This article was written back in 2006.
I don’t wear slippers when I go out of the house. I understand that wearing slippers is more convenient for most of us (besides from what others consider as a porma factor), but out of modesty, wearing slippers should not become, as what is happening these days, a typical attire for us probably in the university, in the workplace or specially in the church. Lecturing about wearing slippers is not my purpose of writing this article, rather, narrating the lecture I learned from it, would be more accurate.
My parents own a small ladies’ step-in manufacturing business here in our backyard in Cainta, Rizal. We produce cheap slippers which you can find in market places packaged in plain transparent plastic bags. It used to be a shoe manufacturing business until China started exporting very cheap goods to the Philippines, including shoes. Our manufacturing costs were already equivalent to China’s selling prices. How can anyone compete with such advantage?
In terms of manufacturing costs, step-ins are not as costly as shoes, that’s why our production shifted from closed shoes to open slippers. They were not adept in step-in manufacturing but at least it’s in line with what they were previously doing. Besides, what would you expect from my parents, who both came from Marikina, the shoe capital of the Philippines?
There’s really nothing special about the business. We simply operated at our backyard–turned–factory with no day passing by without our neighbors getting disturbed either by the noise of the sewing machines, the pounding of hammers, the shouting of the workers and the other annoying noises, all contributing to an “orchestra of irksome proportions”, that I’m sure nobody would want to live with everyday.
I saw my parents working very hard, but I still couldn’t imagine that the turn-out was only as small as five pesos per pair of step-in. Any simple mistake in production would cost us several times more than the profit of a single pair. Since the profit was very small, my parents had to compensate, and it had to be done in numbers just to sustain our everyday living. And to achieve the numbers, arduous labor was just one of the factors, both for my parents and the workers.
I was in junior high when my parents told me to sell slippers in school. They told me the earnings wouldn’t be used to pay our debts, but for me to use as extra baon. Whatever the purpose was, selling slippers was a feat I never wanted to attempt at that time. My classmates knew we were not rich, but it was not an excuse for me to sell slippers. What would they think of me? I couldn’t imagine myself asking my classmates or even my instructors to buy slippers from me. What will I tell them when they ask me why I’m doing this? My image was of utmost priority. Selling would just make me an embarrassing object of attention in school which is not at all gratifying.
My parents probably got the idea of persuading me to sell slippers from my cousin who already had a job but still thought of maximizing his opportunities. He realized that he has an aunt from whom he can get merchandise he can sell in his office for extra money. My cousin’s sideline clicked; he was getting bags of step-ins every weekend to satisfy his customers. Envy struck me with his earnings and all, but he couldn’t make me sell in school. He’s a grown-up man, he’s already working and these are enough reasons why he is doing this. I was just a student and my only job was to study.
One day I dropped by the registrar’s office and saw this classmate of mine showing mugs to the personnel inside the office. “What the hell is he doing? Is he selling these mugs?” These were my thoughts the moment I saw him.There could be no other reason why he was displaying different colored mugs in front of these people. At first, I felt pity for this guy, but that feeling lasted only for a moment. I’m sure he intended to earn some extra cash, for a purpose I may not know, but still, he is earning, and he’s earning in a noble way.
Then, that gloomy idea of selling slippers came by me in a more optimistic light. I cannot exactly remember what happened the first day I brought slippers in school and who were my first customers. I just knew that on that day, aside from my typical schoolbag, I was also carrying a large plastic bag filled with packed ladies’ slippers. As I was carrying the bag, shyness struggled to overwhelm me, pondering that other students might think that I was just a poor student who wanted to earn some extra cash to help the family. Whatever their thoughts were, like I cared anyway, I was already carrying this heavy bag, and there’s no way I’m going home without making my load lighter.
I started selling to my classmates, some of them bought on the spot and others asked for other styles. Some wanted the styles I brought but it wouldn’t fit them, so I took their orders, the sizes and styles they’ve chosen, and I made sure the delivery would be made after a couple of days.
I did not content myself selling only to my classmates. I had to get the whole school as my customer base. I went to the Humanities Faculty Room and asked the teachers if they wanted to buy. I wouldn’t ask the teachers whom I didn’t know to buy from me, being the coy one I was then. I still did not possess that kind of courage. Nevertheless, since my teachers knew everyone in the faculty room, I almost got the whole faculty to buy from me. Everything didn’t happen on a single day because some were demanding more styles and sizes so I had to bring them more the succeeding days.
I went to different departments and offices, from the Humanities Department, to the Biology Department, to the P.E. Department, to the Guidance Counselor’s Office, and even to the Registrar’s Office. Not everyone bought from me, but I was definite that I didn’t leave any office or department without reducing my bag’s weight. At that time, I already had to bring a duffle-bag to accommodate the orders of my classmates, instructors and personnel.
Whatever they called me, whether “the slipper man” or “the tsinelas boy”, I know there’s nothing wrong with what I was doing. Besides, I’m selling them good quality products manufactured by my very own dad and mom. I was proud of my merchandise, my parents and of course our backyard. I realized the noise back home can probably be considered music not exactly for me, but to the workers who solely depended on the slippers for their everyday necessities. Thanks to my classmate and his mugs. If not for them, the experience wouldn’t have made me earn, and wouldn’t have made me overcome my timidity.
Two years passed, I came back to get my diploma at the registrar’s office. Nothing has changed. Everything was still glued to their old places and it was still populated with the same people I left 2 years ago. The personnel recognized me and before I even told them the purpose of my visit, one of them immediately mentioned about the slippers. “Wala ka bang dala?” They remembered! Honestly, I totally forgot about the slippers. That moment reminded me of my experiences in that office. How could they forget, specially if one of them was still wearing what I sold her 2 years ago? Just imagine how tough we make our products. Best bang for the buck!