by Chi Laigo Vallido
If your idea of a mother’s routine during the COVID-19 lockdown is the endless cooking and doing the laundry, think again. Some women have redefined work-from-home their own way. One set up a streetside pop-up store, two women started cooking snack food and delivered meals in their neighborhood, and then another one made reusable face masks that she gave away for free in her community while selling beauty products.
These women might have earned a little, but that is not the point of their business ventures. Common among them was the desire to help their families and their communities affected by the lockdown.
On March 16, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon island group of the Philippines under what he calls Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country. This came days after the World Health Organization declared COVID 19 as a global pandemic. By the end of March, there were already 750,890 confirmed cases all over the world with 36,505 reported deaths due to COVID-19 WHO March Report. In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded over 2,000 cases in the same period. As of this writing, or within 50 days since the ECQ was declared in the country, the number of cases has reached 10,004 (DOH Briefer).
The ECQ is another name for a total lockdown to prevent the spread of virus. In real terms, it meant that all public transportation, schools, offices, and business establishments with the exception of groceries, public markets, pharmacies and other providers of essential needs were to remain closed until the ECQ is lifted. As a result, millions of workers from Luzon’s 38 provinces, including Metropolitan Manila, stopped working. With many families facing financial uncertainties, enterprising mothers rose to the occasion by engaging in some small businesses.
Michele Corbilla, 43 years old, mother of three from Noveleta, Cavite
Michele’s husband, Jesus, drives a mini-bus within the towns of Tanza and Noveleta in Cavite. With the ECQ, he couldn’t drive anymore. The ban on public transportation also means that people without cars in Michele’s subdivision would have to walk a long way to the public market. Social distancing and the use of quarantine passes, limited to one person per family, have increased the marketing time for people. Thus Michele “brought the market” to her subdivision.
Starting with just a small chest cooler of frozen chicken, pork and a bucket of vegetables, Michele set up a small store in the main road of their housing village. Word got around and soon people were coming to buy from her. In just two weeks, her little store expanded to include fruits, fish and even coconut milk. She moved her pop-up store in front of her house to have more space for the produce. “Dapat malakas ang loob mo at nagpaplano ka kasi hindi mo alam ang mangyayari.” (You have to be determined and you need to plan well since we don’t know what’s going to happen).
Eden’s Homemade Treats
Eden Guerra, 49,is a part time tour guide in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Her husband, Nelson is also a tour guide. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ECQ had cut their entire means of livelihood. Avoiding the worse scenario for her family and three children, she transformed a part of her house into a small sari-sari store. Eden made homemade longanisa (pork sausages) and local favorites like yema, majablanca, roasted peanuts and cooked food packs. She used Facebook to promote her products and orders started coming in. She and her husband make daily deliveries around Puerto Princesa City and are able to make enough for their daily needs. “Masaya ako kasi kumikita ako. Kailangan ng diskarte. Hindi mo alam ang resulta kung hindi mo susubukan.” Eden says. (I’m happy that I’m earning. You need to be resourceful. You won’t know the outcome if you don’t try).
Lie-Ann’s Home Delivered Goods
After working as a baker in Dubai, 35-year-old Lie Ann Mendoza Palumpon of Noveleta, Cavite decided to come home and raise her two children. Her husband Rossel, works as a videographer for special events but with the ECQ banning all public gatherings, their source of income was threatened. Lie-Ann sells ready-to-wear clothes and beauty products online but got the idea of shifting to selling food and offering free delivery for her customers during the lockdown. This strategy was a hit when she posted her frozen meat products online. As she started to get a good customer base, she added other products such as egg pie and her husband’s dinakdakan , an Ilocano pork dish. “Nung una natakot ako na dahil sa lockdown, mawawalan ako ng customers. Pero nakita ko na marami ang hirap lumabas para bumili ng pagkain. Kaya nag iba ako ng tinda. Libre din ang delivery ko kaya marami rin customers.” (At first I got scared that because of the lockdown, I will lose my customers. But I noticed that people had a hard time buying food so I switched products. I offered free delivery which resulted in more customers).
Shiel, the Good Neighbor
Shiel Uriarte Miras, 37 years old, lives in Pasay City with her husband and three boys. Her husband, Nilo works at a security service company for commercial buildings in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City. When the ECQ was declared, her husband’s company had to reduce its staff and their working hours since most of the clients halted operations. Her husband was selected to go on forced leave with no pay, but fortunately, his colleague yielded and offered his spot. Given that her husband’s salary was based on the number of offices covered, and with his reduced working hours, Shiel augmented the family’s income.
This mom knows her target market. Even with the ECQ, she marketed the beauty products she was selling as a way to remove the stress of the lockdown. While she had a steady flow of customers, she noticed that many of her neighbors lacked the money to buy face masks. So she started sewing face masks for her neighbors for free. “Kailangan unahin ang kapakanan ng pamilya. Marami nahihirapan pero kailangan gumawa tayo ng paraan. Kailangan maging sigurista tayo sa income natin.” (Our families should be our priority. Many are having a hard time but we have to find ways to earn and have a secured income).
Michele, Eden, Lie-Ann and Shiel are mothers who would do anything for their families. The success of their new business ventures is also due to that fact that most of their customers were mothers who were also looking after their families. Michele says, “Hindi ko akalain na magagawa ko ito. After ng lockdown ipagpapatuloy ko pa rin ito.” (I never knew I was capable of doing this. Even after the lockdown, I plan to continue selling). Indeed, there’s nothing a mother can’t do or wouldn’t do. The ECQ or community lockdown was a challenge that these women have overcome. WWW