Updated: Apr 28, 2019
O! Pilipino ka? (are you a Filipino?) A question that usually triggers smile to us. From that point, you knew you just met a friend. And to every other pinoy you will meet, you will pass it on. "May tindahan ng pinoy dito! Nakilala mo na ba si Kuya Rex?" (there's a Filipino store here! Have you met Mr. Rex?)
Pinoy Asian Market in 11th Street, Beaumont is not just a merchandise store. It is an institution for Filipino existence in Southeast Texas community. For new comers, it is a gateway to meet fellow kababayan (countrymen). There will be no other official initiation in Filipino community than to be welcomed by Kuya Rex.
If there's such thing as General Merchandise & Entertainment Store, Pinoy Asian Market is one. Being away from home, it is a guarantee that somewhere, somehow, you will feel homesick. All of a sudden you will miss your pancit bihon, puto, ginisang monggo, tinapa, longganisa, and the list goes on then it will end with you facing this store.
As you walk-in, the jovial tone of Kuya Rex will welcome you. Another pinoy in line to cashier will greet you, and another one behind you, and the seems to be never ending kwentuhan (sharing of stories) will commence. And how's the homesick you had? Gone.
Kuya Rex been in beaumont since 1991. He is a mechanical engineer and from San Manuel, Isabela Philippines. He migrated here with his wife who work as a registered nurse. Kuya Rex always joke about being a proud husband of BSN, his own acronym of "Binuhay-Sa-Nursing" Him and other Husbands of nurses recruited here in Beaumont on early 90s formed the probably first ever community of tambays. But he is just making fun of those time when they are still restricted of all those circumstances of being bagong salta (new comers). That period of their life happened not because they chose to. It is actually a sacrifice those Macho Tatays (fathers) made to help out their wives in making sure that their family's migration to this greener pasture will be smooth and successful. Out of that group, came some of the well established Filipinos in Southeast Texas now.
To think that all of us came here with probably two to three luggage, it is really fascinating to hear our countrymen's stories of success. Well to Kuya Rex, his success came from believing in "kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga" (if you persevere, you will succeed). He is blessed with skills that enables him to do almost anything and able to fit in any situation. He did various handyman work, then started carpooling, then selling Filipino merchandise in his garage and car. And that's how Kuya Rex started to become one of the well known Filipino in our community. He is actually also recognized as "Mr. Public Information" for he can navigate you very well to the community. Not just direction, but to lead you to other Pinoy that can help you or needs your help.
Being here for 28 years now, he witnessed how Filipino community evolved. And he believes that we are progressing. Social media is a major factor on reaching our to every kababayan (countrymen). It is good that our Filipino community is now well established thru PABT which he was a part of further strengthening it's foundation. He is one of those hard worker behind the success of PABT.
When asked what else we need to improve? It is surprising how the always cheerful Kuya Rex turned serious and monotonous when he talks about his commitment on being patriotic and giving back to our roots. It sadden him how some of us tend to forget where we came from. We are all aware of negative connotation our country has and each of our own reality brought us all here. But we must still be able see the bright side of it. On the other hand, every country has flaws. Every motherland hopes her offspring will love her back. For us here, though limited, there are still ways to express gratitude to our home. One of those is by patronizing our products. He is fully aware that it might not sound politically correct to mention this but It just happen that among any of us, because of his store, He is the one who witnesses and can tell how poor we support our own. By estimated numbers, only 20 percent of his daily customer is a Filipino. Considering the huge population of Filipino-American here in Beaumont, that number is unexpected. He is free to switch to whatever merchandise but his heart is committed to his choice.
His statement brought a realization that this chain doesn't just end in the store's cash registry. It goes all the way back to Pilipinas, to those local industries, to the pockets of those hardworking laborer and lastly, to their dinning table. And we can do more to help them fill that table.
Kuya Rex is not just an entrepreneur. Alongside with it is being a Filipino who cares. On top of that is a husband and a father who loves unconditionally. Let his story inspire us not just in our thoughts but in our actions. Move and make a change.
O! Kita tayo doon sa tindahan! (see you in the store!)