As ubiquitous as the jeepney, the sari-sari store exemplifies quintessential Filipino entrepreneurship. But more than an example of the Filipino’s knack for commerce, the sari-sari store is the lifeblood for many low-income families and is one of the anchors for the Philippines’ so-called ‘underground economy.’
Sari-sari store (sari-sari is Filipino for ‘variety’) is convenience retail or a neighborhood Mom & Pop store operated right from the living room extension or front yard by many families in order to supplement their income. From urban centers such Metro Manila to remote villages in the countryside, visitors to the Philippines can find sari-sari stores even in the most unexpected places.
Goods sold are basic such as sachets of shampoo, soya sauce, rice, assorted candies, soda drinks and beer to mosquito repellant. Small retail purchases or ‘tingi,’ (literally “in small amounts”) is the rule of thumb or mode of buying in sari-sari stores rather than the exception. ‘Lista,’ slang for buying in credit is also possible in a sari-sari store, a significant role played by the store owner in temporarily bailing out families running out of cash.
The sari-sari stores also serve as a meeting point in the neighborhood where gossip and the latest news are traded, a casual meeting point for the locals or simply as an information desk to passing strangers and visitors.
Mabuhay ang sari-sari store!