Monday, December 3, 2012

Life of Taho Vendors


I once bought taho from a vendor in Quezon City, and while enjoying it, we talked about the business he’s in. His name was Jun.  He was born in Pangasinan, moved to Manila when still in his young teens, and hasn’t gone back to visit his hometown since then.  He has been a taho vendor for a couple of years when we met.

He told me that those aluminum canisters cost him about three thousand pesos. His daily expenses for the supply of taho is about eight hundred pesos a day from which he earns an average profit of three hundred pesos. He starts his day at three o’clock in the morning and heads over to Blumentritt to get his usual supplies – taho (made of fresh soft/silken tofu), arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup), and pearl sago (similar to pearl tapioca). From Blumentritt, he would walk to his regular spot on Banawe Street near the Department of Labor building. He often sells out his taho by noontime and would head home by then.

As a single man leading a somewhat austere life, he claims he does all right with his daily earnings and even able to save a couple of bucks each day. His secret: he doesn’t engage in frivolous nighttime drinking bouts as some of his friends do.

But a more fascinating story of a taho vendor done well is that of Nelson Dugayo.

Nelson is the proud owner of the highly popular taho stall located at the Concourse Level of the Power Plant Mall.

According to the Power Plant Mall article, Nelson started selling taho at the age of 18. He and his brother-in-law started their little business with a small investment, sourcing out their taho from a distributor, then peddling their ware in the streets of Makati every day, rain or shine, all year long.

Nelson plied the JP Rizal route, but found himself gravitating more and more to the Power Plant Mall area. “It was my favorite spot and I grew some loyal customers there. For two years I sold taho at the corner of Waterfront Drive and J.P. Rizal. Then one day an official of the mall invited me to sell my taho at a food event at the Concourse. Life has never been the same since,” Nelson recounts.

The man bought taho from Nelson and asked him if his taho business was doing well. He answered, ‘Ok na ok po!’ Then he surprised Nelson by inviting him to his office to talk about his business. He couldn’t believe it. He had no idea that the man he was talking to was Mr. Nestor Padilla, the president of Rockwell himself. “He really changed my life,” Nelson said, almost wistfully.

Then, he used to work day and night so he could provide, no matter how simply, for his wife and two kids. “There were times when I would stay awake for 48 hours, selling taho in the morning, then working as a part-time waiter for a catering service at night. It was very exhausting but I needed to do it. Making good use of your time is very important for business and your personal life.”

Now Nelson still sells taho, but he already has employees working under him. He owns a permanent stall in the mall which has become a certified mall attraction.

“I did not think that my taho would become such a big hit. I didn’t think rich people would like it. Then the buyers came, one after the other. Even foreigners would buy my taho. Parents and their children would fall in line for my taho too. My customers tell me they are glad to find a magtataho inside the mall because it used to be their favorite snack when they were kids,  and now, they also want their kids to experience it as well.”

Nelson says there is nothing really extra-special about his product. “It’s the same taho that we all love and continue to crave for now and then. My product is really ordinary, but I make it special by preparing it with so much passion and discipline.”

“Time is very important in the taho business,” Nelson explains. “The product has a short shelf life -- five to six hours and that’s it. You must sell it within that time because after that it will begin to spoil. You also have to be very, very gentle with it. Taho breaks easily and you can’t sell it anymore if it’s broken up. I make it a point to teach the right way to handle taho to my employees.”

Business is good, Nelson admits. Now he has taken in his siblings to assist him in the business because he no longer buys taho from a distributor. He prepares and cooks the taho himself because his earnings have allowed him to buy his own grinding machine for the soybeans.

His earnings have gone up from his usual Php 400-700 daily to the Php 2,300 he earns daily per container. There are days when he is able to sell up to 3 containers, which enables him to earn almost Php 7,000 on good days. He is able to afford life’s good things -- like a washing machine and a personal computer for his family, which he uses a lot to prepare the monthly reports that he submits to the Retail office of the mall.

Now 22, Nelson remains humble and still describes his life as simple. What is important to him right now, he says, is how he can pay it forward to other people. 

Read more here.

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1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful story of self-reliance and personal drive. Doing a job the best you know how, and living within your means pays off to those who are honest and hard working. Taking pride in your work always gets you ahead when you have integrity. I love this story. I think I would also love to eat this delicious treat! xx