“Ayo! Palit ko,” their customers would often utter.

This Visayan phrase has now been an often-heard sound for Esther and her group since they started managing a sari-sari store in their community. From the familiar scent of everyday products like detergent powder and cooking oil to the busy sound of coins being knocked by customers indicating their intent to buy, Esther and her group could vividly remember the days when they started believing in the strength of their community through constructing the Pantawid Sari-Sari store in Purok Talisay, Barangay Taway, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Esther Macatual is a parent leader of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program group in their community. The group is currently composed of 24 members, most of whom are registered set 5 beneficiaries of the Program. Prior to the Pantawid Sari Sari Store, the sole livelihood of these members mostly revolve around farming and labor works and with the augmentation support of the 4Ps program and its partner-stakeholders, doors of opportunities to learn, improve their skills, and earn were opened to the community members.

Albeit farming and labor works help the families secure food on the table, Esther and her group decided to take the leap and create something that could be of great help to them in the long run, thus building the Pantawid Sari-Sari Store. The group thought that running a mini grocery store is sustainable and offers more possibilities for profit. The store was established in 2016. Initially, the store was first built by only 9 members of the group who each shared Php 1,000.00 from the grant that they had received from the 4Ps program as a start-up capital. In order to physically build the store, the group had willingly worked together demonstrating the sense of Bayanihan which ultimately showed their willingness and determination in uplifting their situation.

During the unpredicted COVID-19 that hit all over the world and caused people from all walks of life to struggle in adjusting to the “new normal”, the Pantawid Sari-Sari Store became one of the backbones of the group as employment and livelihood were greatly affected due to economic crises. Even so, the group’s sense of community grew even stronger during at that time as they were still able to pay forward by doing love drives and charitable activities to one of the most affected sectors in the community during pandemic, the elderly.

With strong collaboration amongst its group members, the Pantawid Sari-Sari Store is still standing up to this day. In order to keep the operation running, the members ensure that operational tasks are performed efficiently and accurately. Each member is given a specific task to perform such as inventory officer, cashier, stock buyer and cook. Weekly inventory of stocks and income is also regulated. As of August 2021, the estimated shared goods of the store totaled to Php 111,000.00. The group is currently working on their needed documents for their business permit and for their upcoming 6 years celebration.

This success is also shared with the Municipal Link who guides and monitors the group in the management of their business.

“Ayo! Palit ko” – This has now been an often-heard sound for Esther and her group, and for every time that they hear this, they will be reminded of the leap they took in building something succesful, they will be reminded of the product of their collective determination, they will be reminded of the time they were the strongest as a community.###


Story Contributor: Danica Dolendo