Sari-Sari Store the Filipino Convenience Store

When grocery stores are too far from homes, a Sari-sari store will save the day.

What is a Sari-sari store?

A sari-sari store is the neighborhood’s variety store. It’s a local convenience store that provides and sells the neighborhood basic commodities.

sari-sari store

The word sari-sari means variety. These stores sell a wide variety of items.

It sells common necessities and commodities like detergents, cell phone prepaid load, basic toiletries and food such as canned goods and noodles. They also sell common condiments Filipinos usually use.

A sari-sari store usually adjusts to the needs of the surrounding residence and business establishments. For example: when a store is close to a school, paper, pens, pencils, glue and other school supplies will be made available when students, parents, or teachers need to buy some without having to travel farther.

Where can you usually find them?

You’ll find a sari-sari store near roads. If there is a landmark there will surely be at least one nearby.

What does it look like?

Sari-sari stores typically looks like a kubo (a hut made of native materials) or a small concrete building.

It’s hard to miss. The signature appearance of a sari-sari store is the display of goodies that are for sale. There will usually be hanging detergents, shampoo, powdered milk/coffee sachets, or different treats. A glass cabinet will be set in front with goodies that are available.

You’ll know it’s a sari-sari store with the dangling display of sachet packets up front besides the giant sign which shows the name of the store.

The person in charge of sales is usually the person tending the store behind the glass display cabinet at the front of the store. You might not notice her immediately when she is sitting because the displays may cover her seat.

What does it sell?

Whatever is available at the moment is often displayed. But if you are looking for something and you don’t see it with the displays like a cold drink or sanitary napkins, feel free to ask the person who tends the store. Ask them nicely.

A sari-sari store will commonly sell detergents, shampoo or hair conditioner in sachet packs, sanitary napkins and diapers, band-aid, paracetamol, prepaid mobile load for cell phones, powdered drinks in sachet packets, bottled beverages, chips and biscuits, canned food, noodles, eggs, and ice. Relatively larger stores sell more items and have ice cream freezers for ice cream, ice drop, ice pops or ice candy.

If it is close to a school, they’ll be selling school supplies like paper, pens, glue, rulers, clay. Sometimes, stores even sell more candy and small toys for the students.

How does a sari-sari store work?

Unlike buying from a grocery store, sari-sari stores sell in singles. For example, if you’re in a grocery store, you buy a pack of candy, in a sari-sari store, you buy the candies individually and not in a pack. You can buy 1 piece, 5 pieces, or as many as you like.

Ask the person in charge of sales, for the items you look for or simply point at them if they are displayed. Nicely ask how much your balance is and hand the person your payment. It is preferred if you pay with the exact amount or smaller bills because giving you change may take time.

If it seems that no one is around you may knock and say any of these:

– ‘Tao po.’ This the equivalent of ‘knock knock or anybody there?’ (Said as Ta-o po)

-‘Tao po. Pabili po.’ This is like saying ‘Is anybody there? I need to buy something.’

Someone will come and accommodate you from inside the store. If no one responds for a while, they might have gone somewhere and you might have to wait.

If you’d rather speak in English, it’s okay. Salespeople will understand you.

They’ll put the items you’ve bought in a plastic bag if they’re too many; unless you tell them not to bag the items and choose to carry them yourself by hand or by using your own bag.

If it’s only one item, they’ll only hand it over to you as is, unless you request for a bag.

You can thank them by saying Salamat which means ‘Thank you’ in Filipino or Maraming Salamat which means ‘Thank you very much’ in Filipino.

How much will buying from a Sari-sari store cost?

It varies for every store. And it varies where the store is.

If a store is far from the city, items may cost more than it does with stores within the city proper.

It may also cost more if you are in a smaller island than if you are in mainland.

For example, some items may cost more if you were in Coron Island than if you were in Puerto Princesa City which is in mainland Palawan.

When are they open?

Sari-sari stores are open as early as 9am. Although some stores open earlier.

They close up for the day at around 8pm, and some even later until 10pm. There are a few 24hr stores; you’ll find these in the city center where there is a neighboring 24hr establishment.

Most of the time, they don’t open in holidays.


Don’t worry if you forgot to visit the grocery store or whether you forgot to bring water during your trips, sari-sari stores are easy to find. There are a lot scattered around the city. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their goods like how much items cost, they’ll tell you if you ask them nicely.

If you’re having a hard time finding a landmark, asking the person in the stores may help you get your bearings straight.

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