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‘Tindahan’ tales: our folks at home

My family and I are buying our first ever air-conditioned car, an L300 van. Yes, you’re reading it right—the typical white delivery van you usually see roaming the streets in your hometown. That’s our father’s dream car.

I used to reject the idea of us buying a delivery vehicle, but in retrospect, I believe our father deserves to get what his heart desires. Let me give you an inkling of what it’s like to live in a sari-sari store household, and the reason our father wants to get that L300 van.

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Our parents were never employed in an office. My siblings and I were raised in a house with an extended sari-sari store and bakery. We used to live in an overcrowded area in Quezon City near a mall. This was where our parents first ventured into self-employment.

To give you an idea: If you are riding the MRT, departing from North Avenue and heading to Taft Avenue, you will notice a series of cramped makeshift houses beside Landmark. We lived in the area until, I think, I was seven years old, before we transferred to the province of Bulacan. And even up to the time I was in college, I continued to stay there because it was nearer my school, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Santa Mesa, than Bulacan.

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I wouldn’t say that the place was out of harm’s way because gangsters and knife-carrying characters clashing on side streets were all too real. Still, despite the unfavorable environment, our parents made it clear to us that we should always behave in a proper manner, that we should take their hand for their blessing every time we got home, and that we should always be kind to others.

The only thing that we could not compromise during difficult times was our mother. Mama is like our kryptonite. When she lovingly speaks, no one in the household can resist her charm: Everything can be settled, including petty sibling arguments.

Our parents usually got out of bed at 4 in the morning to go to the wet market, open the tindahan (store), look after the bakery operations, while attending to paying customers. It was their daily routine for as long as I can remember. They had no weekends off, no holidays. They even operated a carinderia (eatery) for a time, and once tried selling vegetables!

When we thought of going out as a family for a once-in-a-blue moon occasion, the constant concern was who would mind the store: Sinong magbabantay ng tindahan? By “going out as a family” I meant going to a nearby mall and eating in a nicer restaurant than Jollibee (our favorite was Max’s). In most cases when it was impossible to close the store, either of our parents would buy roast chicken or ice cream to liven up the mood in our home. And then everyone would be happy.

Our first ever out-of-town trip as a family happened in Batangas two years ago, which coincided with their 26th wedding anniversary.

Now that my siblings and I can somehow set aside some money for our little travels here and there, we want to give our parents the experience they never had because of their absolute dedication to providing everything we needed and securing our education through the earnings of our little tindahan. I detested waking up at 5 in the morning to serve as the assigned tindera (saleswoman) for the day, but right now, I couldn’t be more grateful for our family’s collective efforts to keep our humble business up and running.

It’s challenging to raise a family of six, and I can only remember and admire the hard work of our parents in starting and maintaining our sari-sari store. If there’s one significant lesson our parents imparted to us through all these years, it’s that nothing worth having comes easy. It’s a mix of persistent dedication, consistent hard work, and having fun along the way.

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Our father wants the L300 van so it would be easier for him to transport goods from the supermarket to our home. Even at his age, after surviving two abdominal operations and a mild stroke, our father will not think of retiring from managing our business. He specifically wants the L300 van because it’s air-conditioned. I believe a little luxury will not hurt.

Ivy E. Fiecas, 27, is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, working for an IT company. She says she documents life narratives mainly for posterity purposes in her online journal at https://flowerchild.ph/.

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TAGS: air-conditioned car, bakery, delivery vehicle, L300 van, sari-sari store
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