Video – The Philippines Sari-Sari Store

If you have been to the Philippines, you know what a Sari-Sari Store is. It is the Philippines version of a neighborhood convenience store. These stores are an important economic mainstay of almost all neighborhoods in the Philippines, and sometimes you will see several on the same street, and occasionally, even right next-door to each other. Most all of these stores are privately owned shops and are operated as a portion of the front of an owners house. Some stores are bigger than others and the one I featured in the video below is what I would call a mega sari-sari store. It is larger than the average store and they sell everything from fresh garlic and onions to kerosene to Brandy, basic hardware supplies, cell phone loads, and 1.5 liter containers of frozen Mango Ice Cream. This store even sells hot prepared rice and cooked foods for meals. The location of a sari-sari store most times will determine the overall success of the establishment. This particular store occupies a large corner lot at a fairly busy intersection in a residential neighborhood in Calbayog City, and from the looks of the selection of items and inventory, I’d guess they do fairly well. 

When I first arrived in the Philippines in the early 80’s, the little sari-sari store that was located on my street corner offered very little in the way of food stuffs and sold mostly coffee, sugar, beer and cigarettes. Many times I would ask for something a little out of the ordinary and more often-than-not get the response “Sorry sir, we don’t have that” or “Sorry sir, out of stock”. For the longest time, I just thought it was a popularized nickname for the store (sorry-sorry) because they were always apologizing for being out of whatever it was that you needed. The word sar-sari is actually the Tagalog word for “variety”. Many of these entrepreneurs make their living at operating these stores. They are super convenient (never more than a short walk away) and will sell anything to anybody. Years ago I would call upon the neighbor boy (about 10 years old) fetch me a case of beer when I needed one. I would always give him a nice tip (about .25 cents back then). Today, I think a P20 tip (about .45 cents) would suffice. And to think I struggled selling lemonade during hot summers in Illinois when I was growing up. Maybe if I could have sold liquor, cigarettes, and cell phone loads back then,  I could have made a decent living!


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