I am personally fascinated with the idea of marketing. That was one of my favorite subjects in college. I’m just amazed at how ideas get to spread and the dynamics behind it. When I joined the corporate world, I was a brand assistant at my first job. Okay. I didn’t really get to the core of marketing during my first few days. In fact my first ever job on my first every day was packing samples for Christmas (It was May 12 more than a decade ago). *Gahh…Why do I have to keep giving away my age?* However, during the course of my job, I was able to witness how products were studied before they got launched in the market: there were simple and systematic surveys, seemingly endless analysis of data, marketers had to compute for the price at which they’re giving it to the consumers, the size of the pack had to be scrutinized (was it too big or too small for the price we have to pay?) *I swear, it was exciting with an abundance of chocolate samples in between!*
Anyway, after that, the folks where I worked decided to give me a management trainee program where I got to acquaint myself with the different departments: how products were delivered to the stores, which products to which stores, how they’re neatly arranged in the supermarket and the like. *Okay. I’m sorry. This blog post is turning into an interview narrative.* After the brief corporate stint, I joined our family business and there, I watched how these marketing & packaging materials got produced. Sure, packaging, banners and the like was art: terms like Pantone numbers, vectors, high resolution files were being thrown around by brands we talked to. However the last thing I thought I’d ever be able to see as a painting would be the illustrated version of where all goods and marketing materials converge: the sari-sari store.
One day, I was browsing my Instagram feed & I noticed that Yas Doctor was doing this series called Sari-Sari Project. It is an attempt to document storefront. I was delighted when I saw it. I didn’t realize how much story there is in a sari-sari store: the brands that thrived which reflected the people’s needs at that time, the pack sizes which spoke so much about our economic situation, our purchasing power as a nation and our ‘tingi’ culture giving rise to the existence of sachets while the mentality somewhere halfway around the world is you get to save more when you buy in bulk.
I could imagine the works of Yas in a Philippine Almanac of sorts with numerous footnotes explaining the existence of each element. You can easily get lost in the details of her paintings! You will see things such as:
(a) 77777: the number of a pizza place (perhaps the last bastion of landlines before the influx of online shopping options)
(b) the is a motorcycle parked in front of the store and how it painted a scene about our mobility, road conditions & traffic situation
(c) the existence of “room 4 rent” perhaps an attempt to become more entrepreneurial with our resources by renting out a room.
(d) and the branded signages which reflected our need for things
Perhaps a century from now, people will look into her art and see a whole new world, a time when landline telephones existed and where you don’t need the internet or an app to order food.
Yas takes long walks around the metro, something she says it’s something she loves to do. Having observed sari-sari stores, she managed to see how each of these tiny shops bear stories and why they are tightly embedded into the Filipino culture. What’s interesting, she notes, is that the sari-sari store appears, disappears and reappears, but never goes away. In fact, the structure evolves each time. In most cases they even have peculiarities to them, for instance grilled gate with the family’s initials on it, potted plants against the curb, the tangled cable and electric wirings, signages of all sorts, marketing paraphernalia from products hung around like buntings, religious photos and figures, and of course the neighborhood ‘tambay’ with his shirt up exposing his belly to cope with the humid weather donning a signature oversized shirt and ‘puruntong’.
In a recent interview, I was asked why I think we should support local art. Art can be a vehicle by which we can learn to love our nation. I do admire artists who have already started documenting subjects such as Ladies in Jeepneys (Fran Alverez), Jeepney Art (Electrolychee), ethnic groups (Kenny Tai), Sari-Sari Store facades (Yas Doctor), Filipino Typography & the grit of the city (Team Manila). By continuing to embrace and capture the essence of our culture, we get to let our fellow Filipinos see our country in a new light. That can help us have a more hopeful view about our country and hopefully, by doing so, we get to love our nation so much so that we would do something concrete for it to change for the better.
So, thank you Yas for lending your time & showing us your paintings! May we see more of your sari-sari store journey! 🙂
Yas also lends her identity to her paintings often using her long locks as metaphors. *But I saved that one for you in the vlog! 😀 Hehe.*
Yas is currently working on Volume Two of her Sari-sari project zine and you can grab a copy at Studio Soup Library at Cubao. It’s also a zine library where you are free to chill & browse zines made by other artists! 🙂 Catch more of her works from different creatives at a pop-up fair / zine event this year hosted by Loca Loca and studiosouplibrary.ph. More updates soon!
For commissions and inquiries you can email her at yas.doctor16(at)gmail(dot)com
See more of her works here:
Yas Doctor Behance
Yas Doctor on Ilustrador ng Kabataan’s Page
Personal Instagram: @heypatatas
Sari-Sari Project Instagram: @sarisariproj
Her Gurl Gang: @speculiars
Photos from her walks: @NoOtherCity