Skip to main content

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 norielpanganiban@gmail.com if you want to know more about the Filipinos and the Philippines.

Comments

Most-Read Posts of the Month

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

The Strawberry Farm, Burnham Park, Mines View Park, the Mansion, Wright Park, Lourdes Grotto, and Session Road; these are among of the popular landmarks in the more commonly known “Summer Capital of the Philippines” – Baguio City. Why so? Well, the temperature here seldom exceeds 26 degree centigrade. During the cold season of December to February, the temperature falls down to even below 10 degree centigrade. The record low temperature was 6.3 degree and that was on January 18, 1961.

How to Travel to Baguio City?
Going to this cold city in the mountainous province of Benguet, Philippines is a six to seven hours travel by passenger utility bus from Manila. Starting from EDSA, traversing the NLEX, entering SCTEX, exiting the province of Tarlac and going through the neighbouring provinces of Pangasinan and La Union, and then exploring the zigzag road of either the Marcos Highway, the Kennon Road or the Naguilian Road, the coldest place in the Philippines will be reached. Baguio is about 2…

"Business as Usual" as the Filipinos Define It (Vulcanizing Shop, Sari-Sari Store, Bakery) – Part 1

I asked the shop owner about these old unused tires on what are they doing with it. The Vulcanizing shop owners says, “Oh, someone will pick up those tires and pay us 5 or 10 pesos each. Sometimes they just take it for free”.


Vulcanizing Shop - A Classic Example of Filipino Business
You’ve most probably seen and been into a local, typical vulcanizing shop like this one in the photo. The business concept is very simple. Here’s a customer with his flat or deflated tire and the vulcanizing boy will repair it using a rubber compound patch, a heating tool, and an air pump. If it’s a regular car or van tire, repairing one may only take 10 minutes the cost of which is around 30 to 60 pesos. If it’s a tire from a truck or bus, it could be around 30 minutes and the repair would cost the vehicle owner around 100 to 150 pesos.

Here’s the thing. A shop like this one could potentially earn a revenue of 1000 up to 2000 per day just by repairing a flat tire. Why? Well, with thousands of vehicles like j…

“Fixer” in Philippine Government Agencies Like the Social Security System (SSS) and Land Transportation Office (LTO) – What We Filipinos Can Do About it?

Maybe in this post, I can clearly explain how “fixing” works in many government offices in the country. The idea is first, to warn you that such illegal fixing happens, and second, to give you tips on how you should avoid them. Plain and simple, we will not in anyway damage or speak against anyone or any particular office of the government in this post. It just happened that this is about my experience with LTO and SSS Tagaytay. I want to emphasize that still many government employees in the Philippines are doing their jobs right - including those who are working in the said branches.
If you have experienced transacting with any government offices here in the Philippines, whether you're a Filipino or not, you should already be familiar with these signages.



Here’s a bit of knowledge for you to digest first.
What is “fixing” or who is a “fixer” by the way?
In the Philippines, these good words happened to have a negative connotation over the past decades. Good words? Yes, indeed. When …

The Divisoria Malls - Defining Shopping in the Philippines

They call it the 168 Mall. It is one of the busiest places in the Philippines during shopping days like Christmas season when longing for enjoyment and relaxation is on the air once again. From Cavite, my home place, going to Divisoria, it will take you about an hour travel under normal traffic flow.

What is in this place? Well, Divisoria is the Bargain Shopping Capital of the Philippines. This is where wholesale and retail prices make shoppers say “WOW!” on delight. Visiting this place will definitely give you a realization about shopping on a different dimension. Find out why on the next paragraphs.

On the Photo: The Popular 168 Mall in Divisoria, Manila, Philippines


Divisoria is located in Binondo, Manila. It is accessible via Quiapo(where the famous Black Nazarene of Quiapo Church is) thru Recto Avenue and via Lawton near Manila City Hall. Divisoria has been there since the early 90’s. As it is near the North Harbour, Manila’s main seaport, the freshest and cheapest products usuall…

“Pasalubong” – What Makes this Filipino Word Very Special?

Probably next to the beauty of a tourism spot, if it’s about the real reasons for traveling there, is our search for the best “pasalubong”. It’s the tagalog word for “gift” or “souvenir” and it can be anything from foods, toys, clothes, handicraft, furniture, soaps, wearables, or household items. It’s practically anything, big or small, cheap or expensive, edible or not. And for as long as that special item was bought somewhere else and then given to someone as an act of love and kindness – the true purpose has been served.


