Pangasinan small biz owners welcome eased Covid-19 restrictions

More lenient movement restrictions and the usually increased demand during the end-year holidays make small business owners here optimistic of sales.

Since the pandemic started in the first quarter of 2020, operations of most businesses have been hampered by the quarantine put in place to address the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

At least in the last quarter of 2021, the government has eased movement restrictions following the drop in the number of Covid-19 infections, with most parts of the country placed under Alert Level 2.

Pangasinan, among others, has been placed under this alert level since around mid-November this year.

This allowed more people to get out of their homes and enjoy the outdoors, particularly going to malls and similar establishments.

For Saima Manungcarang, 36, a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW), the more people allowed to go out of their homes means brisker business for their ready-to-wear (RTW) business in a bazaar here located along Romulo Highway.

She has been working abroad since 2009, with her last job being a salon personnel. She returned home at the height of the pandemic in July 2020 after contracting Covid-19 while in Saudi Arabia.

“Nagka-Covid ako, walang sahod kaya umuwi nalang ako (I contracted Covid and didn’t receive a salary, so I decided to just go home),” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Her husband, Mubarak Abdullah Lacsaman, has been in RTW business since 2017, joining bazaars around Pangasinan normally during fiesta (a religious festival).

The couple, who got married in February this year, grew up in Mindanao but decided to do business in Pangasinan “because sales are better here,” she said.

“Mas maganda noong wala pang Covid. Hindi aabot ng 50 percent ang benta ngayon kumpara noon (It’s better when there is still no Covid. Sales now are not even 50 percent of what we had before),” Lacsaman said.

Prior to the pandemic, he said net sales reached PHP15,000 to PHP20,000 per month.

“Ngayon ang kinikita lang pangkain at pambayad sa pwesto (Now we only earn enough for daily sustenance and the rent),” he added.

The couple pays PHP500 as daily rent for two bazaar slots, each measuring 6 by 5 meters.

The couple started their business operations in this municipality last September, the month considered as the start of Christmas for many Filipinos.

Lacsaman said they have a lot of relatives doing the same business in Pangasinan and they normally stay in an area for about two to three months, a short period since they only join bazaars during a fiesta.

He, however, said that since the space they are currently renting is owned by a mall, they have decided to make Mangatarem their permanent area but this still depends on the mall management.

He said sales during the Christmas season are better than during fiestas because people have extra money.

“Nagi-ipon talaga ang mga tao para makabili ng mga bagong gamit para sa kanila at para may pangregalo hindi tulad pag fiesta na yung may pera lang ang nakakabili (People really save to buy new things for themselves and to have some savings to buy gifts unlike during fiesta wherein only those who have money are able to buy),” he added.

Ferdinand Fernandez, 51, a popcorn vendor, said sales are better now compared to last year because of looser movement restrictions.

He, however, said that sales still cannot measure up to the pre-pandemic levels because although people have started going out, a lot of workers have lost their jobs thus, the financial constraints.

During the end-2019 holidays, his net sales were around PHP1,000 but it is now about PHP500.

Fernandez said it is a “good thing” that village officials here only ask for a PHP10 daily fee from street vendors.

“Mahina pa rin po ang kita kaya buti na lang at may tindahan kami sa bahay (Sales remain low that’s why it is a good thing that we own a small store at home),” he said.

Fernandez is married and has three children who are all married.

Fernandez said he and his wife are thankful they received PHP8,500 from the government during the pandemic because they used the fund to start their mini store that sustains them until now.

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