Small business owners here are starting to pick up after two years of pandemic-induced losses, thanks to the reopening of tourist spots.
Buko (coconut) juice vendor RJ Casaclang from this municipality recommenced his business in November 2021 when the province was lowered to Alert Level 2 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, allowing freer movement and more mass gatherings.
He has been selling buko juice along the Lingayen Beach since 2015, earning a minimum of PHP300 during the weekdays and about PHP1,000 on weekends.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the 28-year-old Casaclang tried fishing, construction work, selling of plastic scraps, and even cleaning of drainages just to provide for this children aged 7 and 2.
“Nagawa ko yung mga bagay na di ko inakala na magiging trabaho ko para lang may ipakain sa pamilya ko (I tried the jobs that I didn’t think I would do just to provide for my family),” he told the Philippines News Agency in an interview.
These days, he earns an average of PHP200 daily, enough for his family’s daily needs. Still, he noticed that there are lesser tourists compared to pre-pandemic times.
“Marami pa rin ang takot sa virus pero nasasanay na ang mga tao sa social distancing at pagsusuot ng face mask. Sana lang bumalik na ‘yung dating sigla dito (People are still scared of the virus but they are getting used to the social distancing policy and wearing of masks. I hope we can get back to the previous robust situation here),” he said.
Similarly, cotton candy seller Jun-jun Corpuz, 27 and a father of three, said he needs to work doubly hard now.
He sources his products, which he sells for PHP10 to PHP15 apiece, from his uncle and earns between PHP150 and PHP300 daily from selling along Lingayen Beach’s baywalk from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A resident of Mangaldan, some 22 kilometers from this municipality, Corpuz said he previously sold his wares outside a mall in Dagupan City but transferred to the province’s capital when the tourist spot reopened to the public.
“Mas okay na dito kasi dumadami na ang turista (It’s better here because of the increasing number of tourists),” he said.
When the pandemic hit, he worked as a construction worker to feed his family but said he still prefers selling cotton candy because he earns more.
Ice cream vendor Rolly Edaunga of Bugallon town is thankful for the reopening of the tourism industry because he does not have to rely on his friends and relatives anymore to help provide for this family of six.
Prior to the pandemic, he went to the beaches in Anda, Agno, Alaminos, and Bolinao towns to sell ice cream using a motorcycle that he rented for PHP120 per day.
“Pero dito na lang po ako ngayon sa Lingayen kasi mahal ang gasolina (But I only sell here in Lingayen now because oil prices have increased),” he said.
When the pandemic hit, he said he received food aid from the government.
“Buti na lang may mga nagbigay sa amin ng mga kaibigan at kamag-anak. Kaya maswerte na lang din at pwede na uli akong magtinda (It’s a good thing some friends and relatives helped us. I’m just lucky that I can go back to selling now),” he added.
Armando De Guzman, who rents out cottages along the Lingayen Baywalk, said business is still slow but at least they now have customers daily.
He has 12 cottages, which he rents out for PHP300 to PHP500 at maximum 12-hour use on weekdays and PHP1,000 on weekends.
“Hindi na kami ghost town ngayon, ‘di tulad nung kasagsagan ng pandemic (We’re not a ghost town anymore unlike during the pandemic),” he said.
He said pre-pandemic business operation is still far from happening again because some people are still cautious against Covid-19.
“Ang mahalaga hindi kami nasi-zero. May kita pa rin araw-araw (What is important is we now have regular earnings. We still earn daily),” he said.
He noted that before the pandemic, business is brisk, such as during the Holy Week.
“Pero ngayong taon, Byernes Santo lang sumipa ang business, hindi tulad dati na Lunes pa lang punuan na (But this year it was only during Good Friday that we had good sales, unlike before when we were fully booked starting Holy Monday),” he said.
“’Yung ipon namin mula sa negosyo ang sumalba sa amin nung natigil ang turismo dahil sa pandemic. Sana lang magtuloy-tuloy na ngayon (Our savings from our business income saved us when tourism stopped during the pandemic. We hope this will go on),” he added.