Tagaytay businesses share woes after Taal eruption, express optimism on recovery
Rosette Adel, Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - February 4, 2020 - 9:10pm

TAGAYTAY, Philippines — Weeks after Taal Volcano erupted to life, several business establishments in the upland city of Tagaytay are slowly getting back to their feet and recovering from their losses.

Tagaytay City in Cavite, known for its cool weather and magnificent view of Taal Lake, draws thousands of tourists daily, especially on weekends.

The eruption of the country’s second most active volcano shut down businesses—fruit and food stalls, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and leisure parks—in the tourist city.

Bitter sales

The Taal eruption also affected the sales of stalls at the Mahogany Market that sell coffee sourced from Batangas and Cavite.

The stall that Reinhart Lita tends could sell coffee worth up to P20,000 on a normal day. But when Alert Level 4 was still raised over Taal—discouraging tourists from visiting Tagaytay—Lita considered himself a lucky man when he managed to earn only P2,000.

“The sales were really slow. It was really sad because there were no customers,” he said, noting the stall remained open even during the critical days of the eruption because drinking water is sold there.

Lita said that while the supply of robusta—sourced from Cavite—was not affected by the volcano’s unrest, the country’s specialty barako coffee took a hit from the eruption. They get their barako from Lipa, Batangas.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the ash unleashed by Taal damaged 4,309 hectares of coffee pegged at P360.5 million.

Industry group Philippine Coffee Board Inc. said it does not expect good harvest for coffee in Cavite and Batangas this year and even until 2021. PCBI estimated the losses this year at 600 million to as high as P1 billion.

But the board assured there would not be much effect on the prices of coffee.

Lita was optimistic they would recover the losses now that the situation has begun to normalize.

“Residents were allowed to go home and the situation has improved, which will attract people from Manila to go here,” he said.

Temporary closure

The Taal unrest also spelled a hard time for pasalubong vendor Maricel Sanchez. The stall where she works at had to shut down for two weeks, which meant she had no salary during the days it was closed.

“We had strong sales prior to the volcano eruption. It really affected our business because there were no tourists,” Sanchez said.

She added: “We are lucky if we earned P2,000. We used to earn between P7,000 and P10,000 daily.”

But she expressed confidence that the pasalubong shop would recuperate in no time.

“We can recover from the days when we had little earnings. I think things could return to normal now,” Sanchez said.

Ruby Blasurca, an owner of a bulalo food stall, also had to close her eatery for three days.

She said customers decreased significantly after the eruption. Tagaytay is also visited for its bulalo or bone marrow soup.

“Medyo mabili kami noon, marami pating tao talaga,” Blasurca said.

Blasurca said that although sales only dropped by 1/3, the sales of bulalo stores in the market also dulled down.   

Business no longer green

Plant vendor Leodily Perez said her store in Mahogany Market also used to earn P4,000 to P5,000 daily. However, when they reopened after the eruption, her store struggled to even earn a P100 a day.

“Ang kaibahan nga ho hindi ho talaga kumikita ng maganda ngayon. Kulang na kulang. Talagang merong araw na wala talaga kaming benta,” Perez told Philstar.com.

(The difference is we don’t earn well these days. Truly not enough. There are days when we don’t earn anything.)

Perez said that she used to open her store at 5:30 a.m. and closed it by 8 p.m. However, due to the drop in tourists, some stores close earlier than their usual operating hours.

The plant vendor shared that she closed her shop before the volcano eruption because her husband died. She was at her husband’s wake during the eruption.

“So dito, hindi ko na na-survive ‘yung iba kong halaman kasi nga nasa burol,” Perez said adding that around 10 sacks of plants died following the ashfall.

(So here, I failed to save my other plants because I was at the wake)

“So nalulugi po talaga (We are really losing money),” she said.

In the two weeks of business slump, Perez said that they lost an estimated P50,000.

Despite the losses, Perez is hopeful that they can plant herbs on their backyards again.

“Kailangan lang talaga lang talaga ng puhunan, (We just really need capital),” the vendor said.

Aside from her backyard, Perez sources her plants from Bulacan, Baguio, Laguna and Silang, Cavite. The latter area in Cavite also suffered from ashfall.

Like Perez, Rudy Mercado, a vendor of fruits for almost two decades now, is also feeling the absence of tourists in Tagaytay.

Although there were no changes in prices, Mercado said the quality of fruits suffered, referring to Tagaytay’s homegrown pineapples.

“Medyo pumangit dahil marami ngang gabok (It’s quite uglier now because of the ash),” he said.

In view of this, Mercado said some of them are prompted to shorten hours of operations, affecting their daily sales.

“Minsan maghapon wala kaming benta dahil wala nga pong mamimili. Umuuwi kami (Sometimes we don’t have sales the entire day because no one’s buying. We just go home),” he said.

Help on the way

Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. in a television interview earlier said the tourism's direct and indirect contribution to Tagaytay City amounted to an estimated P1 billion in 2019. 

Calabarzon also posed a total of 6.9 million overnight visitors in the first three quarters last year with 1.1 million of whom staying in Tagaytay City. 

Despite the temporary business and tourism industry slowdown in Tagaytay, the Department of Tourism said it is already coordinating with the National Economic and Development Authority to fund the recovery of the area as a tourism hub.

The National Risk Reduction Management and Council said the eruption also incurred P3.3 billion worth of damage to the city’s agriculture.

He said the national government would use the aid for the recovery and rehabilitation of Taal-hit areas within two months. 

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