At SONA, sidewalk vendors jostle for hungry rallyists

By Alexander Villafania

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – Sidewalk vendors at the State of the Nation Address (SONA) might seem that they’re making a killing. They tend to weave through crowds of protesters and battalion of police selling anything from food, beverage, to trinkets. Never mind the spontaneity of a skirmish between the police and the picketers.

What matters for the vendors is that after a good few minutes of intense scuffle, people will get hungry and they’ll have to find some nourishment.

But in the last few SONAs, these unregistered micro-businesses are apparently earning less despite the arrival of thousands of protesters and the deployment of several hundred police. The decrease in business seems to come from the fact that there are now more of these sidewalk vendors flocking to this part of Quezon City during the SONA.

In essence, there is increasing competition from other vendors.

One such vendor who is finding it more difficult to earn during the SONA is Nancy Dehauan, who sells hamburgers at P10 per piece.  Carrying a plastic box full of these small sandwiches during yesterday's SONA, Dehauan said she barely sold half of her products despite selling since 11 a.m.

“Mahina ngayon. Dati nakakaubos pa ko ng dalawang box, tapos kulang pa. Ngayon, lugi pa ako (It’s becoming sluggish. I used to sell two boxes and it’s still not enough. But now I might actually lose my investment),” said Dehauan, who admits that she is an informal settler in Quezon City.

Sharing her sentiment is taho (soy pudding) vendor, Leonard Dose, also living in Quezon City. Dose said that one of their concerns was that there has been a deluge of sidewalk vendors from other cities who are also expecting some windfall from the thousands of hungry activists and government agents who are protecting the peace.

Dose noted that some vendors from specific cities actually group together and hire a jeep to bring them as close to Batasan Hills as possible. “Madalas pababaan na lang ng presyo para kumita pa kami (Often we have to lower our prices just to compete and earn a little).”

Despite the dangers, Dose and Dehauan said they would still walk between hostile groups because they know they’ll eventually get hungry. In fact, they admit they actually sell better when there is fighting.

“Pag galit ang mga yan, lalong magugutom (When they’re angry, they’re hungry),” Dehauan quipped.

***

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