As a Maranao, I celebrate the contribution of the informal economy – the small vendors – to all the public markets and cities of the country.
They sell toys, cellphones, and anything small and possible. Many of them have left the provinces and Mindanao for greener pastures and to avoid conflict and rido. All they really want is to be uplifted from poverty.
They are at a stage of being formally recognized as contributors to their local government units. Maranao vendors, for instance in Rizal and Muntinlupa, are organized through a Muslim Council which has an office in the LGU. In Baguio, the City Administrator told me that vendors, mostly my Maranao “kababayans,” had stayed put, despite the harsh implementation of others against sidewalk vendors in Manila and elsewhere.
In Baguio, vendors were given a relocation site and recognition as long as they complied with rules on sanitation, among others. A DILG order also provides that there should be representation of Muslims in the LGU.
Last month, as we recognized the vocational technical community through TESDA, I raised the plight of vendors. They need to be registered; they need to be helped through financial assistance. Their skills can be harnessed so they can expand beyond selling goods.
TESDA must also be recognized for helping schools get scholarships. By linking the TESDA graduate to the workplace, we address frustration from joblessness among many because not many can graduate. They can earn even without the formal four-year schooling. Further, not all local governments or business will employ indigenous persons, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities . TESDA recognizes that one can survive with practical skills.
Because September is Peace Month, we recognize the interconnectivity of all concerns, personal to structural, spiritual to political. Programming our education not only considers skills and values, but also addresses societal injustices. We reminded the youth the value of their education to push transformation not only of their personal selves but the society as a whole. We were lucky to speak about youth empowerment in various fora — DLSU Cavite; Arellano High School for Buwan ng Wika; and FEU for its National Student Training Program.
In understanding the roots of conflict, we see that the source of conflict and tension is not just from misunderstanding but from angst, discrimination , and lack of recognition and self-worth.
The vendors may not be contributing much to taxes and revenues, but they are many in numbers.
There are huge statistics from the informal sector. What they sell is of value to families. When they sell, they give back to their families. And as we affirm the value of the vendors, we remind that everything big starts with the small.