This is a story of a woman who has to face the battle against authorities on the streets in the locality of Baguio city, Philippines. This is her story kept from the past, and her story still represents those who are like her today, who have to keep running to save themselves and their families’ living.
“I can. I will run as long as I still can. I will endure running for my family, so that they will have something to eat, for them to live“, said 61 years old Mary Angfosen, a native of Mt. Province, Philippines.
From her hometown Manang Mary came to live in Baguio city as a sidewalk vendor. She had to sell her vegetables where many people would pass by her and see her basket of vegetables. There will be a greater chance that the goods she was selling would be sold if she would roam around the streets.
The vegetables looked good. It was in the late afternoon and the crops displayed on her tray were still fresh. She sells pechay (green chard), still vivid-green and leafy bundled together and have no signs of being withered. The beans and the peas were looking crisp and spotless on their surface that was obvious on the beaming late afternoon sunlight.
“Pechay, beans… sangapulo lang, tumbok ading (Pechay, beans, only for ten pesos per bundle)”, invited Manang Mary to the people passing her at one corner of the side-walk in Mabini street. This has been her spot every afternoon. “ We will run if there are the POSD’s. We need to transfer from one place to another everyday”, she shared.
The POSD stands for Public Order and Safety Division officers of Baguio city who were in-charge of keeping the streets free from sidewalk vendors; For they were believed to cause the garbage issue in the city. Manang Mary and the vendors like her are affected by the policy of the city government, which started several years ago to clear all sidewalks from vendors.
“We rented a stall at Hilltop Block 4, but there were only few people who go there so only few buy our goods. That is why we have to go here where the crowd is located to sell everything we had”, according to manang Mary. From Hangar market she will get 10 kilos of pechay, 5 kilos of beans, and 3 kilos of peas. According to her they have to sell all the vegetables joining a group of vendors who helps out each other in selling.
From the main stall where they get the vegetables from the businessman who will give them 1000 pesos as a credit, they have to return it with 10 percent interest. To do this, manang Mary said that there is someone who will collect 100 pesos from them every day. Aside from the vegetables she was also selling fruits if it is in season.
She had been selling vegetables as a living since she came to Baguio. “This is what I have been used to doing for living” she said. At 61, manang Mary cannot tell exactly when she started selling.
She had been in Baguio for forty years where she had joined her relatives at Pinsao. She came from Barrio Maligkong in Mt. Province and then migrated to Baguio after she got married. She and her husband chose to live here because they find it difficult to get a good source of income in the province.
Manang Mary finished schooling until the third grade level. Both of her parents are native of Bontoc and ever since she was young, her parents were already working as farm laborers or tenants. They had no personal piece of land owned in their province. After she left school, she already engaged in work by helping her parents farm and sometimes took care of pigs.
“We are the poorest of the poor”, she exclaimed remembering how life was at the province.
For manang Mary at the early age she has to help her parents work. If they would not find an opportunity to labor at a farm they would not have food to eat. Manang Mary said that as long as you have something to plant and harvest you will not go hungry. Their family had to work really hard.
Manang Mary married a man from Bontoc. Her husband, 57 y/old has been working as a laborer while selling has been her form of livelihood. She has seven children, five male and two female. Now, she already has five grandchildren. Manang Mary has been old enough for her not to remember some details like the birthdays of her children. According to her, the eldest of her children was born on 1975, her youngest was born on 1992. Two of her children were already married and raising a family of their own. They still join her at their home in Pinsao. Her youngest was able to study college and took up Education.
Her son, the second of her children, took Agriculture in a State University. According to manang Mary, that is what her son wanted to do. Farming has been what her son ever known to do. Unfortunately, her son was not able to continue his studies. She had admitted that they do not have enough finances to support his studying. Instead, her son went to La Union where there was an opportunity to work as a farmer.
There was a time that her other son applied for a job that is provided by the government. Her son took the exam but he was not employed. “There was politicking” she inferred. She wished that the government would provide jobs for the people who are in line with their skills.
“Unfair,” manang Mary shared her sentiments. She said that when people apply for job they would not get employed.
At 61 she still dreams but not for herself. She dreams for her family. “I only wanted all my children to finish their studies and earn a degree, after that, I can die.” She is happy and satisfied with her selling vegetables. There is no other job that she would want to do. She have also no regrets about being a vendor.
She only wanted to make sure that her family would always have food to eat. “I am happy. I would sell so that I am sure my family would have always something to eat. That is my happiness.”
Everyday that manang Mary would work on the streets, she would not mind the POSD patrolling. “I only need to run,” she said. She has not yet experienced being caught and the hardest challenge in her work is being old.
When the POSD caught someone, the vendors will try to protect their products. “Some of them would try to confiscate using force even if the vendor is an elderly. Our backs as old people would always ache and we can feel getting weaker each time passes by”, she explained.
At 61 Manang Mary is still running. She can and she will. She is running for her family. She runs for her living, so she can still provide for her family.