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We Sell to Earn a Living - In the Philippines, it's Selling Almost Anything Under the Sun

As a native traveler, it has been my habit to photograph people and the things they do - under the heat of the sun. During my travels, I got fascinated with how Filipinos make a move to earn a living in this country. Be it foods, clothing, souvenirs, household materials, drinks or wearable stuffs, we've got it all for buyers like you.

And what's amazing about the way Filipino sells things is that you can always ask for a bargain price or "tawad". You'll be lucky enough if you got discounts. In the market, along the street or "bangketa", inside passenger jeepneys and buses, inside shopping malls and even inside the offices, there will be someone who would sell to you and most probably say this: "Mura lang ate, kuya, bili na kayo". And if you become their "suki" or regular buyer/customer, chances are you'll get a free stuff to bring back home.

Well, much has been said about the buy and sell business in the Philippines. I remember my post about the Divisoria shopping malls. In this popular marketplace in Manila, the sky is the limit when it comes to items on sale. But then, this post is about the deeper reasons behind why Filipinos never stop exposing their skins under the heat of the sun or squeeze their bodies to sweat anytime, anywhere, in any occasion.

In this blog, I will share with you some of the most memorable photos I have taken over the past few years. These are the photos of Filipinos whom if not struggling for business survival are fighting the tough challenges of times to earn a decent living for their families. This is the Philippines' something to be proud of yet also something to think about seriously by the buyers and by people who cares about the fair and good life of everybody.

A Person with Disability (PWD) Selling Sampaguita

Just at the right time and at the right angle, I happened to photograph this man selling bundles of fragrant sampaguita outside a basilica in Lipa City. Sampaguita is Philippines' national flower. It is purely white and absolutely scenting. The flower is usually assembled as necklace together with another fragrant flower called "Ilang-Ilang".In this country, children age five to twelve are typically seen selling such flower outside Catholic churches.

If you have visited the Quiapo Church in Manila, there are for sure children there who would approach you and beg you to buy their flowers. But to see this PWD man selling this stuff, I was totally amazed and at the same time pitied by the reality that whoever you are, normal or disabled individual, there are really times when you need to go out there and make money to feed your stomach. This man is such a saint in his acts.

Buko Man Selling "Buko" or Young Coconuts Along the Street

While riding a bus back home from Baguio, I saw this man pushing his cart with bukos and a jar of sweetened buko juice. During summer, Filipinos selling cold beverages is a common scenery in the streets, markets and passenger vehicle terminals. A cup or glass costs about five to ten pesos, a drink good enough to take away your thirst.

Looking at the photo, you'll see the cart or "kariton" and also the bladed knife or "itak" as the man's main tools to sell his product. And noticeably, there is an umbrella too. Buko sellers badly need protection from the intense summer heat in the country. This man and hundred of others like him are superheroes in their own selling ways.

The Cotton Candy Boy

Oh, who would not try to grab and eat cotton candy while enjoying the carnival shows or the festival parades in the towns here in the Philippines. Every kid will surely asks their moms and dads to buy a stick or plastic of cotton pink candy. And even lolos, lolas, ates, kuyas, titos and titas, they will love tasting this melt-in-your-mouth candy. As if a spider's web wrap around a prey, this candy is absolutely a Filipino festivities' trademark.

But to see this young boy selling the delicious candy, that's another story to dig up. I took the photo while the boy is busy with his cellphone. And that particular moment reminded me that this seller is really a boy - a young man who's focus to sell for a living is just not yet there, but still on enjoying his young-hood's life.

A Kuya (Brother) Selling the Melting Ice Blocks

Sitting and patiently waiting for buyers, this "kuya" must have been in this line of business for years already.

For one, he has these ice blocks exposed and are on top of palettes situated at the side of the street. What that means is he's confident his ice will sell fast.

For two, I saw and the way he chunks the ice blocks and packed them on plastics is absolutely fast and nearly in perfect cut-sizes.

Well, not only with ice but also with different products sold in the streets you can see Filipinos with nearly perfect skills in terms of weighing, cutting and packing. Kuya is not only industrious, he's also "madiskarte" (strategic). Good job kuya!

Aleng (or Ale) Magmamani (Nuts Seller)

In about eight or ten "bilao" or bamboo-craft plates, this lady in her 40's is really trying hard to end up her day with a good sale. Peanut is every Filipinos' favorite snack, especially the "Adobong Mani". Now this lady has a lot of nut delicacies on her table and that is something amazing to see in this market I've been into. 

