Products of the chikka-chikka factories…
by Ronnie Hoyle
SINCE nearly half of the population in the Philippines is not
gainfully employed in the fabrication of products and services for
other employers, people have a lot of time on their hands during the
day: this is quite often spent in the local chikka-chikka factory
where the workers perform their duties for free.
In some units, tea, coffee or a bottle or two of alcohol or soft
drink are sometimes supplied by the workers themselves as incentives
to encourage other voluntary employees to turn up for regular
full-time work and to lubricate the necessary machinery and make
production faster and more enjoyable.
Sometimes, however, the speed at which products are made means that
the work turned out for consumption fails factory quality control
and has to be discarded, especially if the initial material is of
poor quality. Since the units produced in the chikka-chikka
factories cost very little to make, even the factory workers
themselves are not too aggrieved.
Every locality has several of these factories, ranging from
minuscule two-person production units which occupy the space between
two chairs, or even the doorstep of any available local property, to
those which turn out to be gigantic wholesale manufacturing
conglomerates which occupy street corners and beaches and even take
over and finance a growing number of coffee shops and bars.
The more fanciful village concerns occupy poruks which are provided
by local barangays with homemade tables and chairs (often including
nearby cafeteria-style dining and drinking areas with room for
guitar-playing entertainers) under nipa-thatch umbrellas to protect
their workers from the effects of too much sun or rain, depending on
the time of year.
Some of the more sophisticated and popular poruks even provide
amenities for crèche facilities for up-and-coming and would-be
entrepreneurs where the local young people can learn their skills
from the full-time professionals of the art, although skills and
products often vary from area to area.
While smoking, eating, drinking, singing and the occasional snooze
often interrupt production, in most cases the chikka-chikka factory
units work nearly 24-hours a day creating new products of fancy
which even amaze the workers themselves.
Most barrios have several factory sites by the side of local roads –
some of them only a few meters apart – but the creation inside is
what keeps most of the local community interested in each other: the
resultant chikka-chikka which pours out from both men and women
often leads to friendships for life or to outright plain and audible
screaming and squabbling in many people and fist-fights between
others who dispute over the quality of some workmanship.
In many cases, it even leads to local feuds which last for years
between workers in the same family or neighbourhood and may even
involve the creation of other jobs offering improved salaries when
the local barangay captain or chieftain and attorneys become
involved in assigning ownership to the production of the finished
work, since no copyright exists and it is certainly hardly ever
claimed on faulty products.
Tracing the chain of production is often made more difficult when
other workers insert their own additional touches of finesse to the
individual items whilst they are still on the production line, which
significantly alters and amends their original form, design and
purpose, often within seconds of their original fabrication,
especially when a gaggle of women are on the production line.
The recent invention of cheap hand-held and portable chikka-chikka
producing devices by Western manufacturers has also enabled many
expert Filipinos to even mass produce and distribute their items for
consumption over a very wide area of the country in a short space of
time without incurring heavy transportation costs.
Never slow to realise the possibilities of this mass production
technique, individually-crafted items are now being turned out in
significant numbers by some town and village factories at the cost
of a few pesos for piecework manufacture, significantly increasing
both supply and production.
This has led to a boom industry reaping billions of pesos each year
for certain sections of the business community, which redirects
money from many of the impoverished and gainfully unemployed, and
has created a thieves market for even minor mass production
facilities, making the Philippines the number one user of
second-hand and stolen chikka-chikka producing equipment in the Far
East and increasing the work of the under-financed and hard-pressed
police who attempt to stem the theft of units.
Laws produced to ban the development of some chikka-chikka factories
and turn their buying power in more fruitful directions, plus the
imposition of fines and imprisonment for some of the more vociferous
creators of the outrageous and salacious merchandise which emanates
from the chikka-chikka factories, have proved as useless as laws on
the prohibition of smoking and drinking and under-age sex: its’
manufacture has become an undeniable new cultural custom for most
unemployed Filipinos and those who are unwilling or unable to give
up their addiction to the work.
The harmful affects this craving has on family life, and the demand
for even newer mobile chikka-chikka producing merchandise, together
with the requirement to keep up with the rapid replacement of older
or worn-out production units, are as bad as past favourite
occupations, like gambling and alcoholism, which still persist in
competition and also keep families poor.
Despite these New Age inventions which have been unanimously
welcomed by the Filipino, the original intention of the
chikka-chikka factories which were created thousands of years ago
have not lost their purpose: a good old-fashioned gossip, or
Kilroy Was Here © 2006