Skip to main content

"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 jeepneys, tricycles, and trucks passing by this shop each day (obviously it's on the side of the highway), it is likely that 10 to 20 of them will pull over on this shop and get their flattened tire vulcanized. This shop have 3 crews waiting to serve customers and they’ve been here for quite a number of years already.

But here’s the question: Why vulcanizing shops like this one are this ugly? Earning say a conservative average of 500 pesos, can’t those roof, walls and doors be constructed into something sturdy (looks like typhoons will blow them away)? Maybe, since it is a dirty job, moreover that it is situated on the side of the road, there is no need to make the shop presentable. What’s more important is the service it could offer. Another reason could be is that overhead cost is too high that the revenue is just good enough to give the shop owner a small profit. Nice business idea, anyway.

Well, it is good to start this post from this example. There is something deeper you need to know about how Filipinos define business and I am about to discuss them here.

Sari-Sari Store - a Variety Store
Now, here are the so-called “Sari-Sari” stores. Sari-sari means “variety” and yes, a store of this kind speaks for itself. It sells a huge variety of products. From candies to junk foods, canned goods to frozen meat, softdrinks to beer or wine, laundry soap to shampoo, rice to livestock feeds, name it and the store has it. Well, maybe not all, but a Sari-Sari store has those typical household’s basic needs in stock. On the flip side, there are lots of Sari-Sari stores competing in one zone or barangay. They sprouted there like mushrooms. This can be good for the consumers but a problem for most store owners. Imagine having ten stores in a barangay with only about 100 households. The best store keeps the loyal customers. Those that can’t compete well have to close down.


On this photo, you can already see 3 stores in a row. Still not included here are the stores a few meters away on the left and on the right. What do you think; why Filipinos are these aggressive in opening a Sari-Sari store given the reality that there’s a big competition in front of them? The simple answer is: It is so easy to open one!

So what happens is that those stores that cannot compete end up in low revenue and then to nearly zero profit and then they decide to close in just a matter of months. Yes, setting up a Sari-Sari store is easy. You can have one right in the front of your house, on your garage, even in tricycle or push cart. How much would it cost you? 2000 pesos startup capital is enough and there is no business permit needed considering that it is just within your home. Also, local government gives consideration to store owners on not to pay taxes if their sales income is not that big (we’ll go over on this subject later on). It would be a different case if you will build a store in the town or city commercial area. You will have to abide by the business registration policy by all means.

To reiterate, almost everybody likes to open a Sari-Sari store, unknown of the fact that there’s a big competition ahead of them.

Pandesal in the Bakery
I often buy hot pandesal from this bake shop or bakery. They only sell 3 kinds of bread – pandesal, monay, and bonete. Their pandesal is tasty and this “malunggay pandesal” they sell seems a healthy option for many. There is no question about the flavor quality of their bread products. If it comes to location, the shop is along the road and near the intersection where people used to come and go. If you will notice, there are papers posted on the wall of this shop. They are the business permits, sanitary permit, and clearances required by the local government (I will also go over these business requirements later on).


Good business in general but if I am to compare this shop with other bake or bread shops nearby, the cleanliness is not that good. And the way crews are serving customers is also not that impressive. Yes, customers like their breads but I observed that the number of customers started to go down when another bread shop, which is cleaner and more organize, opens just three blocks away.

As I wander around my place, I took photos of storefronts, signages, and products offered by those stores. Have a look on these Filipinos stores.

From this photo angle, you will see a small food shop named Jumborger. Despite this small, it is in a strategic location where it potentially earns a good revenue.


These signages looks very detailed. However, it would take you about a minute to read all the information published on each of these signages.




Owners of these shops prefer to use small signages some made of tarpaulins, even of plane plywood.






Business as Usual
If you will examine, it appears that Filipino business owners have their own ways of promoting their respective businesses. From a standard viewpoint, we know that the quality of products and services customers will get depends on the quality of business they are running. In the Philippines, however, this does not always hold true. Let me expound on that.

Many Filipino small business owners actually have no formal training on business management. The moment they start to sell and customers buy from them, that is the start of everything. And here's the truth. Customers will prefer to buy from these small stores for this one obvious reason: it is more convenient.