No wonder why "mani" is also sold mostly on buses. The "magmamani" usually jump into the bus carrying a bucket of "adobong mani" and mini-paper bags for packing. With just the smell of the freshly cooked nuts, you'll be encouraged to buy for sure. This Ale and those magmamani are all part of Filipinos' living tradition of street selling.

The "Mga Mamang Sorbetero" (Ice Cream Sellers) on their Sidecars

Speaking of street selling, well, ice cream sellers can be considered as the veterans in this craft. Sorbetes or ice cream comes in a variety of flavors. Some calls it dirty ice cream as they are sold in the streets but the truth is that these products are really not dirty. What's dirty is the environment they're sold into. When I saw this trio in this straight line talking to each other while waiting for buyers, I thought it was a perfect angle to take a shot and so I did. That shot was actually just a few minutes after I bought a cone of ice cream - the strawberry flavor.

Sorbetes are typically sold in cone, cup and bread buns in the country. The Mga Mamang Sorbetero are everywhere in the Philippines, some may not be in sidecars but believe me, their ice icreams are something to be tasted and enjoyed about. Keep it up brothers!

The Karinderya Lady and Her Trays of Ulam (Viands)

"Isang order nga ng...kare-kare/menudo/kaldereta/adobong manok/nilagang baboy...". If it's about authentic Filipino dishes, go nowhere but on a karinderya (food canteen). This food place has it all for you and even if you ask for a free soup or "sabaw", you'll get it in an instant. The Karinderya Lady I photographed here was so dedicated, friendly and energetic with the way she sells her ulams. I ordered about four menus and they taste so good.

Philippines is a home of delicious recipes be it pork, chicken, beef, vegetables and the exotic ones. Every province here has its own recipe to offer. Have you tried Bicol Express? How about dinakdakan? Well, the sisig, goto, lechon and bulalo, if you want to try these authentic Filipino dishes, look for these Karinderya Ladies. They are the best when it comes to Pinoy viands and they are everywhere. Salamat po sa inyo (Thank you).

Oh My Gulay (Vegetables) Tinderas and Tinderos (Sellers)

Fresh vegetables? Go straight to the public markets and you'll find them. If there are Filipinos who wake up the earliest, they are these tinderas and tinderos of gulay. Why? It's because vegetable dealers from nearby provinces arrive as early as three o'clock in the morning while the market opens at five or six. So if you're a bird who wants to catch the early worms, meet the dealers while many are still on their beds.

When I visited Baguio, the experience that I will never forget is when I explored the city's public market. Everything here is fresh in the morning - broccoli, coli-flower, lettuce, pechay, etc. And even today, I always love going to the public markets and buy there fresh meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. To all Filipino gulay tinderas and tinderos out there, you're bringing us the good life and we thank you too.

And wait, there is more...

These next photos will reveal to you how dedicated, focused, strategic and lively are Filipino sellers in earning their living. And the most interesting fact about the selling industry in the Philippines is that products come in a variety of colors, designs, tastes, appearances, sizes, prices, raw materials used and more. If I am to recommend a place in this country where to find them all, it's certainly the town or city public market - not the shopping malls (I suggest you read Why Filipinos Love SM too). Enjoy looking at these photos and hope that you get the in-depth meaning of Filipinos' way of selling that I am trying to convey in this post.

Assorted Plant Seller

Tsinelas (Slippers) Seller

Sari-Saring Paninda (Assorted Commodities) Seller

Pasalubong (gift, souvenir) Sellers

Sidewalk Vendor (a.k.a. Magtitinda sa Bangketa)

It's really selling almost anything under the sun here in the Philippines. Just the Sari-Sari Store ni Aling Nena alone, it's a lot. For more interesting posts about selling, have a read on these other interesting and eye-opening posts:

The Divisoria Malls - Defining Shopping in the Philippines

“I Love Baguio City” - My Travel Story in the Summer Capital of the Philippines

Exploring the Beauty of a City in Progress - Naga City, Bicol, Philippines

So, what can you say about this Filipino way of selling? Did it tell you something? For comments, suggestions or recommendations, please leave a comment below. You may also send a message to the author, Noriel Panganiban, at if you want to know more about the Filipinos and the Philippines.

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(Auntie, here’s something (small amount), you can add to your income.)

And the old lady replied with a smile,

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(Oh, thank you son.)
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