Buying Filipino By Gemma Cruz Araneta


Now that Filipinos are finally beginning to realize that they should buy locally made products, there is nothing on sale that is made here, from chicken parts to vegetables and fruits to apparel, every thing is imported or smuggled by people whose names we know but do not dare mention. Most of our industries have collapsed exponentially in the past decades, despite protective legislation. Who was it who pontificated – I think he was a president – that it is cheaper to buy than to manufacture or to plant? However, the recent nose dive of the global financial system and the USA‘s economy have belied the efficacy of that short-sighted policy; it seems that we may not even be able to borrow the funds we need to buy our daily sustenance.


When the melamine milk scare became banner headlines for several days, I suddenly remembered how my mother used to insist that we drink milk from a dairy farm owned by one of the Aranetas, Vicente I think, brother of J. Antonio who eventually became my father-in-law. I don’t remember the brand of that locally produced and bottled milk but I do recall that it was delicious and creamy but, unfortunately, not always available at our neighborhood store, Cherry grocery. Nevertheless, my mother was relentless in her support of Filipino industrialists.


Shortly after WWII, I was sent to St. Theresa’s kindergarten and my first pair of leather shoes, courtesy of grandpa Dr. Alfredo Guerrero, was purchased at a posh store on the Escolta called Squires Bingham. I was fascinated by a kind of x- ray machine which showed whether the shoes were a perfect fit. However, as soon as Elpo rubber shoes and Gregg Shoes opened their doors that is where we shopped for our footwear, my college graduation shoes came from there. Along Legarda Street in Manila, there was a row of shoe shops where my mother and I went for made-to-order party footwear, usually of the same fabric as one’s formal frock.. Then Marikina blossomed into the country’s shoe center; hundreds of shoe makers held regular shoe and bag fairs, a must see destination in those days. .


Cherry Grocery, now Foodorama, used to give personalized service so, I would often hear my mother dictating her weekly shopping list on the phone and in a couple of hours a small van would deliver our supplies. She would always punctuate her sentences with “Local”, “LocaL”, “LOCAL!” and when I once asked her why, she said, rather annoyed, that the grocery people (Tsinoys) would always ask her whether she preferred the imported brand. Our chocolates were Sergs and Cocoa Ricoa; she frowned at Peter Paul (which had a coco nutty flavor I loved) because these were manufactured by an American Company in Laguna, Franklin Baker I think, and although the wife of one of the American executives, Janet Walker, was a friend, we never bought Peter & Paul and had them only when Mrs. Walker brought us children a boxful.

That was also why I was never addicted to pop drinks. To this day, I do not take Coca or Pepsi colas, in any form, with my meals, like most of my contemporaries. My siblings and I grew up on Cosmos Sarsaparilla, buko water and home made fruit juices or an occasional glass of wine. Believe it or not, my mother used to venture into the wet market in San Juan to buy tapa and longanisa but when we needed processed foods, it had to be by Ram. Naturally, that obsession to “Buy Filipino” was explained to us children, even if Mother was probably not sure we quite understood. She would expound on how ridiculous it was to export our raw materials to industrialized countries only to buy them back as pricey processed goods. That was why it was and is vital for the Philippines to industrialize; she never tired to illuminate us. Industrialization meant more jobs for Filipinos, higher technological levels and a better life.

But all those incipient industries have since then withered on the vine for many reasons. Among them, the colonial mentality of us Filipinos which we seem to have nurtured instead of extirpated, and later, blind adherence to the GATT and WTO and now globalization. Many of those Filipino industrialists did not turn out to be as patriotic as we hoped, instead of expanding the textile industry, remnants were smuggled from the USA; local food manufacturers folded up, faced with intense competition from foreign firms that merely packaged goods for the local market. Eventually, we were told that it is cheaper to buy rice so the most fertile lands were converted into unproductive (but lucrative) subdivisions and golf courses.

Many of my mother’s contemporaries espoused those nationalistic policies and practiced what they preached and now we can see that they were right after all and that lack of patriotism has an extremely high cost. It may not be too late to start again. – ?

Updated: 03/20/2009 — 21:27:43