Care in the time of COVID-19

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2020 - 12:00am

While driving my old but compliant pick-up truck the other day, I was listening to the radio when I chanced upon an interview about how companies are coping with COVID-19. The interviewees, two very engaging and knowledgeable speakers from Century Pacific Food Inc. (CPFI), were discussing what the company has been doing to keep up with the demand for stable supply and for donations. Intrigued, I called the daughter of one of my friends who also works there, and she told me about all the measures that CPFI has put in place to ensure stability, security and safety. Suffice to say, I was quite impressed with what I heard.

During the strict lockdown, there was a big spike in demand for canned goods, as people were panic-buying to ensure that they would always have food at home. I was reminded of how at the beginning of the lockdown there were purchase restrictions in place, especially for staple items like tuna and sardines, to keep people from hoarding them and clearing out the shelves in a panic-buy. I never noticed, however, a lack of supply on the part of this cannery. This was thanks to careful planning, precise supply chain management and strict security and safety protocols for employees on and off the production floor that CPFI enacted at the start of the pandemic.

After chatting with my friend’s daughter, I found out that CPFI in particular applied very tight measures in order to ensure that their workers would be happy, healthy and safe. Apart from the usual shuttle services, meals and PPEs, CPFI went a few steps further and issued generous provisions of frontliner incentives, food and financial assistance for all employees. They did this on top of coordinating with external firms and ensuring that people in their surrounding communities who needed help were given the food and the support that they needed.

Now, after more than six months in quarantine, I can only imagine what the world would have been like if we had just let things go on as they were. It’s interesting to note that after a lot of big crises, the world finds a way of picking itself up and moving onto better things.

Historically speaking, major crises have tended to empower people towards positive change. The Black Death saw the end of serfdom and indentured servitude in Europe (for Europeans). The Great War saw the beginning of stronger unions and the end of the 12-hour workday. In addition to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the war resulted in a shortage of working men, so it followed that many jobs were opened to women for the first time. As a result, women gained more power to fight for higher wages and the right to vote. In short, it is a normal occurrence for extreme economic or social inequality to shrink in a meaningful way following a major crisis.

In the case of COVID-19, it helped reveal what needed fixing, or what was in the process of breaking in our economy. Before the pandemic, many employers were more focused on pleasing shareholders rather than employees, customers and communities. However, with the dramatic shake-up, more companies have finally realized that being people-centric is the foundation of good business.

The changes that CPFI have made are an obvious indicator that we can embrace opportunities to uplift and empower the workforce. They have made it clear that they are here for their employees, and that in turn translates to profits, smoother processes and an uninterrupted supply chain. More companies and organizations would do well to follow suit and ride the wave of this Century.

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ERRATUM: I said in my column Thursday last week that Jeanne Sy Krebs is president of Busco Sugar Milling Company. She is vice president for corporate planning. Busco is a privately held corporation with three other partners. The board has not held a meeting due to the COVID pandemic. Jeanne’s father, Julio Sy Sr., remained president until he passed away.

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A visit to Butuan City is complete only when you dine or spend the night at Almont Inland Resort. The first time I was there, I was surprised to find a quiet, pleasant place tucked a few feet off the busy Aquino Avenue. For almost two decades, Almont Inland Resort is considered one of the best entertainment places in the CARAGA region. It’s only a 10-minute ride away from the airport and accessible to city malls and other recreational establishments.

Friday last week, my husband Saeed and I had lunch there with two medical doctors from Butuan Doctors Hospital – Dr. Antonio Montalban, an orthopedic specialist, and his wife, Dr. Antoniette Montalban, a neurologist. We often see Tony when we’re in the city, he and Saeed being members of the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity (as you know, Upsilonians are brods forever, wherever they may be). It was a relief to find the resort open amid the COVID-19 restrictions. “We have always been open but practicing protocols,” Carl Patrick Ballesteros, assistant marketing manager of the resort, told us. The restrictions allow only 50 percent of diners and guests in the restaurant and the 56 rooms (executive suites, junior suites, 16 deluxe and 32 standard rooms). There are 12 indoor and open air banquet venues suitable for conventions, seminars and special events. Wearing masks and plastic face shields, hand-washing and safe distancing are strictly observed.

As we had made reservations for lunch at the Manay Maling restaurant in advance, we asked Adelfa Pace, executive director, to prepare the menu. We were escorted inside a neatly designed function room, while diners were at tables in the open dining room. We were first served a nice drink of tanglad and honey, followed by the main courses – a large Balangay Feast, a boodle of seafood bounty – crabs and shrimps, paella and broiled ketong, kinilaw and baby back ribs. Instead of eating our dessert, we took home really delicious versions of the popular pan de sal, with fillings of ube and yema.

Overlooking the restaurant are temptingly swimmable lagoon-styled pools for adults and kids. Other recreation facilities are a basketball court, billiards and dart corners, and zumba sessions.

Adelfa was with the Almont Inland Resort hotel three years after it opened, and retired the other year but was prevailed upon by management to stay, as executive director. She said a sister hotel, Almont City Hotel, is in another part of the city, with a high ceiling foyer that extends to an al-fresco courtyard garden. Both AIR and ACH are owned by Bluewater Resorts which has resorts in Surigao, Bohol and Cebu.

While we were feasting on the seafood bounty, Adel got a call from Manila – from Margie Munsayac, Bluewater Resorts vice president for sales and marketing, and Pete Dacuycuy, PR consultant. They had made arrangements for our lunch and asked if we enjoyed it. Yes, we did, and we wanted to stay longer, but if night befell us on our way back to Gingoog city, where Saeed and I are residing now, we would have to be quarantined for 14 days.

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