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  • Writer's pictureMier Torregosa

Sticky Rice “Suman” Story | Life Lessons from a 28 year old Computer Engineer

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

This story will tell you how a single coin with no value to you can change someone else’s life.

I always have soft spot towards street vendors specially those who are selling “kakanin” or those locally cooked snacks. They earn very little but a lot of professionals like engineers, teacher, lawyers, seafarers, and more are made because of this very noble vocation. And I’m one of the living proofs.

My mother is already selling anything she can think of since I was 5 years old. I couldn’t appreciate it before until I started working for a job and tasted the bitter reality of adulthood. I am a Computer Engineer already that time, working in an airconditioned office and sitting in a comfortable chair without carrying baskets of goods. Imagine how comfortable my work yet I still complained on how little am I paid. One Saturday morning when I went home in Caloocan City from my rented bed-space boarding house in Pasay City, I found my mother very busy in the kitchen with my little brother. I can see the smoke a few blocks away from our house which seems like they’re having a fiesta. Huge wok with about 3kg sticky rice is floating in a coconut milk and being stirred by my mother non-stop. Right there I knew they’re making the delicious, sweet snack called “suman” (sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf). I learned that they’ve been doing it for a couple of days already not for a celebration nor personal snack but to sell around the neighborhood.

woman selling spices

Every day she wakes up around 4am to roam around carrying that basket of “suman” she’s selling. Once she gets home before lunch time, she’s bringing another raw sticky rice and coconut milk to cook again and sell for the next day. And then she will stay late at night wrapping it with banana leaf. That routine repeats everyday even if I’m back at work, sitting in my comfortable chair, facing my computer, having some coffee, and laughing with my co-workers in an airconditioned room while she is walking around enduring the heat of the sun while carrying that heavy basket of “suman”. The worst thing is I blame them that I can’t buy material things because I must give them a portion of my income. It didn’t take long when I learn that she’s doing it to somehow extend a little the money that I am giving her for their expenses because it’s too little for all their needs while living in a big city. What she earns from selling “suman” will be used for their daily expenses with my little brother. That life continued for about two years, and I can see how exhausted she’s been every time I went home during weekends. I kept asking myself, how come I am an “Engineer” when I can’t even make my mother stop that struggle and have a better life she never had. What a shame that a son like me worries about nice clothes and new shoes yet here comes my family, struggling to even have enough food on their plates every day. All I had was just a name and nothing more. Not even a single house to make my family comfortable nor an extra dime to make them stop what they’re doing and focus on something less tiring. I can’t help but look ahead as well and see my future family in the same situation if I won’t do something to change it.

woman pushing a cart of fruits

Worst thing is I’m too concerned with the things that our neighbors and my friends will have to say. What a social climber right!? I couldn’t even see how hard it was for her. She’s already on her 50s and yet she kept doing it because she has no other choice. And here I am too concerned of my image rather than drawing a plan to make their lives better. You may say it’s not the child’s responsibility to pay for their parents’ needs but think about it, they could have just walked away and never dreamed for us to have a better life, but they didn’t. They sacrificed so much, even their own happiness to help us get a degree so the least we can do is pay them back with respect, love and a way to ease their struggles. I had to experience a life-and-death situation before I realize the worst I had become. Yeah, I know! God really works in a very mysterious way. And I don’t want you to experience that “end-of-life” moments first that’s why I’m sharing this to you. One hour in the waiting room before my surgery feels like forever. I can hear every ticking of the clock which made me ask myself what if I won’t make it that night. What happens to them? I’m their only chance of having a better life yet I have nothing. Not even a single life insurance that will help them start over. The realizations continues and the rest was history. Lucky for me I came across some videos from the internet which gave me the idea that the first thing that I should do to change my situation is to increase my income. Multiple sources of income is the way but I can’t do it if I don’t even have the capacity to provide the basic needs. So, the most logical way is to increase my salary first. I crawled my way in the corporate world to at least increase my salary a bit. That time all I can do is watch them struggle so much. Although right now I’m still struggling to provide and fulfill the goal of having many sources of income, what’s important is knowing that I needed it and taking action. It will take a while to fully achieve the goal of having a better life but it’s a start. As my mentors (virtual, personal, and from books) said, to succeed on my endeavor, the first thing to know is the reason why I wanted it? Once I know my WHY, the HOW will just be easy. Lastly, if you know my mother and once bought from her basket of “suman”, THANK YOU! Thank you for helping me become who I am today. It’s amazing how a single coin of yours was able to help change someone’s life, isn’t it? P.S. When you see some “kakanin” vendors on your way, don’t hesitate to buy one. You won’t just help them earn; YOU ALSO HELP FULFILL A CHILD’S DREAM! Short moments in my life that have huge influence on how I think and make decisions today. - Nomad Life of Mier



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Jun 22, 2022

One of my favorite stories, I cried a lot. Thankyou Mier for motivating us.

Mier Torregosa
Mier Torregosa
Jun 25, 2022
Replying to

Thanks! Also cried writing this one and even when reading it again from time to time. But that's the first step to doing better. Knowing where you're wrong and accepting.

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