Friday, 9 March 2012

Slow backward: Of ‘baratilyo’ store and NAMAWU loan sharks - by AP HERNANDEZ

1) Baratilyo sa palengke … During the 50s-60s, there was a popular bargain store at the public market in Mambulao, simply known as “Baratilyo”. It was operated by the Panganiban family, lead by “Aling Tansing” and her husband whose name I can’t recall anymore. It was a long-fronted store, with all sorts of foodstuff and drygoods and all that were needed at home – from “palanggana” to clothing items – all sold at basement prices. It was the noisiest among vendors within that area because its sales staff used megaphone to advertise their wares – as in “ito po ang inyong baratilyo… pinakamura sa bilihin sa bayan ng Mambulao … and so on…” It was the poor man’s fair and being poor also, my family took advantage of the credit scheme that allowed us to make “vale” on foodstuff and goodies that we needed for two weeks. Families who availed of this “pautang” scheme paid on “kinsena” basis – in other words – the 15-30 pay days. When she was unable to go to the store herself, Mother listed all the items that we needed on a small pocket-size notebook and sent me to withdraw them. Because of this, Aling Tansing had known me and one time, she congratulated me for finishing as salutatorian of our graduating batch in the elementary. Having gathered the stuff in front of Aling Tansing who sat before the “caja”, she would print the price opposite of the items that mom had listed. Under the price column was the total worth of the goods. Then she would stamp it as a sort of “certification” and then I would take off with the goods. A day after the pay day, mother would show up at the store to settle, half, if not all of our purchases during the month. Aling Tansing was very good to her customers and had allowed them to get what they needed even if they were unable to settle even a portion of the “nautang na pagkain” o items. It’s one of those things that enabled our family to survive.

2) NAMAWU   One of the legacies that the former labor leader Roy Padilla was the establishment of the NAMAWU in Paracale during those days when the United Paracale Mining Co was operating. NAMAWU stands for National Mines and Allied Workers Union. Padilla infiltrated the labor groups at the Larap mines and soon enough he was able to form a local chapter of the NAMAWU. With the creation of this group, the so-called NAMAWU credit cooperative followed and had benefited workers, especially those low-income groups, whose number had helped Padilla when he decided to dip his toe into the political arena in Mambulao. Running against the incumbent mayor (I think he was Marciano Linis), Padilla easily grabbed victory, backed by the NAMAWU members who delivered to him a landslide vote. What came next was now history.

3) NAMAWU credit cooperative … This credit coop was the lifeline of most of the low-income workers at the Larap mines, including my dad, a mechanic. Almost every afternoon, the space fronting the counters of its cooperative store was overwhelmed by coop members seeking to make “vale” with goodies for the table. And notably, most of them were housewives – either from Mambulao town, Pag-Asa or from Larap itself – who carried a small credit passbook where their purchases were normally listed. Purchases were deducted from the “kinsenas” wages of the coop members.

4) Loansharks at NAMAWU … Would you believe that the credit coop had made some loan sharks richer? Those money lenders who schemed on  workers at a 5-6 chops (those days, this was unconscionable, and that it was believed that such money lenders’ souls were already stewing in the boiling waters at the hot springs of Tiwi, Albay even when they were still alive) had a way of getting back their money from the “nangutang”. The loan sharks had demanded that the borrowers who were unable to settle a payment for a particular pay day surrendered their NAMAWU credit passbook to them. With the passbook, the loan shark would present the passbook at the NAMAWU credit coop counter and purchase goods (on credit of course) equivalent to the amount that the borrowers had failed to settle for that payment period. The scheme had pushed the poor worker’s family further deep into debts. Since they did not hold the passbooks, said families had no way of getting foodstuff from the coop store. Our family was lucky enough not to have been victimized by the scheme – thanks to our small coconut plantation somewhere in Paracale, which sustained us during our darkest financial crisis – enabling me and my siblings to finish high school, and then college, without having to resort to the “favor” from the loan sharks.

5) Magkumpare sila … Mother had known Roy Padilla, especially during those days when he was the mayor of Mambulao. Mother and the late mayor became “magkumpare” when she and the good mayor stood as sponsors to son of a close friend who got married. Of course, she was also the best friend of a neighbor with whom the mayor had two sons out of wedlock – the elder kid being named Roy Jr, who, I think resides in Singapore these days with his Singaporean wife. My mom’s best friend – Letty – lives with them. During those days when we were younger, I talked to the much-younger Junior whenever I came to their house in Parang – which was just about four houses away from ours -- with a message from mother. While I was writing this blog, I was also talking to mom, now 85, on the phone and she told me some stories about this affair, which for sometime became the staple of “over-the-bakod” gossips those days in our neighborhood. Well, anyway, they’re not that interesting, I can tell you. One of the Padilla siblings is the famous Robin Padilla of the Pinoy celluloid world. Of course, we also know that one of Robin’s siblings is Ricarte Padilla, the current town mayor of Jose Panganiban, who has safeguarded the “baul” of the family’s political heritage (or dynasty?) in Camarines Norte. The mayor, according to grapevine, may push for the congressional post if the terrain towards the provincial seat is not that paved for him to walk through in 2013.

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