From posh neighborhoods to far-flung villages, sari-sari stores can be found almost anywhere in the country. The allure of these modest establishments is so strong among Filipinos that in some places, two or more sari-sari stores can be found in a single street.
Aside from the variety (“sari-sari” in English) of products that can be found in these one-stop shops, sari-sari stores are considered as cultural icons and symbols of Filipino ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance. This remains true even in the ongoing pandemic which has shut down businesses, paralyzed industries, and displaced workers. Looking for a way out of the hardships, many Filipinos have turned to building their own sari-sari stores. But as the saying goes, the first step is always the hardest.
In Taguig, former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano know this very well. As former mayor of this bustling urban center, the latter has a soft spot for sari-sari store owners, whom she considers important partners in building the local economy.
Rep. Lani Cayetano established the Taguig-Pateros (TaPat) Sari-Store Program, which provided financial assistance and livelihood training for sari-sari store owners from the two areas. Through the program, sari-sari store owners in Taguig and Pateros received P2,500-P3,500 each.
At the same time, Taguig provided free livelihood training sessions on meat processing, weaving, and soap and sanitizer making.
“Ang makapagdagdag ka ng P2,500-P3,500 sa mga paninda nila ay malaking tulong talaga ‘yun sa kanila lalo pa at kahit saan ka magpunta ay napakadami talagang sari-sari stores na makikita. Kaya ito ay ginagawa natin kasabay ng pagtulong natin sa iba pang maliliit na namumuhunan dito sa ating lugar,” she said in a radio interview on June 16, 2021.
(Giving our sari-sari store owners an additional P2,5000-P3,500 is a big help for them especially since there are so many of them wherever you go. We’re doing this along with other initiatives to help small businesses here)
With the program’s success in Taguig, former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano expanded it to the Sari-Sari Store Community, which hopes to build a community of sharing and mutual aid among sari-sari store owners nationwide.
As of August 12, 2021, a total of 1,425 beneficiaries from six areas have received financial assistance from the program.
“Inumpisahan ‘to ni Congresswoman Lani, ang aking kabiyak, na nagbigay ng tig-P2,500 sa mga sari-sari store sa Taguig, at nakita ko na talagang nag-increase ‘yung kita,” he said in a radio interview on June 30, 2021.
(This was started by Congresswoman Lani, my wife, who distributed P2,500 each to sari-sari store owners in Taguig City, where we saw the recipients grow and increase their profit.)
The distribution of financial assistance to sari-sari store vendors is normally followed by a new edition of the Sampung Libong Pag-Asa initiative, a program inspired by the former Speaker’s 10K Ayuda Bill.
The Cayetanos and their allies filed the 10K Ayuda Bill on February 1, 2021 with the aim of expanding the government’s economic stimulus program. The proposed measure seeks to distribute P10,000 each among the country’s poorest households.
While it continues to languish inside the halls of Congress, the 10K Ayuda Bill has secured the support of various local government units and people’s organizations.
“Hindi ko pa rin titigilan ang P10,000 (Ayuda Bill) kasi kung walang pambili yung kapitbahay niyo, wala rin kayong mabebenta,” he said in a radio interview on July 10, 2021.
“Kung kaya lang natin ipatawag lahat ng kapitbahay niyo, bigyan natin ng P10,000 kada isa, gagawin natin. Pero gobyerno lang ang may kaya niyan,” he added.
(I will not stop pushing for the 10K Ayuda Bill because if your neighbors don’t have money, you won’t be able to sell anything. If only we could gather all your neighbors and give them P10,000 each, we would. But only the government is capable of doing that.)
With the rollout of the Sari-Sari Store Community, the sari-sari store is no longer just a staple in any Filipino neighborhood. The continuing existence of these one-stop shops is now one of the best demonstrations of bayanihan amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.