STARTING a business at this time of the pandemic is like a baptism of fire for new entrepreneurs. However, some look at it as a challenge and opportunity just as Baguio came to rise from the rubbles of that 1990 killer earthquake. This time is quite different as it affected the global community and it impacted much on the community's capacity to engage in livelihood that can mean not only for months but it can even be for a year or two. Unlike a blacksmith, not all of us can hammer and shape metal when it is extremely hot.
Today, we see ourselves as vulnerable to a death-causing virus that our eyes can't see and yet we go about our daily lives hoping that none of the people we meet each day are afflicted or carriers of this contagion.
Recently, I attended a dialogue and public consultation on the clamor of hairstylists, masseuse and operators of personal care and spa to be allowed to open by the city government. LGU Baguio's Business Licensing and Health Department Sanitation Unit presented the Department of Health guidelines as well as the inter-agency rulings of a 50 percent operation for the city as it is still under the modified general community quarantine or MGCQ.
Just like in our inspections of various food serving establishments from high-end restaurants to small eateries, their situation and predicament are the same that despite their compliance with the required health and safety protocols, business is still hard to thrive. Even street peddlers selling betel nuts and the two tattoo artists that I've met, they are telling the same "no customers and source of income" story. I heard a blind masseur who spoke on behalf of his group and he narrated the many difficulties that they are facing like the lack of taxi rides for their home-services and the requirement for them to wear facemasks, gloves and protective suits. The sanitary engineer from the health office even added that service providers are discouraged from entering one's house at this time of the pandemic.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong spared his time and joined us with updates saying that anything that happens in the region can impact on us. With the city as the model of contact tracing in the country, the mayor added in 24 hours, we can already contact trace a case to at least around 85 percent of which he also cautioned everyone to be very careful especially in the dealings with customers and family members. Addressing the manicurists, pedicurists, masseurs and hairstylists, the mayor said "We don't want all of you to close. I don't want to order a lockdown but we cannot be complacent. It's better to take extra precautions. In a war, we see our enemies but in this pandemic, we do not see the enemy."
Noting that any safety precaution has cost implication he further elaborated on his closure directives saying that a fault of one is the fault of all.
In that public consultation, there was also a sharing of best practices that aside from the use of safety protection devices such as acrylic and plastic dividers, PPE, face shields and logbooks, some entrepreneurs suggested the use of Ultra-violet (UV) lights to disinfect their working facility hours before each operation with precautions that it is for the working area alone and not with people in it.
As a way to survive and get through this pandemic, the creative community of Baguio is also into bartering of crafts, artworks and with the head start of UP Baguio in its Artisan's Market and at Bookends Baguio with Maricar A Docyogen helping out local artists barter their works with grocery items, rice and even art supplies such as acrylic emulsion.
As I write this, renowned Cordillera artist Jordan Mangusan donated one of his big solar paintings for bidding to help fellow artists in need of financial help. This is another period when we do not mind giving a little of what we have to help others. I read a lot of complaints that are related to the pandemic such as liquor-ban, curfew, lockdowns including the new normal in the education sector that requires non-physical contacts thereby necessitating the use of online capable gadgets such as computers.
While my heart bleeds for those who do not have the means, another agonizing incident happened over the weekend with my left hand's small fingernail practically damaged because of my disregard for safety measures such as wearing work gloves. A piece of heavy metal that I was trying to pull from where it is lodged dropped on said finger adding another memorable scar to my hands as my left thumb was reduced in size because of my fault of using a motorized circular saw in a reverse position sometime in 1989. Speaking of lessons learned, there is also a three-stitch scar on my forehead due to a misfired pellet gun that I thought would always remind me of risky work-related situations but I forgot all about it.
Too late for regrets but I must again remind myself not to do short cuts and ignore safety procedures because it can mean not only your finger or a scar on your body but your life.