Canada's Filipino community connects with corner store culture - here and at home  

Ottawa, March 29, 2017  

Convenience store owner Judy Payumo knows the rewards and the risks of operating a small business in C anada. Raised in Bulacan, Norzagaray, in the Philippines, she moved to Ottawa in 1994, working as a nanny, a personal support worker and as a government admin support worker before deciding to open a shop that would cater to th e region's sizeable Filipino community. "I know I wanted to work for myself," says Judy, whose mother ran a small shop in the Philiippines where small, family owned  sari sari stores can be seen in every neighbourhood. "I dreamed of opening a store where people could shop, mingle, and eat authentic Filipino cooking, and be a home away from home," says Judy. 
Judy Payumo has created a welcoming atmosphere at her store in Ottawa.
By all accounts she has realized her dream, aided by husband Bobby Hipolito, who shares the load of cooking , sto cking shelves, and working the till. Judy named her shop Divisoria Market . The hours are long but they enjoy providing a service to their community.

People come from far a
nd wide to pick from the wide range of Filipino products and menu of fresh cooked authen tic dishes. That dedication to authenticity has made Divisoria Market a hub for Ottawa's Filipino community. It's a place you can get everything from balut (egg embryo) to sisig (sauteed pig ear) to Eskinol facial astringent. A large TV streams popular Filipino soa p operas and  talent shows as customers catch up with friends and the latest news, or send money home using any one of three service providers. Judy is a 'go to' media source for the latest developments on events both good and bad back home, including the annual string of typhoons that visit the country.

Judy says the path to success wasn't without sacrifice and heartbreak. A flood in her first shop prompted her to start afresh in her present location on busy Carling Avenue. She says corner stores around the world are under threat by big grocery and convenience store chains. "To compete we must work ever harder to keep our prices low and our customer service high."

Divisoria Market is a trusted source of good quality food and supplies for people who grew up alongside the sari sari store culture so iconic in the Philippines. The word sari sari is Tagalog, meaning 'variety.'  "Every Filipino knows abo
ut sari sari stores," says Judy. "They are the cornerstone of every neighbourhood back home." Most sari sari stores are operated inside the shopkeeper's house and are an important economic and social location in a Filipino community. In rural areas sari sari stores provide essential services to their communities and are a needed source of cash income for many  households, enabling families to cover off the cost of food, school fees and medical emergencies while waiting for the harvest to come in.
Judy says whether you are a small store operator in the Philippines or here in Canada, "running a small shop is an art. You need to continually grow
Mike Casey addresses the microinsurance forum in Manila
CCA executive director Michael Casey recently addressed insurance regulators in Manila about the project to support sari sari stores.  
your business, think about the customers and cater to their needs. You can never take anything for granted."

Michael Casey, Executive Director of the Canadian Co-operati ve Association and a freque nt shopper at Divisoria Market says help is on the way for sari sari store owners in the Philippines. "We are working with partners there - Micro-Ventures Foundation, CARD Inc.and RIMANSI - to help 1600 sari sari shops owners, mostly women, up grade their shops to better meet the needs and expectations of a loyal clientele who are also being wooed by chain stores."

Supported with funding from the Government of Canada and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada, CCA is betting that a combination of business training and insurance products to help sari sari owners rebound faster from weather calamities like typhoon Haiyan will help turn the tide for sari sari store culture in the Philippines.

Judy agrees. "I am always learning new methods of running my business to keep one step ahead of my competitors," she says. "And, unlike so many sari sari stores in the Philippines, I am insured so that my risks of lost business due to weather or vandalism are minimized."

"Stronger more resilient sari-sari shops will be better able to deliver
needed goods and services to their customers while at the same time improve their income and well being," says Michael Casey. "That's good news, not only for sari-sari shop owners and their customers in the Philippines, but for the peace of mind of those Filipino Canadians whose families run small businesses back home and are vulnerable to weather events."

This week, a delegation of insurance regulators from the Philippines are in Toronto to meet with officials of regulatory bodies and leading mutual industry practitioners in Canada. "The visit is part of a comprehensive review of insurance regulation for the phenomena of microinsurance, affordable low cost insurance products and services for low income people. CCA and its partners in the Philippines are pioneers in the field of microinsurance and are developing insurance products that meet the needs of small and medium enterprises, including sari sari stores. The Insurance Commission of the Philippines works closely with RIMANSI, the leading microinsurance developer in the Philippines, to establish and regulate new insurance products and services.

Judy Payumo says the small corner store has a long and proud tradition of customer service. "I hope the CCA project
succeeds so that more and more sari sari shops can thrive and serve the next generations of Filipinos." 
Learn more about the PREMIUM project, or write to:  Ms. Jean Roxas at

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PREMIUM is a three-year project funded by the Government of Canada and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada. The project is in line with the national goal to reduce inequality by expanding and increasing access to economic opportunities, reducing vulnerability of the poor, accelerating human capital, and improving resiliency and ecological integrity.
The Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) is a not-for-profit co-operative which establishes and strengthens co-operatives, credit unions and community-based organizations to reduce poverty, build sustainable livelihoods and improve civil society in developing countries.   

 The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Inc. (CARD Inc.)
was founded in 1986. It aims to improve the quality of life of socially and economically challenged women and families by providing banking, microfinancing, microinsurance, business development services and training.  

The RIMANSI Organization for Asia and the Pacific Inc.
is a microinsurance technical resource centre established by leading microfinance institutions in the Philippines to promote universal risk protection for the socio-economically disadvantaged in Asia and the Pacific.
The Microventures Foundation
was established in 2007 and implements Hapinoy, a program that supports the development of a viable and sustainable business model for micro-entrepreneurs through capacity building.   
The Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) is a registered charitable organization that works to alleviate poverty by building and strengthening financial and non-financial co-ops in Canada and around the world. CDF works with the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and other organizations to implement development projects on its behalf.