Friday, October 10, 2008

The Nanay Chronicles #1 - Maria Went to the Market

One of my earliest memories of my childhood were my frequent trips to the market with Nanay. Although already busy with her small home business, she was hands-on when it comes to going to the market - be it in Pasig for our food, or in Divisoria to buy materials for her garments business or to deliver finished products. I remember only very few instances when she would tag me along to Divisoria, but I have many vivid memories of market trips to the public markets of Pasig.

Divisoria was a long trip back then, when the only way to go there in comfort was the TPT bus. Comfort then means sitting on wooden benches, with no aircon, and inhaling all the smoke and dust along the way. But who's complaining? If the conductor happens to be Mang Itoy, or anyone who knows Nanay, we get a free ride. It was always a long ride - TPT was not known as Takbong Pagong Transit for nothing.

The market in Divisoria, then and now, was a maze of stalls and stores. Nanay would navigate through the maze in a breeze - she knows its ins and outs like the back oh her hand. She walks fast, makes sure she gets the seller's attention and bargains hard. She was a real pro! As for the little pesky kid she had in tow, when I could not keep up the pace anymore, she would leave me with an Indian couple (or at least that's how they looked to me) who owns a stall, and then come back for me when she's done. So while other children would shudder in fear when old folks tell them to behave or otherwise be given to Indians (called Bombays in olden days) carrying sacks where they put misbehaving children, I was happily playing with them in Divisoria.

Other than a few occasions, I do not have much memories of Divisoria - much unlike the many happy, although sometimes embarrassing, memories of Nanay in the Pasig Public Market. I used to dread Saturdays, when Nanay would drag me out of bed early in morning to go to the Pasig public market. Pateros folks, for some strange reason, prefer to take the jeepney ride all the way to Pasig instead of going to the small market by the river. Well, maybe that's the reason - there are more choices in Pasig compared to the almost empty stalls in the Pateros market.

Nanay would always ask me to sit on her lap on the jeepney, even when there was enough space for me to sit on, so that we only have to pay for one seat. Nanay calls everyone in the Pasig Market "Suki", be it the meat, fish, vegetable or dry goods vendor. Much later when I was older and understood better, I learned that calling them "Suki" gave her the license to ask for embarrassinly huge discounts. I always cringed when she would ask the vendors to sell to her at more than half the price. But as a testament to her bargaining prowess, she would almost always get her way anyway. She even perfected the art of pretending to walk away from a deal if she did not get her discount, with the vendor almost always calling her back and giving in to her price.

In fact I learned my first business lesson from her right in the market. When I would tell her that "kawawa naman yung tindera, baka nalulugi na", she would assure me that vendors will not sell anything without at least a decent profit, if not from her, then from someone else. That made an impression on me. and had always been in my mind when dealing with contractors and suppliers, or with clients if I happen to be the one selling. Business is always give and take - you give to some, you take from the others but always leave something for yourself.

Me and Nanay would hie off to the market at least once a week for many more years until I went to Baguio for college. She would always have the week's menu in mind, and would methodically and systematically comb through the huge market - starting with the meat section, then chicken, fish and vegetables. When she and Tatay finally decided to settle in the US, I would go to the same market on my own. As I pass from one stall to the next, the vendors would ask me where Nanay was, and how she was doing. It was then that I realized that she really did cultivate real relationships with the people in the market. She knew each one of them personally, and her relationship with them went beyond the bargains.

Looking back now, little did I know that those market trips to Divisoria and the Pasig would have a lasting and significant effect on how I now deal with my business associates and clients. Nanay was my first and most influential business mentor, and whatever business lessons I put into good use all started in those trips to the market.

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