A white Christmas, at last?


    YUNG bayaw ko nga ho, machine operator sa Taiwan. Di naman mataas ang COVID doon pero nagbawas sila ng tao. Buti na lang binata siya, pero di na makakabigay sa mga magulang.”

    ‘I’ve never felt so unexcited ever, hearing carols in September. The experience used to amuse me, but that day it depressed me a bit. Because this is going to be a very white Christmas for the Philippines, albeit not the one we’ve always dreamt of having.’

    That was Serge, a barber I met over the weekend, telling me of the impact of COVID on someone he knows. In his case the barbershop in which he works only opens four times a week, and there are only two barbers at work now. That’s why he does “sidelines” for residents of high rises who book a minimum of six clients, usually on the weekends. I actually had a hair trim a little over a week ago with my regular Bruno’s barber, but I decided to have Serge trim whatever hair I have left another time.

    These days on social media you can get to see the happily successful efforts of our DFA officials, in partnership with Philippine Airlines, in bringing home our “unsung heroes” from their former places of work. Former, because like Serge’s brother-in-law, most of them have lost their jobs, maybe permanently. I know of at least two friends who were sent home in March by the cruise line firms they worked for; lucky for them, they both returned to Europe last month recalled by their respective outfits.

    But not everyone is as lucky. More, in fact, now face a white Christmas.

    White as in the white of their eyes.

    Of course, some agencies of the government are not staying idle. Social media also tells us of entrepreneurial training programs being set up by the DTI (in partnership I think with Go Negosyo which is headed by “Dr.” Joey Concepcion, a good friend of the DTI secretary, a former RFM executive himself). These programs are necessary – so many Filipinos (myself included) have very low levels of entrepreneurial skill, but with training some if not most of these skills can be learned (count me out though). And that’s what Go Negosyo is meant to be – to encourage entrepreneurship among the citizenry.

    They are necessary. But, sadly, insufficient. Beyond training, and assuming everyone trained “gets it,” you’ll need credit. You’ll need markets. Of course, you’ll need raw materials.

    With regard to credit, many big banks are woefully ill equipped to deal with entrepreneurs.

    Required to submit collateral, what do ordinary people have? That’s where credit facilities opened by government agencies come in.

    Markets? Well, that could be difficult too nowadays. Not only is the global economy on a downward spiral, too many neighbors are making the same small scale business products we do. Baskets? Woven fabric? Wood sculptures? Travel around Southeast Asia and you’ll see how similar the products being offered in Cambodia are to those in Malaysia and Vietnam and Indonesia and the Philippines.

    And that’s because the raw materials we have here are almost what the other neighboring countries have as well. Bamboo. Rattan. Metal. Paper. Grass. Soft and hardwood. Maybe with the sole exception of lahar sand.

    So of the 150,000 plus OFWs who have been successfully repatriated, how many will end up gainfully employed, at the same pay scale or close to what they lost, and soon?

    The domino effect is in play as well. I am told that there are chat groups where condo units are being offered at a fire sale by young professionals and even OFWs who have picked them up when times were good, but who now can no longer keep up with the payments. If these are backed by bank loans, then banks will be saddled with idle assets. And the condominium associates rely on regular dues to be able to operate and administer their buildings properly. If there are not enough unit owners paying the dues on time, then sooner or later services and facilities will suffer.

    Add these woes to those of the jeepney, tricycle, and taxi and Grab drivers, to the food servers in restaurants and fast food joints, to the sales clerks in many shops all over the country, to entertainers and the technical and production staff for television and movies, to concert artists and bands, to hotel workers… even PAL will lay off 1/3 of its people, I am told.

    Oh, and don’t forget, never forget FailHealth. And always keep in mind the request of the OP for a staggering Php4.5 billion in intelligence funds. A friend says they need to buy a lot of degrees online.

    The other day I was sitting in a Max along the SLEX and Christmas carols were playing over the speakers. I’ve never felt so unexcited ever, hearing carols in September. The experience used to amuse me, but that day it depressed me a bit. Because this is going to be a very white Christmas for the Philippines, albeit not the one we’ve always dreamt of having.

    White as in “namuti na ang mga mata.”

    This will be the white Christmas of our nightmares.