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We Can't Work From Home: Intramuros Vendors Pin Hopes on Tourism

No tourist means no earnings for them.
by Ara Eugenio
Mar 24, 2021
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano
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(Editor's Note: The interviews in this story were done before Metro Manila was locked in a 14-day quarantine bubble that is scheduled to end on April 4, 2021)

When "stay at home" became the rallying point of Filipinos against the COVID-19 pandemic, puppet-maker Enrique Paez summoned all resolve to comply with the government's orders. 

As a street vendor who relied on tourists visiting historic Intramuros, working from home wasn't an option. He is among the hundreds of hawkers rendered "non-essential" during the pandemic.

Like all tourist attractions, Intamuros in Manila were shut for over 11 months. He was beaming with joy when three of the walled city's favored spots finally reopened albeit many restrictions in February.  

"Ang saya ko, talagang ang saya ko. Balik na naman, gawa ako ng puppet ko, eto balik buhay," Paez said. 

Jerome Ascano
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His ultimate wish remains to be a complete return to normal, where children, his usual clients, could go out and he would be able to sell more of his puppets.  

"Sa awa ng diyos, walang nagkasakit sa amin. Yun palang malaking blessing na sakin yun. Sabihin na, na yung hanapbuhay ko nawala, nairaos naman yung pamilya ko. Pasalamat na run. Pero the big thankful ay yung magbukas ulit to, at kahit papano, kahit paunti-unti maibalik yung dating buhay namin," he said. 

When the pandemic hit, Paez relied on the little savings he had just to keep his family fed. 

Jerome Ascano
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"Hindi naman ba yung iniisip natin yung yumaman pa, makaraos lang, maganda-ganda na. Hindi katulad nung kalabit-pahingi ka. 'Pwede ba, pwede bang makautang? 'Dun ko dinanas yung bumaba talaga nang husto na 'di ko naman ginagawa noon," he added.

Hat vendor Vilman Lagbas also faced a similar ordeal. Throughout the string of lockdowns that left Fort Santiago void of tourists, he had to rely on his children for support. 

When it finally reopened, he had to begin selling bottled water, on top of the usual hats and bows, to add to his earnings. 

"Hat po kasi talaga tinitinda ko kaya lang sa pagkakataong po 'to, mahina po. Kaya sabi ko mag-aano nalang ako kahit tubig, kahit kaunting tubo po. Tumubo lang ako ng 7 pesos, okay lang po. Nakasampu akong benta may 70 pesos na rin po ako," he said.

Jerome Ascano
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"Laki pong oportunidad na nabuksan po itong Intramuros uli kasi malaking bagay po na nagkaroon po ulit kami ng pagkakataong kumita po," Lagpas said. 

"Minsan isa o dalawa lang ang benta ko, minsan panggasolina ko lang po, pangkain ko lang maghapon. Okay lang po sabi ko, pinapapasalamat ko lang sa panginoon palagi na hindi kami nagkaroon ng sakit," he added.

Theirs are only two of five stories featured in a #SummitOriginals video that compiles interviews with vendors who were asked how the pandemic changed their lives. It was meant to come out in time for Holy week, a time they were all looking forward to as they expected more visitors to come to the walled city.

But with the rising surge in effections' triggering of stricter lockdown restrictions, all tourist spots in the area are once again closed. In turn, the livelihoods of these vendors are once again paused.

More of their stories in this #SummitOriginals video:

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