A simple gesture of “Salamat po” (Thank you) for sharing that pasalubong is enough to make you feel the love and kindness back. There is the best pasalubong for kids, for grandmas and grandpas, for a favorite grandson, for a close neighbor or friend, for the workmates, for the boss, for a former enemy, for a religious brother, and even for a complete stranger. Yes, indeed!

Well, “pasalubong” is actually different from a gift for birthday, wedding, or special gatherin…

Junk Collectors

Several months ago, when I was about to enter the public market near my place, I saw this old woman more or less in her early 60’s checking something on the garbage cans. That was really my first impression. I tried to observe what she’s doing for a few seconds more and I then realized she was after these empty and used plastic bottles. At first, I thought she was just looking for something she might have lost or maybe she’s looking for scrapped foods. But she’s not. The old lady looks clean and not like a scavenger. She’s just a typical person we’re seeing around. After a few moments, I approached the lady and told her,

“Nay, heto po ang konti (pera), pandagdag sa kita ninyo”.
(Auntie, here’s something (small amount), you can add to your income.)

And the old lady replied with a smile,

“Naku, salamat anak.”
(Oh, thank you son.)
Then, I proceeded with my market activity that day. From that time on, whenever I go to the market, I always hope that I will still see her, and give her a small am…

Who are These OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) and Why are They the Modern Heroes of the Philippines

At the turn of the millennium, the Philippine government launches this campaign program calling the overseas Filipino workers or OFWs as “Mga Bagong Bayani ng Bayan” (Modern Heroes of the Nation). From then onwards, different organizations established programs giving awards and recognitions to selected OFWs who did a remarkable contribution or action to their family, friends, work or in general, to the country.


OFW ka ba?Bakit?Eh kasi dating mo pa lang, mayaman ka na. Boom! 
(Are you an OFW? Why? Because with just the way look, it seems that you’re rich. Boom!)

My Cousin Dado as an OFW in South Korea 

At present, OFWs around the world are estimated to be around 12 – 14 million. This is approximately 10 – 12 percent of the Philippines total population. These OFWs are distributed on many countries all over the globe majority of whom are in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Italy. Immigrant workers in the United States, Australia and Eu…

Filipinos! Here is My Free Education Advocacy that I Want You to Know

In the Philippines, we often hear this statement from the Filipinos about education:


“Hindi hadlang ang kahirapan para makatapos ng pag-aaral.” Poverty is not a hindrance to finish education.
I completely disagree! Allow me to explain my side.





Millions of Filipinos are unable to step highschool and even college because of the hardships in life we have in our country. Many are poor and therefore cannot afford the cost of education in the Philippines. If paying 5,000 to 20,000 pesos per semester in a Philippine college is already tough, then how about more the daily baon, school projects, transportation allowance, boarding house, and extra expenses?


Wake up! This is the truth. That Filipino statement with all respect, if I were you, forget it. Accept the fact that you cannot just earn your education in the Philippines because you are poor.

This is not an insult to anyone. I am from a poor family but I was able to complete a college degree despite of that. If you really want to find a solution…

How Filipinos are Loosing their True Identity

What happens to the Filipinos foods?

Haven’t you noticed, foreign foods are invading the Philippines by storm? International restaurants serving foreign cuisines are everywhere. Culinary arts, the way Filipinos look at it, is just becoming a trendy topic. Chefs, food blogger, culinary experts, food architect - goodness, are they soon to replace the simple “kusinero” and “kusinera” words that best describes our real identity as Filipinos in terms of cooking?




Globalization shapes the future of the country, particularly the food landscape. There is nothing wrong with innovation. I’d been a waiter for quite some time in a popular catering business and if its about food preparation, I’m really impressed with the way our cooks and kitchen staffs do it. Those garnishing, decorative artwork, and plating styles, they really add beauty to the foods we serve. Even an authentic Filipino food, they make a twist making it lovely and attractive to the hungry eyes.

Those terms like “buffet”, “a la ca…

Sidewalk Vendors

You’ll often see them. You’ll buy from them. But when they become part of the news, you’ll get to hate them – some of you. They are people like us who simply wants to earn a living. They have a family to feed. This is the business they call “marangal” (dignified). And we call them…
Sidewalk Vendors

Let me define what (or should I say “who”) a sidewalk vendor is.

Here in the Philippines, there is a notion that if you’re a sidewalk vendor, you mostly likely belong to the lower class of the society. For one reason, why sell on the sidewalks or streets of Metro Manila and other cities if you can sell on approved places particularly the market. For another, selling in the street on a daily basis is a risky activity – you’re prone to illnesses, effects of air pollution, dangers from vehicles passing by, and unsafe condition of your store or shop.

In a third-world country where job opportunities are scarce for people with lower educational attainment, there is no reason to doubt that poor people…