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The reopening of tourist attractions in Pangasinan has been welcomed by food merchants

Pangasinan’s LINGAYEN. Thanks to the restoration of tourist attractions, small business owners are starting to recover after two years of pandemic-related losses.

RJ Casaclang, a buko (coconut) juice vendor from this municipality, reopened his business in November 2021, after the province was downgraded to Alert Level 2 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, allowing for more freedom of movement and big gatherings.

Since 2015, he has been selling buko juice along Lingayen Beach, earning at least PHP300 throughout the week and almost PHP1,000 on weekends.

When the epidemic struck in March 2020, Casaclang, 28, tried fishing, construction labor, selling plastic scraps, and even drain cleaning to support his two children, ages 7 and 2.

“Nagawa ko yung mga bagay na di ko inakala na magiging trabaho ko para lang may ipakain sa pamilya ko,” he told the Philippines News Agency.

He now makes an average of PHP200 each day, which is sufficient for his family’s daily requirements. Despite this, he has noted that there are fewer tourists than there were prior to the pandemic.

“Ang takot sa virus ay marami pa rin, pero nasasanay na ang mga tao sa social distancing at pagsusuot ng face mask.” (People are still afraid of the virus, but they are becoming accustomed to the social distance policy and the wearing of masks.) I’m hoping we can get back to where we were before),” he remarked.

Cotton candy vendor Jun-jun Corpuz, a 27-year-old father of three, agreed that he had to work more harder now.

He gets his products from his uncle and sells them for PHP10 to PHP15 each. He earns between PHP150 and PHP300 every day selling along Lingayen Beach’s baywalk from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Corpuz, who lives in Mangaldan, about 22 kilometers from this municipality, said he used to sell his items outside a mall in Dagupan City but moved to the province’s capital when the tourist attraction reopened to the public.

“Mas okay na dito kasi dumadami na ang turista (Mas okay na dito kasi dumadami na ang turista),” he remarked.

He worked as a construction worker to feed his family before the pandemic, but he said he still prefers selling cotton candy because it pays better.

Rolly Edaunga of Bugallon town, an ice cream vendor, is grateful for the reopening of the tourism business because he no longer has to rely on his friends and relatives to support his family of six.

Prior to the epidemic, he hired a motorcycle for PHP120 per day and went to the beaches of Anda, Agno, Alaminos, and Bolinao to serve ice cream.

“But dito na lang po ako ngayon sa Lingayen kasi mahal ang gasolina,” he explained, “since oil prices have skyrocketed.”

He claimed he received government food handouts when the virus struck.

“Buti na lang, may mga nagbigay sa amin ng mga kaibigan at kamag-anak,” says the narrator. Kaya maswerte na lang at pwede na uli akong magtinda (It’s a good thing some friends and relatives came to our rescue.) I’m just fortunate that I’m able to resume selling now),” he continued.

Armando De Guzman, who rents out cottages along the Lingayen Baywalk, said that while business is still slow, they now have everyday customers.

On weekdays, he leases out his 12 cottages for PHP300 to PHP500 for a maximum of 12 hours, and on weekends, he rents them out for PHP1,000.

“Hindi na kami ghost town ngayon, ‘di tulad nung kasagsagan ng pandemic (We’re no longer a ghost town),” he remarked.

He claims that pre-pandemic business operations are unlikely to occur again because some individuals are still wary about Covid-19.

“Hindi kami nasi-zero, ang mahalaga.” May kita pa rin araw-araw (What matters is that we now have consistent profits.) We still make money on a regular basis),” he remarked.

He remarked that commerce is strong prior to the epidemic, such as during Holy Week.

“But this year, Byernes Santo lang sumipa ang business, hindi tulad dati na Lunes pa lang punuan na (But this year, we only had decent sales on Good Friday, unlike last year when we were fully booked starting Holy Monday),” he explained.

“‘Yung ipon namin mula sa negosyo ang sumalba sa amin nung natigil ang turismo dahil sa pandemic,” says the narrator. When tourism ceased during the pandemic, our savings from our business income saved us. We’re hoping that this will continue),” he continued.

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