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Lockdown Anniversary: Riders Keep Deliveries Moving (Even on One Leg)

Our economic frontliners.
by Arianne Merez
Mar 4, 2021
Photo/s: Shutterstock

(Editor's Note: For the one year anniversary of the lockdown in the Philippines, we ask those on the frontlines of the pandemic to share struggles and hopes. We hope their stories help explain where we are at and where we are headed as we navigate these extraordinary times)

Joy Calimlim has been sprinting frantically between deliveries on his bike for nearly a year now, among tens of thousands of drivers who keep the economy afloat by keeping cravings satisfied. He does it all with just one leg.

Grab, Foodpanda, Lalamove, and Mr. Speedy exploded during the nationwide quarantine that started in March last year, allowing trade to continue, albeit on two wheels. Calimlim, who lost one of his legs to childbirth complication, found his calling during the lockdown.

"Halos lahat na kasi pinapadeliver ngayon kasi takot sa virus kaya kahit marami na ang puwedeng lumbas, marami pa din ang nagpapadeliver," he told reportr.

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"Ngayon, medyo bumabalik na sa normal ang sitwasyon so sana mas mag-improve pa at makaahon ang lahat ng sabay," said Calimlim, who hopes to save up for a taco business.

Grab Rider Joy Calimlim is an economic frontliner on one leg. courtesy of Joy Calimlim


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Since being forced to return to the Philippines in June 2020, Richard Palmos has been shuffling deliveries to and from Manila through courier service Mr. Speedy. He bought a motorcycle for the gig.

A cruise ship worker, Palmos was among hundreds of Filipinos who had to shift careers due to the pandemic.

"Pag-uwi ko, wala muna akong work so lahat kasi ng pera palabas kaya naisip ko na mag-rider na muna kaysa naman nasa bahay lang ako. I wanted to be useful and to make money pa din for my family," he told reportr. 

Deliveries are a staple as children and those above 65 are grounded at home. Some of those who can go out are reluctant to do so as the Philippines confirms under 2,000 new infections on a daily basis.

President Rodrigo Duterte, when asked by a state TV reporter, said the country could return to normal in early 2023 or two years from now. Unless vaccines are rolled out, the President said nationwide quarantines wouldn't be loosened. This means delivery riders will be on tap round the clock.

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Fewer restrictions, fewer deliveries


Across the country, the economy is slowly picking up as more industries are allowed to reopen. Travel requirements have also begun to ease.

Lockdowns have less strict across the country with the exemption of Metro Manila and a few other provinces still under general community quarantine, with some restrictions still in place.

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The easing of restrictions cut the income of delivery riders such as Calimlim and Palmos who admitted that they earned more when stay-at-home orders were strict.

"Mas malakas yung kita nung lockdown pero malaki pa din naman ngayon. Nung lockdown kasi grabe yung order na ikaw na yung gi-give up, tipong ikaw na yung hihingi ng pahinga," Calimlim said.

"Nakaipon na ako at ilang beses na ako nakabili ng mga pangangailangan at natutustusan ko yung mga kailangan na gastusin sa araw-araw," he said.

With vaccines becoming available to different countries worldwide, Palmos is hopeful that he could park his motorcycle for good and return abroad again this year.

"For now, rider pa rin ako. Pero hinihintay ko na lang yung free vaccine ko para makaalis na din ako kasi yun lang naman yung kailangan eh," he said.


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What's next for delivery riders?

The government expects at least one million vaccines in the first week of March and hopes to vaccinate frontliners within that month. The general public can get jabbed starting with the elderly by the end of April. Global supply is tight, officials said.

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"Alam ko naman na magkakabakuna. The question lang is kailan pero hopeful ako talaga. Sana lang agad para mas madali na makabalik tayong lahat sa normal," Palmos said.

For Calimlim, he hopes that deliveries can sustain his dreams this year of putting up a taco business. 

"Itutuloy ko din yung pagiging rider kasi hindi naman ako basta-basta gumigive up, doon pa rin ako sa kung ano yung nasimulan ko eh tatapusin," he said. "Sa ngayon gusto ko sana dagdagan, magkaroon ng business kumbaga tapos palaguin pa rin."

The Philippines expects to immunize at least 70 million of its people this year but is working to negotiate orders for up to 92 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, nearly 20 million more than its initial target, due to global supply woes.

And as uncertainty continues to loom over the world during the pandemic, Filipinos like Calimlim and Palmos hope that grit and resilience can power them through.

Continue reading below ↓

"Laban lang no matter what. There's always hope and there's always a solution," Palmos said.

"Lahat tayo nahirapan talaga pero sana huwag tayong susuko. Lahat naman tayo ang nasa isip palagi pamilya at paano ito itataguyod. Nandyan ang Diyos, dasal lang. Alam kong gagawa ng paraan lagi ang Diyos para sa ikabubuti natin," Calimlim added.


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