“Selling these multicolored chicks is a big help to my family. I’m able to send my children to school, put food on the table, and pay our electric and water bills,” Elvie B. proudly says in Filipino. The 43-year-old vendor from Hagonoy, Bulacan has been into this business for the past 10 years.

“Sipag at tiyaga lang (Just hard work and perseverance),” the street entrepreneur emphasizes. “I’ve worked in a candy factory, and a bakery; tried selling balut-penoy, sago-gulaman, and put up a carinderia,” the street smart mother of 5 children says.

This hardworking mom knows the rigors of helping her husband who drives a tricycle for a living. “My mother-in-law passed on to me this business of selling multicolored chicks and ducklings,” she explains. Elvie’s store is just a stone’s throw from Blumentritt’s railroad track. “We are used to this deafening noise of the passing train,” she yells as this writer tries to cover his ears to protect himself from the cacophony of sounds: honking jeepneys, zooming motorbikes and tricycles, and vendors yelling and hawking their wares, and the regular roaring trains. But the din and noise of the metal monsters cannot drown out the unique chirping of the chicks in their wire meshed cage.

“We got them from Laguna, Batangas, and Nueva Ecija. We hand-spray them with food coloring to color them,” she explains. “We use primary colors—red , yellow, and blue—and secondary colors—orange, green, and violet. Children love them. We don’t color the ducklings because their feathers are rough, unlike the chicks which have softer feathers.”

“Look at the Mulawin, they have colorful lines on their heads: yellow, green, and red,” Em-em, Elvie’s 20-year old daughter butts in, showing off the red and black Minnie Mouse tattoo on her left lower arm. They call the chicks “Mulawin,” alluding to the feathered characters of the TV series.

“Rain or shine we are open, 24/7. I’m here as early as 4 in the morning and stay up to 9 at night. Of course my children and some friends help me tend the store. We have regular customers who make this small business survive. When the ‘ber’ months come, our business suffers. Almost 30% [of the chicks die] from extreme cold. But the rest of the year, it’s brisk business,” Elvie says.

Interestingly, a pleasant surprise for this writer, from Elvie as she shares, “You know, I’ve been buying Animal Scene magazine for my children’s school projects. They cut out the interesting articles and the colorful photos for their Science and other subjects.”

That’s music to the writer’s ears…like the chirping of the cute and colorful chicks.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s October 2017 issue.