The Sari-Sari Store – Small Filipino Retail
The Philippines is a county chock-full of stuff being sold tingi-style, or in ultra-small retail sizes.
It’s one of the quirks of living in a third-world country where not everyone can afford the big bottles or dozen packages of food and other basic supplies.
Even if it’s cheaper to buy things in bulk, some people can’t spare the few pesos to upsize their purchases because they need it for some other household item.
So if you ever find yourself short of shampoo or in dire need of more salt for your camping cookout, just head on over to the nearest sari-sari (translated as variety) store to complete your supplies.
The Sari-Sari Store
The sari-sari store is the quintessential example of Filipino retail business. Although you can find retail sizes of various products at any local grocery store or supermarket, none of them has the iconic feel of the Pinoy sari-sari store.
The store is usually appurtenant to a residential house. For example, garages are often converted into storefronts to accommodate the merchandise as well as a bench or two for the patrons. Some of the smallest ones are no bigger than a modest bathroom, but they still do brisk business every day.
The sari-sari stores is the go-to place for when you lack an essential item at home. You can drop by any time of the day and ask for your desired product—the store opens early and closes late at night, because anyway the proprietor lives literally at the back of the shop. The sari-sari store carries everything from bubblegum to instant noodles to marker pens to charcoal to beer.
Heart of The Community
It’s also good to pay a visit to the sari-sari store even when you’re not buying anything. You’re bound to meet a friend or two to chat with. The store proprietor is also one of the best sources of the latest gossip in the neighborhood because people talk to him or her regularly.
It’s also a popular meeting place for the neighborhood drunks (called sunog-baga in the colloquial).
A lot of old Pinoy movies portray the sari-sari store as the haunt of violent drunks who play cards in front of rickety tables and who maul every other passerby.
Fortunately, recent city ordinances have seen to it that drinking sessions are conducted inside residential properties, and not on the streets.
And because the store owner is your friend or your kid’s godparent, you are assured of an unlimited line of credit that you can simply pay off at the end of the month. Every purchase you make on credit is jotted down on a list, along with the price and the date of purchase, to be paid when you have the money.