father who makes himself available to serve and spend quality time with his family — including taking on a fair share of the responsibilities in the household.