By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
Note: The replay of this piece which saw print in this space first week of August 2006 is prompted by the editorial of the Manila Times on October 11, 2018 titled “Regulatory vigilance vs subpar building products” gently reminding the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of its responsibility to ensure that building materials in the country be up to standard. The editorial writer was very kind because the situation had gotten worse, instead of better, since this column was written 12 years ago. We will dwell on the current situation some other time.
Early this week, my younger daughter “scolded” me over the phone saying I was “mangibabain.” The reason was that my wife had told her I was saying that the medicines I had been buying from a popular drug store could be counterfeit because they were not curing my colds and cough. She made it sound that this was another case of my tongue going to work before my brain has done the corresponding thinking and that it’s unthinkable that medicines from a reputable company could be tampered with. Earlier, my wife had told me to just wait because the effect of drugs is not instant and also asked how could my colds be cured when I move in the rain with bare head.
Without meaning any offense to the drug store, I am cynical about things produced and sold in this country. I have heard so much and personally experienced so much inconvenience and loss over locally produced products and the trustworthiness of local outlets that I would not be surprised if the subject drug store would also place some fake medicines in its shelves. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the observation of Azon Ryan that in this country “ti laeng saan a mapeke ket asin ken asukar ta mararamanam dagitoy.” I dare someone to defend Philippine-made products.
For one, I do not believe that ordinary shoes from the factories in Marikina can compare with shoes cobbled in the United States or Italy . I use the word “ordinary” because there are good shoes from Marikina such as the Bandolino. As for the cheap ones, you might as well kiss your money goodbye when you buy them. My wife has bought Marikina-made shoes which went to the repair shop or got useless altogether within a few months. My worst experience with Marikina-made shoes was when I bought an Itti which I thought was a bargain only to discover in the first day of usage that the paste used to keep the sole and the rest of the shoes together was not of the quality or the quantity required for shoes.
After getting fooled by local products so many times in my nearly half a century of living in this god-forsaken country, my conclusion is that the intent of the average Filipino producer is to put something in the market that looks like the genuine thing enough for some fools to remove them from the shelves after paying the amount in the tag. Quality and customer satisfaction are of no concern to them. If in their effort, boiled rice or saliva could make a shoes pass for the real thing at the store, then by all means use rice or saliva. The important thing is to cut down on the expense and therefore, multiply the profits.
I am also keeping an un-used Springmaid toothbrush in the house just in case someone will argue in behalf of Philippine product. My wife bought a boxful thinking it was bargain. The first time I use one, I would surely spit out something foreign in my mouth because the “hair” have not been secured properly. After the initial brushing, the thing already looks like a forest devastated by a strong typhoon.
It’s good if the item is disposable like shoes. What’s painful is when the damage is of greater moment. Due to a lapse on the part of our carpenters, the concrete water-proofing bearing the Sahara brand used in the plastering of our walls were fake. So when it rains, the walls get wet in the inside. We were not the only victims of this bad joke passed on by our local hard ware stores as a crucial building material. I know of someone who had to spend around a P100,000.00 to construct a shade over the concrete rooftop because the same was leaking.
Carpenters complain that basic building materials like nails and GI sheets are no longer as they used to be. Like I said before in this column, nails can no longer be recycled because they are so soft even when fresh from the store, they will curl up to uselessness when struck not squarely in the head. Since around five years ago, the GI sheets available in the market have become so thin they easily get dented and can no longer support the weight of workmen on the roof. There was also a time when it takes a generation for GI sheets to rust but now, the moment the carpenters climb down the roof, they are already brown.
And have you noticed the plastic chairs in the classrooms of public schools? Some of them are so brittle they come apart before the school year ends not because the fault of the pupils but because they are not meant to last at all. Of course, the reason for this is more complicated but the bottom-line is the chairs are not up to standards.
Is there anyone looking out for the protection of consumers in this country because if there is one, how come the market is awash with fake and substandard products so much so that that even the government itself falls victim to the unscrupulous manufacturers? More than a decade ago, I attended a seminar conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry teaching consumers what to look for in products so they could not be fooled. I do not hear of such seminars anymore and I do not think education is enough. With our so-called Filipino entrepreneurs working overtime to flood the market with useless products, there should also be someone working overtime exposing these goods and brands that do not comply with standards.**