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The Soapbox Filipina | October 23, 2019

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What is A Sari-Sari Store to Filipinos like Me (Part TWO) - The Soapbox Filipina

What is A Sari-Sari Store to Filipinos like Me (Part TWO)
Pier Angeli B. Ang Sen

…a continuation from Sari Sari Store Part One

A Sari-sari store (part two) 

All things considered, a transistor radio blaring at  5:30 ama truck of softdrinks parked outside ( “panel sa coks, err coke” )  and a group of people hanging around it, a sari-sari store in my time, was definitely the heart of the community.

By and large, it was personal. It defined a barangay, a neighborhood and a childhood memory.

It was a family affair.

Si Bunso, taga bili ng tingi na shampoo at conditioner ng mga Ate.

Si Kuya, bibili lamang dahil gusto maka-libre ng hawak sa kamay ng dalaga ni Aling Nena.

Being the eldest then, I used to be the one who bought supplies at the sari-sari store.

But my errands to the sari sari store ended, when I got older.

It became my younger brothers turn, then.

It was an extension of the pantry.

Be that as it may, the type of family, living in a particular house was judged by the food and supplies they bought from the store. 

In fact, I remember in my younger days, when I bought soft drinks with a netbag in tow, manang tindera would immediately say,

“Naa diay inyo bisita, Gie?” ( you have visitors?)

It had to be opened all the time.

The store was only closed during the holidays and the holy week.

And if for one day, it was closed for no reason at all, it would definitely cause a stir in the barangay.

As soon as it opened again, its residents—in a somewhat accusing fashion, would most likely say ,nasaaan ka nuong kinailangan ko ng toooooothpaaaaste?”

A. Sari-sari stores prepared your child for Math.

My son does not have the privilege of living near sari-sari stores.Our present neighborhood is commercial based. It has not much of the “garden variety ” variety stores (pun intended) around, since these stores thrive on a residential setting.

My child does not have the luxury of going down and buying any thing, any time of the day, at a sari sari store (in comparison to me and my husband, when we were younger children) .

Occasionally, our son gets to order and pay on his own, at the counter of Jollibee or Mcdonalds. But that was it.

When my son was in grade 1, he had a hard time reconciling money, coins and bills. ( yes, we think sari-sari stores prepare your child for Math and the topic on money)

So, my husband and I had to give him that “sari-sari store feel” by purposely taking him to one and letting him experience goods, coins, change and all.

sari-sari store

sar-sari store


B. The sari-sari store used to be a source of information.

In my time, before a pre-internet controlled barangay, the greatest source of information was the sari-sari store.

My mom would ask me to buy a can of sardines and three eggs from the nearby store, when I was nine.

I do not bring home just that.

I just had to adjust my ears and listen to the adults talking and I bring home so much stories.

(pagka daghan ba sa tabi ma hakut inig uli)

The sources of information at the sari-sari store may be the following:

First, “The Sari-sari Store Owner, Shopkeeper or Tindera”

Not so long ago, in the Philippines, the sari-sari store is the heart of the community—as the river might have been, in our ancestors’ time.

(follow the food, so they say)

Consequently, in my time, the sari-sari store owner, shopkeeper or tindera were privy to the goings on in the neighborhood.

They know who the residents were and who were just visiting.

They got to hear anything and everything.

Nothing escapes them.

For instance, if a suitor wanted to know if the girl he was courting had returned home from Manila, all the suitor had to do was buy at the store.

Even without him asking, manang shopkeeper or tindera would provide him with the information by maybe, saying:

” Nakauli na diay si ____bah?” ( Nakauwi na pala si ___ ano?”)

Even before seeing her on the Sunday mass, dear suitor would already know that the girl he is courting was home for the holidays.


Second, “The Kumares”

In my time, these women regularly meet at the sari-sari store for merienda.

They would usually meet when all the household chores were done including paglalaba. They would have met earlier around 9 am while buying a sachet of detergent powder.

They would meet to discuss or compare notes, given their shared experiences as mothers and wives… and in doing so, they would later realize they held a great number of information that the community needed.

If you were a young mother buying laundry soap, bar soap or sardines, at the sari sari store and you chanced upon them there, they would most likely recommend or endorse a brand for you. 

Third, “The Tambays”

These men play the guitar during siesta time. They were a common fixture at most stores (which may have been why guitar in “bisaya” is SISTA rather than the word GUITARRA in Spanish–where most Visayan words derive from).

They would make the frontage of the sari-sari store their entertainment plaza.

Their sigil should be a guitar, a bottle of gin or a glass of tuba.

Last, the Residential-landline-turned-payphone

Back when we did not have mobile phones, one could eavesdrop on other people’s conversation without meaning to.

It is because the residential-landline-turned-payphone provided anyone within hearing distance, access to important news—ranging from “a new hire” to “a clandestine affair”.


Things I used buy in a Sari-sari Store:

soft drinks in a plastic ( lalagyan ng ice water)
maliliit na candies na may kasamang paper dolls
instant noodles
shampoo at conditioner
mosquito coil (katol)

Sa “C”

Me: “Nang papalita ko ug toothpaste kanang Colgate?”
Tindera: “Unsa man day, kanang sa “C”?

( hala mutiple choice naman lagi ning toothpaste, basig naay “A” and “B”?)

( hala bakit mutiple choice na ang toothpaste ngayon, baka mayroong “A” and “B” pa?)

Tindera: (after having seen my confused look, would then show me a familiar packaging of the toothpaste) , “Kani ba ‘to Gie?”

Me: Aw, oo ‘Nang, uy, mau na sa “C” ( sachet)

♥♥♥Pier Angeli

Click here for Sari Sari Store Part One

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