Her plant store-garden has been successful for more than four decades. / PHOTOGRAPHS BY EA SEMBRANO FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE
Her story seems straight from the pages of komiks and radio dramas — a classic tale of tackling the challenges of poverty, doing anything just to make ends meet.
Emeteria Mercado-Paredes grew up in the then rural and agricultural municipality of Bacoor in Cavite, she and her siblings would catch fish in the river for sustenance. Together with their father and neighbors they would venture out of town to engage in pakikipaghunusan.
Pakikipaghunusan is an agriculture-related activity in which people would go to other areas to help out in the harvesting of rice in exchange for a portion of the harvest.
THE Mercado family.
They would go to Los Baños and Bay in Laguna via bus.
Aling Teria, as she is fondly called, is now an ornamental plant business pioneer in Bay. She started selling plants in the 1970s, long before the “plantita/plantito” trend.
She engaged in business when she was widowed at 32 years old, out of the need to raise her six children.
At age 14, she married Monico who was 12 years her senior. They had 10 children, four of whom died at birth.
Her married life was initially fine financially as she had a small business selling home-cooked meals to employees of the International Rice Research Institute.
The family of her husband also owned farmlands in the area.
When Monico died, life became challenging, she said.But things changed with a chance encounter with an old lady whom she thought as the mystical Maria Makiling.
Maria Makiling is a popular folkloric figure, a diwata (goddess) said to reside in Mount Makiling in the southern Tagalog region.
Aling Teria recounted that one day, more than four decades ago, an old lady with long white hair approached her when she was sorting out plant trimmings and told her that her success lies on what she was doing.
She started by selling plants from the trimmings she and her friends would buy from their neighbors.
Holding on to the words uttered from an unlikely visitor and her faith, Aling Teria slowly succeeded, providing food and education to her children from the earnings of her business, which later expanded to landscaping.
The business she started in 1975 continues to stay afloat amidst challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Emeteria ‘Aling Teria’ Mercado
Aling Teria used to have a stall on the National Highway but has now concentrated her business at an area in Bay’s village of Paciano Rizal also known as the barangay of Mainit.
Business is slow nowadays, she admitted, but said she keeps a positive outlook in life. She would go to her stall everyday. It is rejuvenating, she added.
Her store offers a wide array of plants including a type of bamboo which was first propagated by her in the Los Baños-Bay area and the cycad, a palmlike plant that costs around P35,000 per piece.
Now 78 years old, Aling Teria continues to thrive and be an inspiration to many. When asked about her secret, she said it’s a combination of faith in God and being happy on what she is doing.
The Cuban cigar plant.
She said she spends her money systematically and does not buy things she and her family do not need.
For budding plant entrepreneurs, she advised that they should first spend what they have at hand on their business for it to succeed and thrive — just like what she did decades ago.
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