Wilma Palagtiw: Repairs Junked Shoes and Bags
To be Sold for a Living
By Apolinario Villalobos
One early morning, while cruising the old railroad track of Divisoria where junks were sold, I chanced upon a woman who was engrossed in repairing a shoe. Her various wares on display were repaired bags, shoes, and other junk items. She obliged for some photos when I asked her, adding jestingly that I would send them to a movie outfit.
She was Wilma Palagtiw who hails from the island of Negros, so that we comfortably conversed in Cebuano and Ilonggo. She learned the skill of shoe repairing from her husband who has been in the trade for a very long time even before they met. That morning, Felix, her husband was out doing the rounds of garbage dumps for junks.
Without telling me her exact age, she confided that she was almost fifty and has six children with four already doing part-time and contractual jobs in different stalls in Divisoria. The two younger ones are both in Grade 7. Their pooled financial resources are enough to get them going every day with even a few pesos set aside for emergency needs, especially, for school needs of the two younger kids.
I did a quick mathematical estimate of their joint income, such as if a sales attendant of a stall in Divisoria receives 200 pesos a day, multiply it by 4, so that’s 800 pesos a day, and for a straight duty in a month without day off, the four elder children should be earning 24,000.00 pesos. Deduct the lunch for the 4 of them at 50 pesos each, so that’s 200 pesos…hence, 800 (total earning of the 4) less 200, that leaves 600 pesos net earnings of the 4 in a day. Finally, multiply the 600 pesos by 30 days that leaves 18,000 pesos net total earnings for the 4 kids.
Meanwhile, Wilma shared that she and her husband don’t earn much from selling junks. For every item sold, they earn from 5 to 20 pesos “profit” after deducting the cost of materials that they use for the repair of the junks. They cannot afford to offer their goods at a higher price due to stiff competition among “buraot vendors” like them.
The small room that they rent gives them just enough comfort as they retire for the night, especially, for the kids. The worst days for them are those of the “flood months”, as there could be no income for several days. Despite the hardship, Wilma was still all-smile while conversing with me. I had to leave her as customers were beginning to stop by to gawk at her items that are neatly displayed, while she braved the biting heat of the sun at eight that morning.
If only the rest of us are brave and contented like Wilma, then, there would be no more crying to the Lord, blaming Him why there is no pork dish on the table, or why the money is not enough for a brand new cellphone, or why the remittance from a toiling husband abroad is delayed in coming, etc. etc.etc…..