The best way to beat the coronavirus is to practice social distancing and to avoid gatherings, say our national health officials. In simple terms, people should stay home in order not to be infected by the virus. And at home, one should keep distance from other members of the household.
In our part of town, the “stay home” order is strictly enforced. Jogging out in the streets is prohibited at any time of the day. So is walking the dog. The subdivision’s sports facilities like the basketball and tennis courts and the swimming pool are cordoned off. The convenience store and the clinic are closed. The village administrative office is open only three days of the week and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. only. Curfew is from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Security guards and maintenance crew remain in the village for the duration of the community quarantine. Quarters have been provided for them.
Only the main gate of the subdivision is open. A resident is allowed to drive out of the subdivision to go to the supermarket, drugstore, or the bank. Only one member of each household is allowed to leave the village and only once during the day. Each household designates one member as the errand person of the household. That person’s name is registered with the subdivision’s Security Office and is given a pass which has to be shown to the security guards at the open gate. No other member of the household can leave the village to do errands.
Non-residents are denied entry into the community. Household help and family drivers who had gone home to join their family the weekend before the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) order came into effect were not allowed to report back for work. While delivery of ready-to-eat food is allowed, fast-food chains would not deliver. When we call their 8888 number to place an order, we are told that they don’t deliver to our place as our barangay is listed as totally locked down.
By the third week of the lockdown, residents of our community began to miss many of the things they used to enjoy on weekends, things like their favorite burger, pizza, dim sum, or fried chicken meal, all of which used to be delivered directly to their homes. Then someone thought of forming a Viber group to serve as a community billboard on which residents can post the things they need or the products they can supply.
Within an hour of the formation of the group, soft drinks, beer, sourdough, pan de sal, eggs, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, antiseptic alcohol, face masks, even charcoal and dog food were posted as “wanted.” To the pleasant surprise of many, some fellow residents posted they have the wanted products and can be picked up anytime. The following day, other residents posted they can make to order cinnamon rolls, banana cakes, lumpiang togue (spring rolls), turon (sweet banana spring rolls), suman (a rice cake), ginataan (a coconut milk treat), brownies, pancit (a noodle dish), and pizza.
It turned out some residents own restaurants, bake shops, or gasoline stations with a convenience store. They had pulled their supplies out of their establishments and brought them home for safekeeping before the lockdown was imposed. So, when fellow residents made known what they needed or wanted, those with the products offered their supplies for sale. Cases of soft drinks are available from a pickup parked in front of the vendor’s residence. Others posted the products they can make. There happened to be buyers for all of them.
Then the big players came into the scene. Somehow they managed to work their way into the Viber group. Chooks, the roasted chicken chain, posted it can deliver. It was immediately swarmed with multiple orders. The Max’s group followed suit. It can deliver any product of the member companies except Max’s fried chicken. Select of Shell offered frozen Jollibee Chicken Joy. Days before Easter Sunday, there appeared postings that paella, baked salmon, beef caldereta (a stew), bicol express (pork cooked in coconut milk and chili peppers), embotido (a meat loaf), kare-kare (a stew with a peanut-based sauce), truffles pasta, paksiw na pata (vinegar and soy sauce-stewed pork hock), and many other dishes could be made to order and delivered on Easter Sunday.
Payment for orders is mostly through online bank deposit to the vendor’s bank account. Other payment options are GCash, PayPal, and Pay Maya. A screenshot of the transaction is taken as proof of payment and the image is sent to the vendor via Viber. Cashless payment is preferred by most vendors as it eliminates handling of money which can be a carrier of the virus. If payment is made in cash, vendors require an exact amount to avoid giving change. The money is dropped into paper bags or cardboard boxes. It is presumed the vendor will disinfect it.
As nobody, not even epidemiologists nor molecular biologists, can tell when the COVID-19 virus will be eradicated from the face of the earth, people will continue to practice physical distancing and avoid gatherings. A face mask will be part of daily wear. The way of life that has evolved out of the lockdown may prevail indefinitely. It will in turn give rise to a new way of doing business.
Many restaurateurs will opt to close down and instead set up a commissary where the food can be prepared and delivered from. Exorbitant rent for strategically located space would be eliminated as the commissary need not be located in a business district. Likewise, many grocery store owners would choose to give up their space in expensive commercial areas in favor of putting up a warehouse in the periphery of residential districts from where goods can be delivered to online customers. Advertising for these enterprises will shift from mainstream media to social media.
We have seen how Cabinet meetings and Congressional sessions have been held lately. Attendees are seated far apart from each other yet some of them had been infected by the COVID-19 virus. Offices of companies and government institutions will have to be reconfigured to avoid the spread of COVID-19 among officemates. Cubicles of business processing workers will have to be redesigned to enclose each worker to protect him from being infected by co-workers. Cubicles, earphones, and gadgets will have to be dedicated to each worker. Restrooms in office buildings will have to be sanitized several times a day and soap and tissue or hand dryers have to be provided. Same for coffee lounges.
Companies into the manufacture of alcoholic beverages might step up their production of disinfectant alcohol. Ladies undergarment manufacturers might switch some of their production line to the making of disposable and washable face masks and gloves.
Movie houses, live show theaters, and concert halls will suffer a sharp fall in ticket sales as physical distancing is not feasible in those places. People will not risk getting infected with just to see their favorite star or hear their favorite singer.
I also foresee the decline in popularity of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) games. As in movie houses, theaters, and concert halls, physical distancing in sports arenas during PBA games is highly improbable. And with all the cheering, shouting, and razzing during the games, the virus would fly all over the place, The transmission of the virus from an infected person to the people around him would almost be guaranteed.
I expect even the quality of the games to decline. Players will avoid close physical contact with opposing players for fear of getting the virus. Then even the TV audience will shrink considerably.
There is a saying which goes, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” It is used to argue that in times of extreme crisis or fear, such as during an intense fighting on the battlefield, every soldier in foxholes will believe in a higher power that will protect him and keep him alive. What COVID-19 has done is make people renew their faith in a super power who will be their salvation. That renewal of faith in a Supreme Being will have a great impact on the life of every Filipino.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a retired corporate executive, business consultant, and management professor. He has been a politicized citizen since his college days in the late 1950s.