01 October 2007

Pogs and an object lesson on power

My column for this week's issue of Vox Bikol.

LAST Saturday, I had to motor to the city center to attend two meetings, one with the University of Nueva Caceres General Alumni Association (UNCGAA) headed by Engr. Elmer Francisco, and a personal mission -- to buy my kids additional pogs.

My task would have been infinitely easier if Hong’s -- that popular store along Calle Caceres where chinese-made goods can be had for sometimes obscenely low prices that will probably make Alex Lacson (of the Twelve Little Things fame) unhappy -- still carried pogs with a diameter of more or less two inches. Unfortunately, when I inquired, what they had are the ones twice bigger.

So I ended up scouring practically the entire CBD, and that on a limping rheumatic right foot. From Hong’s, I went to Novo, another similar store beside Aristocrat Hotel, went through Divisoria Mall beneath the Bichara Complex, and then Master Square: but all for naught. At Master, I chanced on Erning Elcamel and family buying school supplies; “sa mga bangketa, igwa kayan,” Mrs. Elcamel said when I told them of my quest.

So, off I went to the Naga City Public Market, at one time the single biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia before the advent of the malls. I checked practically all sidewalk stalls from one end up to where Calle Caceres pierces through the market to join Jaime Hernandez Avenue, again to no avail. And practically all of them carried yoyos made in China, of all shapes and sizes and all colors and designs. But no pogs. Until one lady volunteered: “Probaran mo sir duman sa 2nd floor, sa may hagdan. Yaon duman an mga wholesaler.”

To cut the story short, my journey on foot looking for pogs one lazy weekend that started at Hong’s, bringing me through most of CBD in the process, ended at the public market, up the stairs along Prieto Street that I already passed by.

In an ideal market condition, I would have been spared all the hassles if information about the wholesaler had been made available right at the outset. But life in reality is never ideal: information asymmetry exists and sellers are not always rewarded handsomely as economic theory says.

In another place and time, that wholesaler would have sold me a sheet containing 88 pieces of pogs at P50 -- twice than what I got them at Hong’s -- and I still would have bought them lest I want to face again brooding, sulking kids who have been promised many times over. But then again, as yoyos have displaced pogs as the toys of the season, he was only too happy to give it to me at P20.

Now, compare that with how the Arroyo regime has gone about conducting its business on the now infamous NBN and CEP deals and you will see the irony of it all -- under an economist, who is supposed to know how markets work better than most, they were conducted in secrecy and the absence of competition. Which should be making her economics professors weep and peers gnashing their teeth. And worse, Bikolanos are part and parcel of the cabal now trying to either deodorize the whole thievery and now prevent the stink from reaching the palace, thwarting truth’s unraveling at every turn and making the state of information more asymmetric than ever before.

That, I think, is an object lesson on how power corrupts -- the change does not happen overnight; rather, it chips away incessantly at moral fortitude of even the best of men like steady waterdrops weathering the hardest of rocks.

On the other hand, that unnamed lady sidewalk vendor, trying to make ends meet in a public market that has seen better days, is infinitely better than all of them in many respects: with no eye towards personal gain, she singlehandedly eliminated information asymmetry in one fell swoop, in the process helping a father vainly searching for pogs and affirming his faith in the both the market and the inherent humanity and goodness of the Nagueño.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pardon me for my abysmal ignorance, but what the hell are pogs ? can you describe them ? I must admit that my kids are all grown-ups, and that's why I'm entirely clueless about pogs.
Regarding the lack of information regarding merchandises, maybe City Hall can do something about it.. In a fairly small city like Naga, it would be I think easy to install some information guides to consumers in the city and suburbia. And by the way, in the local Telephone directory, those selling toys should specifically mention it to guide potential customers.
BTW, it struct me strange that an academic city like Naga has no decent bookstore wherein you can browse new arrivals.Ateneo de Naga U, SAnta Isabel U, UNC, plus assorted other colleges of higher learning are there, but where are the bookstores ? Booksale ? no , that's just a high end magazine stand. No investors ? C'mon...another thing, I was roaming around looking for a cultural center of some sorts, but no art gallery in sight. Where do Naga's visual artists showcase their works ? these are some of the things that should add value to the quality of life in Naga City. I hope you can discuss this in your next meetings....


Porfirio Rubirosa

mschumey07 said...

Pogs? I thought they were extinct. So much for parenting. We have some kind of bill about information which has been gathering dust in congress. With the kinds of crooks we have in government, it will never be approved. Who knows what info these hoodlums are hiding from us.

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