IT IS something that most of us have learned to accept ever since we were kids: We should live our lives day by day. But for around 30 percent of our Filipino brothers and sisters, they know this truth—and live it—the hard way.

If you pass by a simple neighborhood, you will notice that sari-sari stores are set up just about in every block.

In fact, a few corners have even two to three stores lined up next to each other. It’s your type of business competition at a grassroots level.

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There is more to discover and learn from these “mom and pop” stores than just the price of soap or soup.

Did you know that for companies or brands here in the Philippines, their products—packed in sachets—take up the most volume of sales in comparison to the those in bottles or bulk orders? The Philippines lives by the “sachet economy,” some say.

In developed countries, sachets are for hotels, motels or hostels—perfect for one-time use only. For our nation still struggling with its economy, a family of 11 in a mountain barangay would prefer to live on an air-tight, daily budget.

Even some to the extent of choosing to go through life meal by meal.

The sari-sari store is our own local version of what a convenience store is abroad. Of course, convenience stores can be found here, especially in the metros. But the sari-sari stores are the “little establishments” that thrive within our bustling neighborhoods. Through the sari-sari store, sachets of certain (if not all) products are made available to everyone who is in great need.

According to Robert Go, former president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), the sari-sari store “is one of the most important traders in every locality.”

In this set-up, both the buyer and seller benefit from one another. Of course, the buyers get the advantage of not having to travel long distances to purchase their needs.

In some stores, credit is even allowed as long as the customer seems to be a credible one. For the storeowner, it’s a great way to get money moving even with such a reasonable capital to begin with.

Robert shares the five common reasons why these stores fold:

1. Neighbors won’t pay debt.

2. Consumption of the owner’s family is higher than total earnings.

3. Profit is squandered.

4. The storeowner is not always there to attend to their customers.

5. The storeowner does not maintain a good relationship with customers.

“But basically, stores [fold up] because they spend more than what they earn,” Robert sums it up.

“These people (sari-sari storeowners) hold together the poverty-stricken parts of our country,” he adds.

To be reminded of our nation’s plight through a display of sachets in front of a sari-sari store is a blessing. Rather than ignore this hard truth, we smile, celebrate the beauty of our culture and tradition, and look forward to a more prosperous future. Indeed, let no obstacle contain us from growth.

Sachet, bottle, carton—whatever.