In Bulacan, pandemic cuts jobs – but not enterprising spirit
CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan, Philippines — The lockdown in Luzon meant to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may have kept the workforce of Bulacan inside their homes, but there’s no stopping their enterprising spirit from spilling out and sustaining their household.
At least 75 Bulacan companies closed shop during the lockdown, but these have since been replaced by 1,700 food, retail and delivery enterprises as of June, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.
Many of the province’s workers have also shifted careers or learned other skills to address the new demands of life under quarantine.
From running errands for the community, to selling homemade food items and reviving a family’s dormant jewelry business, Bulacan’s townfolk have proven themselves equal to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Take Calumpit town resident Juan Alfredo Venturina, 31, a drummer of local band Execuxon, who lost potential gigs because the lockdown forbids mass gathering. Until curfew rules were eased in June, people stayed indoors and gave up their nights out.
Tasked to undertake supply runs for his family during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March to May 31, Venturina started running errands for his neighbors as well.
“When I go out to buy supplies for my family, neighbors [would] often ask me to buy items for them as well. So I started reflecting on the possibility of turning this [supply run] into a business since the pandemic has made going out quite risky,” Venturina said.
He charges a minimum of P100 for purchases priced below P1,500 and 10 percent of the grocery bill.
To make sure the medicine and groceries he bought for his neighbors are COVID-free, Venturina himself disinfects all the items before turning them over to their owners.
When Bulacan reopened and more people started going out after the lockdown was lifted in June, the customer base of Venturina’s “Jhay PasaBuy” delivery service thinned out considerably. But Venturina isn’t about to give up this day job just yet.
Cockpit to sausages
When the lockdown forbade mass gatherings, including cockfights in Calumpit town, cockpit operator Roberto Paulino Jr., 40, from Barangay Sto. Niño switched to selling longanisang Calumpit. The fighting cocks he had been breeding were consuming more than he could earn, he admitted.
Thanks to a relative who has been in the longganisa (native sausage) business for the past 30 years, Paulino managed to start selling and delivering the homemade food products priced at P230 to P250 per kilogram to buyers in Metro Manila and other Bulacan towns. His business, Amara’s Food Processing, sells an average of 100 to 200 packs of longganisa a week.
For jewelry maker Alberto Abergas, 64, the restrictions on public movement may yet turn out to be a boon, and reason enough to revive the family’s wedding accessory business in Meycauayan City.
With the pandemic making it difficult to import jewelry from countries like Italy and Singapore, Abergas sees a rise in the demand for locally produced wedding rings, crowns, and wedding coins (arras).
“Weddings are inherently traditional. No bride will marry her groom without rings and accessories, even if the ceremonies are held online. Online weddings may not even last because of our poor internet signals,” he said.
With such rosy prospects, the Abergas Wedding Accessory and Manufacturing company is preparing to distribute its products through shopping malls in Metro Manila and other urban hubs around the country.
Local and international travel may not yet be in the immediate horizon, but the townfolk of Bulakan have every reason to welcome the P735-billion international airport project being undertaken by food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. at the end of the year.
Residents who’ve lost their livelihood during the lockdown can look to the 40,000 jobs that would open when construction work on the airport starts, said Al Ferrer, a consultant of Bulakan Mayor Vergel Meneses.
The initial stages of a geotechnical soil investigation and the dredging of the Bulakan River System is already underway, Ferrer said.
Real estate values up
Real estate values have also risen in Bulakan town, he said, citing Barangay Poblacion properties which are now valued at P21,000 per square meter, from only P10,000 to 15,000 per sq m. Rice fields have benefited as well from this major investment, with values rising from P300 per sq m. to P1,000, Ferrer added.
Guiguinto, Bulakan’s neighboring town, has also experienced a spike in real property values, according to Mayor Ambrosio Cruz Jr., who also serves as Bulacan chapter president at the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
Seen as a major economic boost for the province, the airport project will rise at a 2,500-hectare site, which is five times bigger than the combined 500-ha developments in Makati City and Bonifacio Global City, Cruz said.
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