have a little compassion
July 27, 2020
by: tancho baes
It was mid-morning and fairly hot when I stopped to buy some vegetables from the vendor who was selling some produce along the rural highway. There was a lady buyer with a teenager about 14 or 15 years old whose left arm was wrapped around her waist. As I walked across the street towards them, I could hear the buyer, with an obliging voice, haggling with the vendor, wanting to get a lower price of what she wanted to buy. From the way she dressed, plus the car parked three meters away on hazard lights waiting for her and her daughter, I surmised that she can afford to buy those veggies for double the price if she wanted to.
The little girl standing beside the vendor, around 9 or 10 years old, looked at the pushy lady probably fascinated by the fancy accessories she was wearing, or probably was mature enough to wonder why a well-dressed and seemingly rich lady would bargain for a lower price from poor vendors like them. With a forced smile, the vendor, who looked older because of wrinkles on her face, and who I found out later is the wife of a poor small farmer, said “Ma’am, maluuy pud ka namo Ma’am. Gamay ra kaayo akong tubo ani para dali mahalin ug makakaon akong pamilya. Sige na Ma’am. Palita na lang ni Ma’am. Pakapinan nako ug usa ka gamay’ng bugkos nga tanglad.” (“Please ma’am, have compassion on us. I only added a little markup so I could sell this fast to feed my family. Please ma’am, buy these please. I will give you a tiny bunch of lemon grass for free if you buy these.”)
“How much is that per bunch.” I asked, pointing at the bok choi, (the vegetable the lady was trying to bargain). “7 pesos per bunch, sir,” the vendor answered. “That is cheap!” I replied. “You could sell that for double the price if you sold them at Calinan Public Market. Give me 12 bunches please. I will pay you 10 pesos for each bunch.” I handed the vendor 120 pesos and she quickly bagged what I bought while thanking me profusely. I did that to make a point.
Why do so many of us who have the means to buy bargain for a lower price from poor small farmers who rely on the sale of their produce for the survival of their family? To think that most make more money in one month than these vendors do in a year.
“Without someone advocating for them, these impoverished small farmers, the second poorest sector in the Philippines, are vulnerable to the exploitation of people who are insensitive to their plight.”
Many of these vendors are living hand-to-mouth and we just realize that with every peso we knock off the price, another one of the vendor’s children will probably go hungry that night.
Without someone advocating for them, these impoverished small farmers, the second poorest sector in the Philippines, are vulnerable to the exploitation of people who are insensitive to their plight.
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