Marilyn Baliscao and Pearl Reyes have been vendors in Paco Market for almost two decades now. Unlike the typical market vendors who did not have a chance to get a college education because of poverty, Marilyn and Pearl were fortunate to have earned college degrees in reputable universities in the country in 1993. Marilyn earned a degree in Electrical Engineering while Pearl earned a degree in Education.
Marilyn and Pearl both ended up working as teachers after college. Marilyn had the typical job for three years while Pearl lasted in her job for three months. They both realized that they wanted better income and more time with their growing families.
As both women came from families of vendors in Paco Market, working there was almost second nature to them. Pearl’s parents ran a fruit stand in Paco Market in the 60’s. She helped them in the stall during weekends and school break and she still remembers how amazed she was on the amount of money that went in to their wooden cash box everyday. Marilyn on the other hand, have aunts and cousins who still own stalls in the same market. With no hesitation, Pearl followed her parents’ path and opened a rice dealership business in 1994. Marilyn opened a stall in Paco Market in 1996. After a couple of years, Marilyn’s husband quit his job to help in their business. Pearl’s husband on the other hand pursued a career in the United States.
Both women agree that quitting their jobs to become market vendors was one of the best decisions they made as it gave them better income opportunity. “My monthly income was doubled,” says Pearl. It also allowed them more quality time with their growing children as they can leave the stall to their helper during non-peak hours and go home to attend to their respective families’ needs. Marilyn has two children while Pearl has three. Both mothers invested in their children’s education and sent them to top schools in the country. They were both proud to share their children’s achievements. “My eldest son Vincent Nikko now has a degree in Electrical Communications Engineering (ECE) and was in the top 20 of the ECE Board in 2011”, boasts Marilyn. He was immediately hired by a prestigious manufacturing company in Cavite. Her youngest child is an incoming grade IV student and was the 3rd honor in his class last school year.
Pearl’s eldest child earned a degree in Culinary Arts last year and is now working in a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Her second child is graduating with a degree in Tourism next year while her youngest is an incoming grade VI student in June.
When asked if their children were ever ashamed that their mothers are market vendors, the answer from both women was a resounding no. In fact, their children are very proud of them. “My eight-year old tells me that he is happy to see me counting my earning every night while the parents of her classmates still need to wait for the 15th or 30th of the month,” jokes Marilyn.
They have gained friends and were able to help a number of people through the years by giving them employment. They also saw how Paco Market has transformed through the years.
“Paco market was dirty and dangerous before it was rehabilitated by ABS-CBN Foundation in 2010. Now it is clean, safe and secure. In terms of prices (of our goods), we are comparable to Divisoria that is why even residents of Makati come here” says Pearl. Like genuine palengke queens, both vendors show pride in the work they chose and boast of the place they call second home.