Ang Mahunit, a thrift store

One of the earliest postwar publications to carry local ads was The Republic Magazine. In the August-September 1947 edition, a special issue that doubled as a directory, it carried the name of Ang Mahunit, a Davao establishment. The store got its name from an Ilonggo term which loosely translates ‘to stretch or maximize (a budget).’ It was deemed as the forerunner of the present-day convenience stores in the city.

The department street, originally in the name of Amigleo brothers, was founded before the war as a shoe-making store but later branched out to importing, wholesale, and retail; it was also a major distributor of National Marketing Corp. (Namarco), a government-owned and controlled firm created under Republic Act 1345. Its first home was a leased building along San Pedro street, near the junction of City Hall Drive, owned by the Francisco family.

For decades, the store, known for its thrift goods, was a favorite shopping destination of provincial customers. Years later, its proprietorship changed hands. Jose R. Amigleo, a migrant from Kalibo, Aklan, and one of the original owners, and his wife Magdalena Gomez Quimpo, half-sister of Davao City founder Gov. Romualdo Cauilan Quimpo, took over.

Magdalena, born on March 4, 1922, was a student of Zamboanga School of Nursing when war broke out. Her marriage was blessed with eight children, four boys and four girls. One of her sons, Jose Jr., was a pioneer in the geopolitical initiative known as BIMP-EAGA, launched in 1994. The Amigleo ancestral home still stands at Tomas Claudio (now Elpidio Quirino) Street.

The store’s popularity grew despite stiff rivalry from Indian and Syrian Lebanese merchants along the same business strip. Given the generosity shown by the new owners to their patrons, it did not take long for the shop to gain many clients and, by word of mouth, became the favorite destination of out-of-town buyers. Jose, the family patriarch, was known to give away goods to customers who fell short of money.

The iconic shop’s successful run was noticeable in the way the couple’s business interests had progressed along the years. They went on to acquire real estate properties and built commercial and residential buildings in many parts of the city. Some of the later structures they erected still exist today under the management of surviving children.

In 1964, Ang Mahunit was razed to the down after a huge conflagration burned two blocks of the city’s central business district. Important institutions like the Brokenshire Memorial Hospital did not escape the tragedy, the biggest to hit the city’s commercial borough after the war. Many of the businesses affected by the blaze permanently closed shop; others with ready resources promptly rebuilt their enterprises. An article, ‘A city on fire,’ that appeared in Edge Davao on August 19, 2014, described the catastrophe:

“The morning flames [which started at Davao Superette along Anda Street] ate up Lyric Theater, Universal Theater, and Liberty Barber Shop, and later all the stores along Anda and San Pedro streets, including the Vera Cruz Hotel. Miraculously spared were the houses of the Magallanes, Monfort and Oboza families. The fire moved westward, consuming a second block that mercifully left intact the homes of the Dizon, Sasin, Pineda, and Panganiban families, situated across the present Phil-Am building.

“Embers from the burning blocks were fanned by strong winds that helped start another fire on the third block, which was to the left of the first block. Stores like Gift Mart, Three Sisters, Tung Chong Grocery, and Farmacia Pascual were reduced to ashes as the conflagration sped in the direction of the City Hall. Similarly, the flying embers from the second block crossed to the nearby chunk, gobbling up Liberty Theater. Only the Carriedo residence was spared.

“From the third block, the fire jumped to another, burning the iconic Brokenshire Hospital where Grand Men Seng Hotel now stands. From the first block, the conflagration crossed Ponciano Reyes Extension, a.k.a. Crooked Road, in the direction of San Pedro Church, swallowing on its way to Gems Theater at corner San Pedro and Bolton streets, Loleng’s Refreshment Parlor, and the pre-war residence of the Lizada family.”

Unfazed by the tragic experience, Magdalena, now widowed, decided, with the concurrence of her maturing brood, to transfer the business to another location by erecting a three-story structure on a lot her husband had bought. The real estate was situated on the same block where the original shop was renting. The asset, now owned by another party, is where a branch of the Queen City Development Bank, owned by the Florete family of Iloilo City, is operating.

The new Amigleo building, erected by Rolando Quimpo, son of Gov. Quimpo, also hosted the old Davao Executive Lodge, owned by Marianito, one of Amigleo’s sons. Rolando also built the ‘haunted’ Marfori House, known to passersby as Palasyo, at Marfori Heights.

The popular store was closed in the 1970s after the family matriarch, due to old age, decided it was time to take a rest. With grown-up children dispersed to complete their studies in Manila and elsewhere, there was no more helping hands to assist her tend the store, especially in loading bulky merchandises set for delivery. Still, the memory of the iconic shop remains in the memories of old timers who experienced first-hand the munificence of its owners.