PERSPECTIVES: Racing Through the Pandemic

At this point of the ongoing community quarantine, the idea of a “new normal” has been looming closer and closer to our consciousness until we reach that point where the virus gets completely eradicated, or, at the least, a vaccine be discovered to protect us from the virus, living amidst COVID-19 is a reality we soon will be compelled to face.

True, we are all anxious as we see the rise and fall on the number of confirmed cases announced on the daily. We become hopeful with the number of recovered cases, and we break our hearts as we see the number of deaths that sweep the nation day after day. At best, we try to arm ourselves with face masks, face shields, hand sanitizers, and most of all, prayers that we will not contract nor bring home the virus.

Whether we like it or not, this pandemic will, and in fact, has already brought unimaginable changes in our lives–from the way we do business, how we interact with people, and how we feel about our fellow men. 

Arbie Jacinto, advertising agency top executive, car collector, racing champion. and president-elect of The Rotary Club Mandaluyong Premier District 3800, says, “Like everyone else, I had to adjust initially. It was an abrupt change from getting to go anywhere anytime. I wanted to just stay within the confines of my home for the whole day. I don’t even keep track of the days anymore. It was more of a day-night situation. With all my spare time, I got to thinking about the more important things in life like spending quality time with my family.”

The “New Normal” of Business

Since the enhanced community quarantine was imposed on March 15, Jacinto has parked his cars in the pits and, like everyone else, has been spending most of his time at home with his family. “Honestly, it feels uncomfortable for me, there’s like an itch you wanna scratch but you can’t because there are restrictions we need to follow. I feel like a fish out of water,” he says. “I miss my daily activities of course. Going to the office. I never thought I’d miss going to meetings this much,” he adds breaking to a laugh.

To date, the ad man’s new normal means staying at home and conducting meetings via through the Internet. “We meet online for my meetings and spend the rest of the time with one on one coaching through calls kaya gamit na gamit ang earphones ngayon (my earphones are starting to get worn out) to protect my self from radiation. Iba pa rin ang meeting sa board room but I guess we all need to adjust (Having a meeting in a board room is still a different experience but I guess we all need to adjust),” he explains. “Our operations start at 9 am, but before that, we ask our employees to let us know about their health condition so we may be able to monitor their well-being.”

The unprecedented impact of the global health crisis has been immensely felt across industries and around the world. For the first time in history, ads have stopped running on mainstream media, and the millions of eyeballs along EDSA dwindled down to a fraction of what it used to be. However, no matter what the state of advertising is today, Jacinto believes that it will persist and still make a comeback. 

“This crisis will radically change the landscape in terms of a shift in consumer spending and preference. As a result, it will also affect advertisers’ strategies and choice of medium. As expected, the advertising budget is always the first to get axed when a company’s revenues go south. Advertising is expected to be compressed in the short-run though it’s still too early to predict. Everything is still uncertain at this stage,” he notes.

“As the virus sweeps across the country, people might not be interested in watching ads anymore since the audience is more interested in real-time updates on what is happening in the country and there might not be room for consuming ads. What we can do now, as an industry, is to take any opportunity to help people in crisis, and be more discerning in creating goodwill. Naturally, people will remember the worthy and helpful things that your business has done,“ he continues.

The Bayanihan Spirit

If there is one good thing that every other crisis has brought about in every Filipino, it would be our spirit of bayanihan (solidarity)– our willingness to help those who are in need. Rich or poor alike, we all have extended a hand, be it through a can of sardines, a kilo of rice, a box of facemasks, or a small tip for our Grab/Lalamove driver, we all showed our fellow Filipinos that we care. 

“What is remarkable in our community is the ‘bayanihan‘ spirit. I saw that even people who have just enough are more than willing to share. I guess this also proves how resilient we are as a nation. We’ve gone through so many national calamities in the past and we’ve always gotten back to our feet. I’m just positive that we can also surpass this health and economic crisis,” Jacinto declares.

As of this writing, Jacinto, together with friends from different organizations, and in coordination with the respective Mayors of each city, has delivered truckloads of rice to San Juan, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Valenzuela, among many others.

“As the ECQ was extended, more and more communities had shortages in food resources, so I was able to coordinate with suppliers and purchased and donated sacks of rice to affected areas to somehow alleviate the insufficiency of the supply,” he shares.

When asked how this passion for helping others came about, Jacinto discloses, “It was more of a gradual eye-opener for me. Like anyone else, as we go through maturing in life and being able to acquire what we have now, I’ve learned to only look at your neighbor’s bowl to make sure that they have enough, and not to check if you have as much as they have.”