ECONOMICS and business students may see it as “bottom of the pyramid” capitalism in action. Health care professionals may see it as an incubator for liver disease.

But for regular patrons, this alley in Carbon Market is an accessible refuge where they can relax in a bar of their own.

One of the popular offerings is “haplap.”

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Gamecock breeder Eric, one of the store’s avid customers, says “haplap” is half a 375-ml bottle (called “lapad”) of Tanduay, for P15. (He declined to give his last name in the interview.)

For P5 a glass, one can choose to drink either “hatahata” (Vino Kulafu) or a shot of Tanduay with or without a chaser.

Celso Tabay, 51, the store’s owner, said his style is easy on the pockets of his customers (all of them male), who go there after a long day earning money for their daily bread (and a few drinks).

Karomatero (vendors or delivery boys with pushcarts), kargador (porters), mangingisda (fishermen) and mangingihaw (butchers) usually flock to his store, he said.

“Ang kasagaran tagay-tagay, singko-singko. Para ni sa way kuwarta, (Most of them come here for a few shots. This is for those who have little money),” he said.

Without Tabal’s business model and his Carbon store, Eric said, cash-strapped workers like him would be left high and dry.

“Asa man ka kapalit og di binotilya? (Where can you buy drinks that aren’t by the bottle?),” he asked.

For more than two decades, Tabay said, his store has been his family’s source of income.

He has four children. His two daughters have stopped schooling, but his two sons continued.

“Kani ra gyod ang gisaligan sa pagpaeskuyla. Makakaon ra ug makadata sad sa utang (I depend on my store’s income to send my children to school. We can eat and pay our debts little by little),” he said.

His eldest son is currently a second year information technology student, while his youngest is a first-grader.

He said his customers start to come to his store when it opens at 3 a.m.

Alfonso “Titing” Mahilom, 36, a fisherman since he was seven, said he comes to Tabay’s store to unwind.

“Tambal sa kakapoy gikan sa dagat. Palabay sa oras (I drink to ease my tiredness and kill time),” he said.

Jerome Lasala, a social studies teacher of Cebu Normal University, told Sun.Star Cebu workers like these men drink because they want “to relieve stress.”

“Mao na lang na ang ilang paagi sa pagkatulog, mao usab na ang ilang kalipay (That’s how they sleep. That’s also one little thing that makes them happy),” he said.

“From a sociological point of view, it’s functionalism: they provide jobs for doctors when they get sick,” he added.

For his part, Tabay said he just wants his family to survive. So he will keep on selling cheap drinks at a time when the country’s economy sometimes seems as wobbly as a man who’s had too many drinks.

“Basta negosyo di lang sagulan og binuang (It’s just an honest business),” he said.