MANILA, Philippines -- Even at 83, there is no room for idleness for Nanay Curing.
Everyday she is up at 5 a.m. to open her little sari-sari store which looks like any other neighborhood store with sachets of shampoo, soap, coffee, biscuits and other chitchiria hanging on its grilled front which has a small rectangular opening to transact business.
When her son suggested that she really didn?t have to work anymore, he got a mouthful from her. ?And what will I do?? she demanded, insisting that she would grow weak if she just sat around.
Almost every son?even Senate President Manuel Villar?knows better than to argue with his mother.
Of course, Curita Bamba-Villar got her way (although hers is the only sari-sari store in BF Resort Village in Las Piñas that has security guards posted outside and a ?yaya? standing by inside to assist her when she takes her mid-morning and early afternoon siesta break.)
This is not surprising for a woman who, at barely 18 years old, used to row a parao (a small boat with a sail) from Bataan to Tondo, Manila, to sell seafood.
Born and raised in Orion, Bataan, she was only two months short of graduating from the Normal College when World War II broke out in the 1940s. To help support her family, she boldly set out to sea.
During the Japanese occupation, the seafood trade was an illegal activity that was sometimes punished with death. The Japanese had ordered all seafood turned over to them.
But as luck would have it, the Filipino official whose job it was to prevent this trade fell in love with her.
Fisheries inspector Manuel M. Villar protected the young, feisty Curing during her daring business voyages?and eventually became her husband.
Buy and sell
She had a keen business sense. She said she did not bring money home to Bataan. Instead, she used the proceeds from the sale of her 50 kilos or so of seafood to buy goods that were in short supply in Bataan?things like cigarettes, sugar and flour.
The danger was always there. She has not forgotten that one time she was unable to bring her goods to Manila herself and three cousins had to bring them. The Japanese arrested them and they were never found.
She said they were told that the three were killed through water torture (water was pumped into their bodies through their mouths until they died). A friend found the parao floating in the sea and took it back to Bataan.
After the war, she got a stall in the big wholesale market in Divisoria and continued to sell seafood.
It was there in Divisoria where her former waterways protector Villar stepped up his courtship. He still worked for the Fisheries Bureau and would visit her everyday after the market closed at noon.
Love wins out
Nanay Curing smiles when she recalls that her parents did not like Villar because he was from the Visayas (Iloilo) and they preferred her to marry another Tagalog like them.
But love prevailed. The two eloped.
It was not until her eldest daughter, Lourdes, came that her parents took her back.
Those were hard times. She had no money to capitalize her seafood store, she said. Few traders would give her credit.
When her husband was offered a year-long scholarship to the United States, Nanay Curing says they were so poor that she had to pawn her sewing machine for P30 just to be able to send him off with some pocket money and a ream of cigarettes for the long sea journey.
It was only after Villar?s scholarship abroad that life improved a bit for Nanay Curing. After his return he was appointed director of the agriculture and natural resources office with much higher pay.
But one child came after another until they had nine.
Her husband eventually was able to buy a house in Navotas. She continued her seafood trade and maintained her stall in Divisoria.
Her big break came when young son Manny lent a hand in the marketing aspect. He had asked a classmate, whose family owned William Lines, if his mother could supply their seafood needs.
?They liked my prompt service and ordered meat as well,? Nanay Curing said.
Seeing bigger opportunities, she told daughter Lourdes to quit her job and go into vegetable trading. Soon mother and daughter were supplying most of the food needs of William Lines, including eggs. Pretty soon she was supplying produce to Manila Hotel.
The business grew. The Villar daughters eventually took over the trading business.
As many already know, son Manny went to college at the University of the Philippines, got a Masters in Business Administration, set up a successful real estate business, married a banker, later becoming a congressman, a senator, Senate president.
In the ?80s, she and her husband, who had retired from the government service, took a much deserved rest and travelled for months.
But after her travels and after moving into her current house, Nanay Curing felt restless. That was when she decided to open the sari-sari store.
Husband Manuel has since passed away. She also lost two sons, both to leukemia.
She says her store sales reach about P5,000 a day with profits amounting to less than 10 percent or some P400. Her yaya says that to this day, Nanay Curing does not use a calculator but does the numbers with pen and paper?just as she did during her seafood trading days.