“Sari-sari” is a Tagalog word for “variety.” Hence, you can see a variety of goods from toiletries to food to drinks to laundry products to cleaning materials to e-load station to bills payment and etc. Sari-sari store represents the “masa” because we can buy “tingi” or little quantities of goods. So, instead of buying a pack of cigarettes, you can get a stick or two or any amount that fits your budget.
I grew up being Mama Dely’s (my grandmother’s sister) occasional tindera (saleslady) in her sari-sari store in Mabini Street. For Mama Dely, her sari-sari store was just her diversion and her means to socialize with the neighbors; it was not her bread and butter so it was easy for her to close the store during her siesta. Well, that would have been one of my excuses not to sleep in the afternoon so I would volunteer to take care of the store while my grandmothers were busy napping.
Admittedly, I was painfully shy when I was younger. I easily get intimidated and I had no social skills back then. But breaking free from a boring afternoon was more important to me than acknowledging my insecurities. As a saleslady, I got to know our neighbors by their first name, not bad for a shy girl. By 4 PM, Mama Dely or Nanay Bebe (my grandmother) would call me for a snack.
When Mama Dely gave up her sari-sari store for a much needed medical work up, my grandmother, Nanay Bebe took over. I was already a teenager when that happened— still painfully shy. Nanay Bebe allowed me to eat any food that I fancied but my business-mindedness prevailed—I would not let to lose our profit and capital because of voracity.
Fast forward to before the pandemic, we seldom bought at the sari-sari store. We got our stocks in the grocery store to save on time. That was aside from the diversity of brands that the supermarket could offer versus the sari-sari store. As fate would have it, we lost our normalcy since the pandemic started in March. Since then, we have been getting most of our stocks from the sari-sari store. For some brands that we prefer to maintain, we get them from a nearby convenience store like Alfamart.
The good old sari-sari store is alive and kicking during the pandemic minus the istambay (bum). As long as the owner has kapwa-tao (camaraderie), his sari-sari store will be here to stay with or without the pandemic.