Previously: San Nicolas, Manila
Turbulence At The Home Front
The San Nicolas walk trip was born out of curiosity, when instead of riding a jeep at the corner of Abad Santos and Recto to go home, I thought of traipsing further into the bowels of Divisoria to find what's beyond Tabora street. Lately, I've been spotted at the central flea market looking for cheap home items such as hangers with clippers and large water containers.
The last time I was there, I searched the side streets for a rain poncho.
Now the rain poncho is not for me, but for Kuya O, who is my mother's personal assistant. Since the monsoon season is beginning to bring cloudy skies and late afternoon showers, a complete rain gear is needed by family members who often needed to go outdoors no matter what the weather be. With him having to hold a large umbrella while pushing a wheelchair from the State University going to our house a few blocks away, there is a likely chance that my mom will get wet, so he asked for a rain coat the last time heavy thunderstorms inundated the city.
And my response came swift.
Kuya O's request was a fitting excuse to return and explore my favorite marketplace. He had asked for a rain protection gear with a transparent membrane, one that is hard to find that not even department stores might carry such types in their stocks. I already looked for one in Quiapo but didn't find any.
Thus, my only hope is Divisoria.
Even in Divisoria, looking for a raincoat proved quite difficult. None is being sold at the malls, and outside, while cheap varieties exist, even an uninstructed buyer can easily glean how the edges can tear up with one slight pull. An industrial-strength coat should exist somewhere. One that is used by fishermen who is working in rough seas.
And so I walked further, beyond the row of department stores with names inspired by numbers, until I came across a street where tarpaulin sheets are being sold. Here, raincoats are displayed outside the shops for pedestrians to see. There was this one brand the vendors often spoke, and while it was slightly pricier than the first ones offered to me, the vendors I met at the tarpaulin shops vouched for the coat's quality simply by speaking its name.
It was expensive indeed - by Divisoria standards. The raincoats fetch a price twice the generic varieties, whose hem appears to be made by the same material as the plastic pouches one uses when collecting trash. The cost did turn me off at first, so I made rounds again until I found myself at the same street where the rain gears are being sold. As a first-time buyer, there was no one to consult, until the second vendor who spoke of Spartan's near-rubbery texture being proof of its durability said one detail that made me seal the deal.
"Gawa po dito ito."
The vendor's words were drawn from the gut, not because he was desperate to make a sale, or because of his faith in the product, but because he knew many buyers would choose the cheaper ones dumped by the mainland Chinese. I'm sure, Spartan's quality has already swayed me to get the rain poncho. But on that inconspicuous day, a week before the nation celebrates its Independence, something profound had struck me, like a long lost love has been rekindled: In a time when cheap imported goods flood the market, and the local brands need to rely on a good name or cheap labor to keep the industry afloat, there is a tinge of pride and comfort knowing I'd still be willing to shell more for an item that is Philippine made. We may speak of nationhood in the face of adversity in our waters, in beauty pageants, or in sports, but what purpose does our sovereignty serve without collective patronage for things that truly make us stand on our feet?