The Surplus Bonanza
April 10, 1948
By Silvestre Songco
THE word SURPLUS, according to Daniel Webster, means “excess” or “more than sufficient.”
To night clubs, restaurants, gambling houses and other business quarters where “money makes the man,” surplus means more than that. It means “big money,” so to speak.
In Angeles, Pampanga as well as in Manila and other places in the country where surplus depots are found, there is a literal flood of money. So called “surplus guys” (post war parlance) have more money to burn than anybody else, hacenderos and occupation buy-and-sell tycoons included.
In night clubs, restaurants, haberdasheries and other places where “money talks” the best customers are the surplus folk. If a night club owner or a haberdasher gets four or five surplus customers, his business enjoys a real boom.
I know a guy who is now holding a 200-peso job in a certain surplus depot. In the pre-war days he could not even secure a P30-a month job. This man spends at least 50 bucks a night in a night club. This will give the reader a clear idea of the spending power of a surplus man. Is it any wonder then that surplus guys are considered the best customers in any business?
Even in charity benefits, surplus men are considered the best individual contributors. I actually saw three surplus men during a charity ball slip one Mayon bill each when a simple flower was pinned on their coats by a nice-looking girl.
The surplus picture is not, however, a simple one. Applied to some persons, the term “surplus guy” is sometimes a misnomer. Not all men inside the surplus circle are prosperous. Not all employees and officials in the surplus organization have money in excess of their salaries.
I now a man in the surplus commission who could have made thousands in extra dough because of his position—but didn’t. The guy is either too honest or is a firm believer in the theory of “easy come, easy go.” Until now, he is making both ends meet to feed a big family by using his salary only.
The other day, I had a talk with a ranking official of a surplus depot who had the reputation of being the only surplus official in that depot who was not probed.
This official revealed to me his long-felt desire to give up his post because of the impression the public has of surplus employees and officials. He jokingly told this writer that since he accepted the job a few months ago, he has lost 15 pounds which does not speak well for a man who is prosperous.
But even he disclosed that to maintain peace and order within the depot, he had to play diplomat, politician, Santa Claus and other roles. He said that in troubled Pampanga where 45s speak louder than right itself, a man must play the game skillfully if he wants to live 24 hours. He said that a man of stricter temper would have been a goner months ago. He wonders how much longer he can “stick” it.