So what is this Japan Home Centre (JHC) doing, soliciting onions from customers who’d normally flock to its stores for P88 household items and Sanrio products for a kawaii kitchen?
On Saturday, February 4, its store along Panay Avenue in Quezon City will be accepting onions as payments for its household items. “Pay with sibuyas,” goes the campaign – one sibuyas for one item of your choice.
The onions they will collect will be used for their community pantry. Remember the community pantries – those tables that sprouted on the sidewalks to feed hungry, jobless neighbors? The bayanihan spirit that came to symbolize the selflessness of communities while the Duterte government was busy bungling the ayuda system at the height of COVID-19?
So is JHC trying to be relevant? Riding on the frustration of homemakers over the skyrocketing prices of onions?
Only those who haven’t followed the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the country’s first Japanese discount store would cast doubt on its intentions.
I don’t know who exactly are the people behind JHC, except that, according to the company website, they are “a group of highly energized entrepreneurs” who started the business “in an old warehouse in Quezon City” until it grew to nearly 200 stores across the country in two decades.
I feel, though, like I’ve known them as kindred spirits. Yes, value for money and things Japanese, pink, and Sanrio are the reasons I go to JHC. But they’ve locked in my loyalty through their occasional and subtle statement posts that tell me they’re not just about making money.
Rather, this company knows that not turning one’s eyes away from the realities faced by Filipinos makes good business.
Below are some of the JHC posts over the years that show a politically aware and socially involved community bargain shop.
People are dying, stay home!
On April 17, 2020 – a month into what would become the world’s longest lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, JHC posted its logo, cleverly inserting “stay at” before the word “home.”
That day, the health department had announced that 766 health workers had been infected by the coronavirus, and these frontliners were begging people to stay home to ease the load on overworked doctors and nurses and overcrowded hospitals.
By that time, an estimated 4.5 billion people around the world had been confined due to the corona infection.
The extended lockdown in Metro Manila and other areas considered at high risk for COVID-19 was supposed to end on May 15, 2020. Around this time, test kits for suspected cases were scarce, and people were clamoring for the limited tests to be administered to the most exposed – the frontliners.
But the media reported on government officials and their families bypassing the frontliners to get tested.
How much can corruption buy?
On August 11, 2021, state auditors released their report on how the Department of Health mismanaged its P67-billion allotment to respond to the pandemic. The discovery of anomalous transactions with favored but unqualified suppliers of pandemic items also lingered during that month. (READ: Pharmally had P625,000 capital before bagging P8 billion in COVID-19 contracts)
Look at JHC’s commentary on August 19:
After dilly-dallying, opposition leader and then-vice president Leni Robredo gave in to calls for her to run for president on October 7, 2021. “Lalaban tayo!” she said the day before the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy.
On that day, JHC posted four photos to promote old products – all in pink: baking tools, mugs, spatula set, and water jugs. No words to accompany the posts, just letting the discerning followers see the theme, which happened to be the campaign color of you-know-who.
Honesty should be easy
On January 24, 2022, then-presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gave an exclusive interview to the religious network SMNI – the start of his series with hosts who were expected to ask friendly questions. He had been avoiding meaningful exchanges with journalists covering his campaign.
From that media blitz, it became apparent that he was not keen on, for example, revealing his assets list, and that he was bent on skipping debates organized by media organizations.
So on January 25, JHC posted: “Transparency should never be an issue.”
Clean = Pink
On the eve of the start of the presidential campaign period in 2022, the store gave another hint of who their candidate was: a post featuring a rose-scented (“Rosas,” right?) liquid hand soap on a pink background.
“Lucky to be in clean hands,” said its February 8 post.
Get out and vote!
On Election Day, May 9, 2022, JHC reminded us what our elections commission and candidates and democracy believers would always say – even when your bet is bound to lose anyway: every vote counts.
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