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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, June 30, 2020
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia



In case you haven’t noticed, the country and therefore our immediate communities are in the midst of an unprecedented global health and economic crisis that is made worse for those who live in places where substandard leadership is tolerated and normalized. We are paying the price of the poor decisions our leaders have been making over the past couple of months (or is it years) and based on everything that has recently happened, we are on our own.

We may be on our own, but if there is one thing our government has done partially right, it is to remind us of the value and power of the uniquely Filipino Bayanihan spirit that is part of its sloganeering campaign to make its people believe that they are actually doing something useful during this pandemic.

The final judgement and accountability for that Bayanihan to Heal as One act, or the BAHO act as it is irreverently referred to by its critics, will be judged by history for its effectiveness or lack thereof by history. However, at first blush, and compared to the relative success of other countries that aren’t necessarily first world status, such as Vietnam where zero coronavirus disease 2019 deaths have been recorded; it would seem like our government utterly failed to protect its people and economy from the scourge of COVID-19.

Whether BAHO was an utter failure or a partial success, we shouldn’t allow it to tarnish the spirit of Bayanihan because that is what we all need right now to survive, especially now that government seems to have given up and left us to our own devices. What we do to and for each other within our immediate spheres of influence in the next few months will determine the fate of many lives.

Let’s not kid each other. Numerous businesses and commercial establishments are currently in distress. Many have reopened their doors not because they are itching to make a profit, but because they have employees that they do not want to abandon ala our government. There may be a few exceptions to the rule, but is probably safe to estimate 80-90% of businesses that have opened are just hoping and praying to make rent and payroll for 2020. At this point, I don’t even want to come up with a guess for the percent of businesses that will make it to 2021.

Take the restaurant industry for example. Those in GCQ areas can now accept dine in customers but at 50% capacity and are severely limited by curfews that discourage customers and hamper employees. It is easy for us to say that they should adapt and shift their revenue streams to the take away market but owners and operators are paying rent and charging prices based on the certain assumptions that were made in a pre-COVID world. The current limitations of 50% capacity and limited hours make it extremely difficult to even just break even.

If you come to think of it, the restaurant industry doesn’t just affect the management, servers and the kitchen staff. If we look at the big picture, there are so many related industries affected by a slump in that industry. Let us start with the farms where the produce comes from. Once the produce is ready, it is delivered by trucks driven by people with families to feed. The same goes for the restaurant industry’s thousands of employees who have to get to work every day using public transport. It doesn’t stop there, as restaurants require numerous maintenance services from service contractors and suppliers. Things like the freezers, refrigerators, air conditioners, gas stoves, beverage dispensers need constant servicing that is provided by other businesses within the immediate area.

What the restaurant industry needs to survive at this point is business that can only come from us. We need to do our part in keeping them alive so they can keep their people working and earning a living. Take out, dine in, and tip generously even if the service is essentially minimalist at this point. As long as they have to operate under this “new normal” protocols, they will be barely scraping by and those who do not have the resources will have no choice but to shut down.

It is time for those who belong to the privileged class to step up. If you are not facing impending hunger and doom and have some cash to spare for a take-out or dine in meal at a local restaurant, consider yourself in a position to help the hundreds, if not thousands of people who are directly or indirectly affected by the crisis. Our government leaders may not talk about this because they have no time for solutions that do not involve the police or military, but since we don’t have guns and camouflage uniforms, this is the best thing we can do for our countrymen at this point.

The restaurant industry is just the easiest example to discuss. All other industries are struggling right now and everyone who is directly or indirectly affected is facing an uncertain future. Those of us who can afford to give our own way of “ayuda” in the form of doing business with all the local businesses we know should consider chipping in.

One day, government will become relevant once again and we can count on it to provide the support and protection we expect. But until then, we are on our own and the only way we can all survive these series of crises is to help each other out. Support local businesses and entrepreneurs, help them stay afloat while enjoying their services. Choose to be kind to our fellowman but remember to hold those responsible for where we are now accountable when their day of reckoning comes.*  

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