Flower vendors at the “Langihan Market” here have endured the steady decline in sales following the emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases here and in nearby Agusan del Norte in March this year.
The city’s biggest public market was even ordered temporarily closed for over a week when some of its stall owners and vendors tested positive for the dreaded virus in the last week of August 2020.
After the temporary closure, an alternating schedule for the opening of stalls was imposed by the city government to ensure the safety of store occupants and buyers alike.
“Our roses are still red and the other flowers still bloom as well. Only that buyers seldom visit us nowadays,” said flower vendor Jovelyn Magallanes, 39, married with one child. “It’s different before when this virus was not yet pestering us.”
Selling fresh flowers has been part of her life, Magallanes said, a business her family started when her child was just four years old.
“Now she is 18 and I am still here, fighting for our family business despite the very slow sale and the meager earning we have every day,” Magallanes said.
The supply of roses and other variety of flowers at the Langihan Market comes from Claveria, Misamis Oriental, in the neighboring region of Northern Mindanao.
“Before the pandemic, I used to call our supplier to deliver flowers daily. Now I only ask my supplier to deliver twice, oftentimes once a week,” Magallanes said.
Roses, she added, is among the in-demand flowers before, as she could sell around 200 roses a day at PHP10 each.
Today, she said, she could barely sell 15 roses a day.
Aside from movement restrictions imposed on residents, Magallanes noted that usual crowd-drawing activities such as feasts, weddings, baptisms, graduations, burials, and other social gatherings have been prohibited to ensure physical distancing.
Flower vendors are also not expected to make lots of cash during All Saints Day and All Souls Day because of the temporary closure of cemeteries, Magallanes added.
“We understand what the government is doing. The threat of Covid-19 is real. There are already deaths here in Butuan and in Caraga. This pandemic is a great risk to us,” she said.
Another flower vendor, 34-year-old Daisy Flores, said she used to sell over 100 roses a day until the Covid-19 pandemic cut more than half of her sales.
“Our buyers used to line-up in our stalls. There are 10 stalls for flowers here in Langihan before. Now, only five of us (are trying to) survive this pandemic. Other stall owners decided to temporarily close down due to the decline of their sales,” Flores said.
Both Magallanes and Flores vowed not to close shop despite the harsh environment they face amid the pandemic.
“I believe we can get out of this situation. The government is doing its best to defeat Covid-19,” Flores said, noting the various assistance extended by the government so that small businesses like theirs can survive.
“I will not stop selling flowers here. As long as the government continues to implement the 4Ps program, my family can still survive and I know that sooner, this pandemic will be gone,” Flores said.
4Ps stand for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Magallanes also thanked the DSWD and the city government of Butuan for the assistance her family received during the crisis.
“Last May of this year, when the effect of the crisis started to reduce my sales, the social amelioration program (SAP) of the government came and saved us,” Magallanes said.
During the temporary lockdown of the market last August, she was also among the hundreds of vendors who received support from the local government.
“Every morning when I open my store, the red roses and the blooming flowers always inspire me and tell me to move on despite the difficulties,” Magallanes said. (PNA)