Cash-strapped churchgoers scrimp even on candles


Vendors milling around the San Pedro Cathedral, the city’s biggest Catholic church complain of decreasing sales the past few years. They hope government leaders would work miracles to turn around the economy and provide more employment.


 Not even a packed Sunday mass, or special occasions like Holy Week and Palm and Easter Sundays where worshippers are expected to fill the cathedral to overflowing crowd, could bring a windfall to the vendors’ candles, abaniko-woven fans, balloons and inflatable toys. 

Loreta Caisim, 30, earned much during Palm Sunday this year, not from candle sales but the sale of crosses made out of coconut leaves. Crosses are put near the door to ward off evil from the house.  

Caisim sold P150 worth of these crosses. “But my candles, not even one was sold that morning,” she said. “Maybe the economy is already very tight they only want to buy the palms,” she said.

Casim was raised in Luzon but transferred to Upi, Maguindanao with her mother when her father lived with another woman. She has since settled here to raise a child, surviving on selling candles.

Candles are sold at different sizes, at P1.50, P2 and P4 each. Anwar Panambulan, 29, a visually impaired vendor of abaniko and cloth-woven fans,earned more than P400 after four masses despite the overflowing crowd of churchgoers.

On ordinary Sundays, he would make P700 from sales of different sizes of abaniko. 

Panambulan and other Moro vendors said they have to discard religious exclusivity to sell inside a Catholic compound to churchgoers.

To avoid running into conflict with Christian vendors, they avoid selling candles and palms although selling these items used for Catholic rites is not haram, or forbidden among Muslims, he said.

“We do not sell candles out of respect to the Christian vendors, who also requested us not to compete with them,” he said.

“We do not also like them to think that we are greedy, that despite what they think is being forbidden in our religion, we still sell them,”  Panambulan said.  

“We only sell here (inside the cathedral compound) to earn a living,” said Muhamad Parauntong, 21, who also sells abaniko fans on Sundays.  Panambulan and Parauntong are both Maranao, a tribe that inhabits the areas around Lake Lanao and whose people are known to be the most business-oriented among the ethnolinguistic tribes in Mindanao. Panambulan blamed the steady low sales to the economic crisis, although brisk sales would occasionally happen during pay day. (MindaNews)