Back to Business: Rising up from the Ruins of Typhoon Yolanda
Posted by admin on 19 Jul 2017

Samar, Philippines — Doing business runs deep in Tita Alma’s blood. Her sari-sari store dates back to as far as her great-grandparents’ time, and has since evolved across several generations.

However, the current store is only old in essence since Typhoon Yolanda (known internationally as Typhoon Haiyan) had wrecked the original in 2013. The storm ravaged goods amounting to almost P200,000—decades worth of hard work flushed down the drain in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, her sari-sari store was not insured.

Setting thoughts of fixing her store and home aside, she focused solely on providing for her family’s basic needs in the first days after the super typhoon. Still, Tita Alma persisted with the family tradition; using her garage and what little was left of her money to rebuild the sari-sari store.

“Month of January [2014], may maliit na ako na store. Mga wala pang ten items mga tinda ko noon at para lang kumita. Siguro mga limang libo may natira akong mga barya na naiwan, di nadala sa alon [kasi] nakalagay sa timba –‘yon ang starting capital ko, hanggang sa lumaki siya…At nangutang ako muna pandagdag puhunan.”

(By January [2014], I already had a small store. I only had less than ten items in stock, but I persevered in earning whatever I can. I still had five thousand pesos in coins since they were kept safe inside a bucket during the flood—those coins were my starting capital until the store grew and grew… Then I just borrowed money from people for additional capital. )

Tita Alma continues to serve her neighbors in Brgy. Amandayehan Basey, Samar through her sari-sari store business.

Today, Tita Alma’s eyes bear no traces of the calamity. Her sari-sari store business is back and better than ever. Though her progress could be attributed to her natural abilities as a businesswoman, she also credits Hapinoy for helping her get back on her feet.

“Nahubog ako doon sa mga naituro sa amin through trainings. Una, paano mo papatakbuhin yung negosyo.  Paano mo i-entertain-in mo yung mga customers mo…Meron man akong kaalaman doon pero mas natutunan ko kung paano ko patakbuhin ‘yong negosyo ko dahil sa Hapinoy.”

(I was shaped by what was taught to us through the trainings. First, how to run your business, then how to entertain your customers. I had some prior knowledge of these things, but I learned more about how to manage my business thanks to Hapinoy).

Hapinoy created the Negosyo Challenge for training sari-sari store owners to become better entrepreneurs. It is a seven-month program that teaches basic principles on how to run a business, with emphasis on Business Management Training and Business Continuity Planning.

The Negosyo Challenge is a part of Project Bagong Araw: Rebuilding through Microinsurance and Women’s Microenterprises in the Philippines (PREMIUM), a three-year program that helps sari-sari store owners affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Project Bagong Araw: PREMIUM is the undertaking of organizations from both the national and international scenes, with the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) as the implementing figure, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) as the funder, and Hapinoy as the capacity-building body itself. It aims to reach 1600 sari-sari stores in Samar and Leyte.

Project Bagong Araw: PREMIUM wants to empower micro-entrepreneurs as they move forward with sustainable businesses for economic well-being. Hence, it enlists the aid of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Inc. (CARD) to provide loans, and the Micro-Insurance MBA Association of the Philippines (RIMANSI) to provide insurance through Sagip Negosyo.

The partner institutions also become avenues for people to discover Hapinoy, just like in Tita Alma’s case with CARD. Recently, she has just graduated from Level 1 of the two-level Hapinoy training. Recognizing the usefulness of the things she has learned so far, she plans to move forward with the program.

Running a family business is not a one-person job, so whatever Tita Alma learns from Hapinoy she passes on to the members of her household. She taught them valuable skills such as listing down transactions and interacting well with the customers, so that she can attend to other matters knowing that her store is in capable hands. As she likes to remind them, “Kahit piso-piso lang ‘yan, importante pa din ‘yan. Kasi kung may milyong tig-pipiso ka may isang milyong pera ka na” (Even a P1 coin is important, because if you have a million P1 coins, you still have a million pesos in total.)

Since after Yolanda, Tita Alma runs her sari-sari store business with the help of Tita Melba. (Left: Tita Melba; Right: Tita Alma)

One of her assistants in the household is Tita Melba, the person she dubs as “her most trusted associate.” Tita Melba started as her laundrywoman after Yolanda, but four years after, the relationship between the two evolved from an employer-employee status to a bond as strong as sisterhood. Whatever entrepreneurship skill she teaches Tita Melba is not solely for the interest of the store, but for the knowledge that Tita Melba could use it in the future when she is no longer in Tita Alma’s employ.

“[Sina Melba at ang asawa niya]…malaki ang utang na loob ko sa kanila. Katuwang ko sila sa negosyo namin. So thank God na binigyan kami ng mga taong katulad nila na tumutulong sa amin. Sabi ko nga… millions of people, bihira na lang yung mga taong ganun,” Tita Alma says of Tita Melba and her husband.

([Melba and her husband], I owe them a lot. They are my partners in the business. I thank God that He has given us people like them to help. As I said before…there are millions of people, but the ones like them are rare).

Despite Tita Alma’s ongoing success, she remains down-to-earth, always wanting to give back to the people who have helped her throughout the years. She stands as a testament to how a person, in the face of disaster, can bounce back stronger than ever. It seems like her legacy—and that of her family’s sari-sari store—will endure for the years to come.

Written by:
Rezl Angeli B. Hernandez