On one hand, this is great idea considering this business-minded characteristic we have on the land. On the other hand, most businesses who started this way did not even last for half a year. Those who implemented good planning, consistency in execution, and embraced innovation made it to survive for several years.

If I am to summarize my observations on how most Filipinos defines business here in the country, I would put it this way:
  • With life this hard these days, income is first and foremost the most important above anything else.
  • Who needs business training? Not us.
  • We sell because we want it. It’s our right.
It is “business as usual” in many places here in the country. It is engraved in the culture. What you’ve just read is the tiny portion of the entirety of the Philippine business landscape. While small businesses struggle at the bottom, only a few big businesses thrive at the top. There is a deeper reason we need to understand behind this reality. I will get to explain that on Part 2 of this post.


Related Posts

"Business as Usual" as the Filipinos Define It (Palengke, Business Permits, Illegal Vendors) – Part 2

Filipino Job Seekers: Here are the Practical Tips on How to Get a (Good) Job in the Philippines – Part 1


About the Author
Noriel Panganiban is a Filipino blogger who's like any other ordinary Filipino, has experienced the real way of life in the Philippines. Noriel has a mission and that is to bring positive changes in this beautiful country. With blog posts like this, he believes that he is able to carry out that mission even in little ways; that if someone has read his post, that triggers the start of an awakening. You can read more posts about the Filipinos and the Philippines from this blog site. For more information about Noriel and his vision in life, you may also visit www.knowriel.com.

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…

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…

What We Filipinos Believe In

Weeks before I arrive on writing this post, I came across this person popularly known as “The Son of Hamas”. Hamas is an Islamist Group in the Middle East. Many regards them as terrorists but on their own rights and beliefs, they exists to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from Israeli occupation. Before he’s a leader of Hamas. He quitted and now he’s into writing and public speaking taking his personal stand against the extremism done by his former organization Hamas and his campaign for better peace in the region in light of political correctness. You can search about him online - Mosab Hassan Yousef. Hamas’ beliefs, in Mosab’s point of view, is wrong.
The connection I want to imply in this piece of writing is this:

A belief, once it has been engraved in the people’s mind, is difficult to change, that it sometimes takes force (and time) for someone in authority to change it.



In the Filipino people’s mind, for example, that belief that Catholicism is the religion that wou…

“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…

I know a man - Manny Pacquiao; He’s a Filipino

Way back 2006, I would not forget that day, Pacquiao knocked down Erik Morales twice and defeated the latter via TKO in the tenth round of that heated boxing match. I am with my friends in our rented apartment, which is near the company I used to work, watching the brawl in both excitement and suspense. That was yet another history made, taking his revenge to a Mexican boxer who once stole the glory from a Filipino champion. Like any other Filipino, I shouted, cheered, and celebrated that very moment of winning. The afternoon news is all about that big story of Manny Pacquiao - hailed as the People’s Champ. That was the year I started to get more fascinated about Pacquiao.



“All those who are around me are the bridge to my success, so they are all important.” – Manny Pacquiao


The Pambansang Kamao
Manny Pacquiao is dubbed as the “Pambansang Kamao” (National Fist). I am not going to tell his story as a boxer as that story has been there online for quite some time. What I want to share in th…

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…

Decoding the Meaning Behind the Creative Photos of a Filipino Local Traveler

Meet Jerob, a Filipino traveler who truly enjoys the place he used to visit here in the Philippines – with creativity in mind. Jerob was a former workmate of mine and I got really fascinated with the photos he’s sharing on his social media page. There is something different in there, something even beyond creativity. I did not interview Jerob about his photos except that I only asked his permission that I will create a blog post related to some of them. Great! He allowed me. So in this post, let me try to decode the meaning behind each one of Jerob’s impressive photos.

In this photo, obviously, he’s into “planking” and interestingly, he did it on top of the “I love ABRA” signage. Well, planking became famous here in the Philippines just a few years back. It is actually an exercise and at the same time a self-test for mental toughness. That idea if you can endure to hold your position for a long time and to also do it in a public place is a form of creative communication. Yes, it is gr…

“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…