She doesn’t have any health issue, either, even if for the longest time, she has been surrounded by tobacco, one of the ingredients that has shortened the lives of many people worldwide and which governments in several countries try hard to dissuade people from using and survived through it.
Camel, a single mother with six grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren, said that, despite not being able to read and write, she was able to support her son’s education and, later, helped two of her grandchildren attend school. One of them is now a nurse in La Trinidad and the other, a regular employee in a Baguio mall.
She has been sitting for most of her life in a tiny stall at the old Dangwa terminal in Baguio City, selling tobacco leaves up to the present.
Camel said selling tobacco is the only means of living she knows, which started in Baguio in the 1960s. Her customers come mostly from Apayao, traders who buy and sell tobacco, or anyone in the city who prefer the traditional way of smoking—rolling their own tobacco in a paper wrapper.
“This business supported me since then, as well as my family’s needs,” she said.
Camel sells first-class tobacco leaves called batek. Her supplies come from Pangasinan and Naguilian, La Union. A leaf sells for P10, and a banig, which has 100 leaves, sells for P550.
She said she is still in the business of selling tobacco because, unlike vegetables, tobacco leaves don’t rot easily and can be stocked for as long as one year.
With taxes imposed by the government expected to go higher in the succeeding years, Camel said it doesn’t make a difference to her business because her customers smoke their tobacco, rolled their own way.
Mau Victa / Correspondent