As the coronavirus infection rates rise, the Philippines is relentlessly scrambling on getting back on its feet. Thrown off balance by the havoc, we’re trying to grapple on what’s next. With economic devastation looming ahead, we’re left trying to grasp this new reality while seeking some sense of stability. All that’s really left now is a glimmer of hope for radical changes — but can we afford it?
Health and safety are paramount but without the mass testing and contact tracing, we can’t see how we could possibly win against this invisible war. While we wait for the vaccine, which might be available early next year as it’s still in its testing phase, staying healthy is our viable option — our only way to keep our case counts and death toll low.
Some parts of the country have already started opening back up despite the uncertainty of this pandemic, and the truth is it’s only because of the economy’s sake. Should we put the interest of the economy first or the safety of the community? It’s a tough call as a lot of people are left to fend off for themselves. Immediate and comprehensive actions have to be taken in order for us to survive. Without a concrete plan of action from the government, we can’t see how the majority of the Filipinos can endure a prolonged lockdown. Not everyone has the means to work from home, and not a lot of us have paid sick leave for generous employers who can afford to provide full salaries during the lockdown.
HOW ARE WE COPING?
With all that’s been said and done, how are we faring as a nation? The collective mindset is for the common good. We want to help and follow as much as we can. Only a few have emergency funds to dig in, and we’re trying to make both ends meet. Maybe it’s because of the so-called Filipino adage, “Kung maiksi ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot.”
The pressure to perform rests in the shoulder of the national government. They have to slow down the rampage of this pandemic. It’s a must that they do everything in their power to stop its spread and protect its citizens. With all the measures made, are we successful in curbing its transmission?
The private sector has never been this united. Large corporations and small businesses are developing creative solutions to halt the spread of the virus. More than ever, they’re playing their part and are heeding the call of social responsibility. If not raising funds for donations, they’ve been taking care of their own employees. For instance, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is reported to have donated swabbing booths and test kits to increase Metro Manila’s COVID-19 mass testing capacity. They have also put up its own testing lab for 70,000 in its network to ensure the safety of its personnel and products. This is such a commendable act for a huge corporation and has to be emulated by others.
“Bayanihan“, the traditional Filipino principle of community spirit, has also defined us during this crisis. Many Filipinos have exemplified generosity in their own ways. There are free-riding initiatives for our health workers. A lot of people have also shared what they can to fundraisers and have even donated PPEs and surgical face masks. Food packs for frontliners have had a torrent of supply as well. Some landlords have temporarily stopped collecting rental fees and were reported to have given out sacks of rice. These actions show that we truly care and look out for each other. They are the unsung heroes who’ve shown selflessness and are inspiring us to be resilient in these times of crisis.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE ECONOMY?
According to Nikkei Asian Review, the Philippine economy contracted 0.2% in the first quarter through March. In economics, contraction refers to a phase in the business cycle where the economy as a whole is in a downward trail. This could very well be due to travel restrictions and the lockdown crippling business activities and household consumption. This is the first contraction in the country’s real gross domestic product since the fourth quarter of 1998, which came a year after the Asian financial crisis and during an El Niño drought. But our country’s officials say the worst is yet to hit, and the economy could continue contracting in the next two quarters.
One thing’s for sure, we’re facing an economic downturn. And the level of uncertainty is unprecedented. Some businesses might not survive, and this can cause the unemployment rate to spike. The government needs to prepare to aid for those who will lose their livelihood. Relieving hardships should be the topmost priority as it will alleviate civil unrest.
Filipinos are resourceful by nature, but how can we bring the confidence back if jobs aren’t available anymore? When the future isn’t guaranteed, there will be fear. The government might also be forced to apply for more loans which can result in a debt crisis. It’ll be an extremely difficult spiral to get out of.
HOW CAN INDUSTRIES ADAPT?
Certain industries are struggling to survive as they’ve taken a bad hit. For instance, the fashion industry hasn’t gotten the attention that it usually gets. As fashion usually characterized as frivolous, shopping for luxury items and buying new clothes won’t be a priority. Also, with mass gatherings restricted, crowded fashion shows will surely be absent for quite some time. Physical retailers might even shut down as we turn to online shopping instead.
According to Vogue, “Brands who are able to emerge with a product both safe and with the aesthetic appeal will win traction.” Fashion brands might rethink and refocus their energies. As work from home becomes a necessity, would most probably opt for more comfortable clothing.
The scare of the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t spared the ever-thriving food industry. With the lockdown imposed and with public transportation halted, people can’t dine out. As we transition into the new normal, dining in might also be a thing of the past, unless social distancing will be strictly implemented. People will surely resort to fast-paced, curbside pick-up, and delivery.
With the travel restrictions in place, no other industry has taken the worst impact than the travel industry. Tourism has declined so much that it has caused job losses. In a report from Business Mirror, Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III described the impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak on the country’s tourism as “bloody.” With safety remains a major concern for many travelers, it might be hard to encourage anyone to travel soon.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Now that we’re given the rare chance to reset, we need to set our priorities straight. We should think long and hard on how we’ve been living our lives. Let’s try to find our purpose. This is definitely a wake-up call seeing as we can lose anything in just a snap.
Realizing that we can get by with just enough, it’s best also to live within our means now. Since we’ve now experienced an actual crisis, it’s best to invest in health and life insurances. Saving up for contingency funds is never a bad idea, possibly for at least six months’ worth.
We need to find more time for self-care routines, such as a good social media detox. Try to meditate and be more grateful. Listing down the things that you’re thankful for really helps. How can you expect to take care of others if you aren’t emotionally stable yourself?
We should also focus on finding more time with our loved ones, rekindling old friendships, and maybe even mending broken relationships. Isolation might have led us to emotional instability, but we should try to reconnect and keep our sense of togetherness, maybe even virtually. We’re so caught up in the rat race of achieving success without realizing that the relationships we have are important, too. At the end of the day, we can lose our money, but our families and real friends will always be there to stick with us.
WHAT IS OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY?
As a nation, the hallmark of the Filipino spirit is our resilience. Natural calamities have knocked us off our feet, but we’ve proven to stand strong. This crisis is no different and we can all get through it. With so much uncertainty, helplessness can easily creep in. But we have to fight through it.
Now is NEVER the time to put others down as we have different ways of coping. This is the best time to show that we can rise up together with compassion. The emotional toll of this pandemic might weigh on us but can emerge stronger. By helping out and by showing that we truly care, we can beat this war against the pandemic. We’re all in this together.
Illustration by Sabadontt
Produced by Arthur Tolentino