Ever since I started working for my current employer, I have become busier and busier everyday. Not that I’m complaining, running online campaigns gives me a certain kind of thrill especially if the results come out good. A non-busy day is rare these days.
Today at the office was no different from other days. Until my brother, who mans our store in Makati, interrupted me in the middle of something important. At first I thought it was something urgent that he had to suddenly bombard me with private messages on Facebook. It wasn’t urgent, but it was definitely attention-grabbing!
My brother messaged me out of the blue to tell me the story of one of his walk-in customers at the store. Usually, the stories he would tell me are negative ones: grumpy and annoying customers, spoiled demanding kids, parents who would haggle incessantly, etc. But this time, it was about a guy who has been a long-time customer.
According to my brother, this guy would come almost every week to buy a pack of Instax wide films from him. He would come to the store with a smile on his face, pay for his order, and leave. He doesn’t haggle or make any fuss. For a long time, my brother thought that this guy was someone’s driver or personal assistant since he doesn’t look like he’s someone who’s fond of instant photography. Not to belittle the guy, but this was my brother’s impression of him brought about by his “looks” because it was actually a common thing that employers or amo would just ask their help (usually yayas or drivers) to go to our store to get them whatever (films, cameras, accessories). I’ve encountered this a lot of times, too. Today when this particular Manong dropped by the store again to make his usual purchase, my brother decided to strike up a conversation with him. He asked the guy where he’s from and who usually uses up the pack of film he buys from the store, expecting the guy to say that he has an employer who’s just crazy addicted to Instax. But he was surprised to hear when the guy said it was actually him who uses the films. How and why? It turns out, this guy owns an old Instax wide camera (perhaps an Instax 200) and every night he roams the KTVs and clubs in the Makati red light district and takes Instax pictures of strangers, mostly foreigners. He buys the films from our store since he just lives close by, then he sells the photos he takes at 120php each. It suddenly occured to my brother why the guy usually pays him with loose change, mostly 5-peso coins! This is the guy’s “sideline” (or maybe his only source of income, it wasn’t clear) to support his children.
There are two challenges that Manong faces in his photography raket: 1) his camera’s batteries run out quickly, so he still has to set aside budget for battery replacement; and 2) not all the photos he’s taking are being bought by his “subjects,” so each wasted print is, of course, considered a loss.
But assuming he is able to sell all his 20 prints, I imagine Manong earns roughly 1,300php for every pack of film he consumes. Definitely not bad for a sideline!
My brother told me that he was actually welling up when Manong was telling him his mala-MMK life story, and while reading my brother’s messages on Facebook, so was I! I guess we were deeply moved because we feel that somehow we are able to help this customer of ours make a living out of the films we sell. We decided that the next time he comes back, we’ll surely give him big discounts and freebies!
I told this story to my boss over lunch today and we both got rebuked because our usual financial concerns revolve around how payday is still a long way off, or how we’re both wishing to have a car for easier transport. Hehehe. Nakakahiya ang mababaw na concerns namin!
I have to admit, I am always annoyed when random photographers bother me at weddings/graduations/what-have-yous by selling me printed pictures of myself. But imagining Manong doing an honest living out of his trusty Instax camera only brings a smile to my face. I wish him well in his “business endeavor.” :)
Manong‘s story, of course, made it to my daily Happiness Project! <3