MANILA, PHILIPPINES – On Philippine Independence Day 2020, one hundred twenty-two years after declaring our independence, the country is ravaged by the coronavirus with the number of infected reaching 18,000.
Digital advertising company AdSpark released a study entitled “Digital: The Flag of Freedom in 2020.” In it, they examine how Filipinos have used digital to continue living despite the quarantine period that has covered Metro Manila for three months.
The study notes that the Philippines has seen an increase in internet penetration by 10 percent from last year. It now sits at 67 percent well above both the global (59 percent) and APAC (56 percent) average.
Using AdSpark Intelligence, AdSpark marked four key areas that were examples of how Filipinos harnessed the power of digital to overcome difficulties:
Digital is key to essentials like health
The ECQ’s limitations prevented Filipinos from leaving their household except for things such as food, medicine, and vitamins while supply runs became tough due to low supplies in stores. Fear of going out due to anxiety over contracting COVID-19 made it worse but food and medicine were still necessary to survive.
Thus, some Filipinos saw Viber groups or community threads online to ease the delivery of food within a neighborhood. Healthcare workers were able to utilize digital channels to improve their reach through services like telehealth. Online conversations regarding telehealth and online medical consultations peaked during the start of the ECQ and have been steadily talked about since.
The transition to online learning
The March lockdown forced many schools who were winding down their academic year to either move online or end prematurely. Yet the move to e-learning/distance education hasn’t been smooth with both teachers and students being thrust to try it with zero preparation time.
Many Filipinos who now had to stay home, also decided to spend their time wisely by hopping on the internet and taking online courses to upskill for their career and their hobbies. One example even took over 20 different online courses in one month from 14 different universities.
While the majority consumed more career-related training and online classes such as digital marketing, web programming, and e-marketing, others wanted to learn more about their hobbies such as cooking, sewing, and even playing the guitar.
Dessert recipes galore
As food remains an essential commodity due to limited supply, Filipinos have found ways to learn more about cooking, using limited ingredients in creative ways. A fixation over banana bread emerged with the term and its ingredients to break into the top 10 searched in the food category.
#Bananabread on TikTok alone reached almost 80 million views because of its simple instructions and use of very common ingredients: bananas, flour, sugar, and eggs. This led to banana bread and the ingredients to break into the top 10 searches in the food category in the Philippines.
With shopping malls and restaurants closed, Filipinos have been finding ways to entertain their mouths and stomachs by learning how to bake and try new dessert recipes.
Among the top 20 search topics during the months of the ECQ, search topics were dominated by desserts and simple recipes for sweet food and beverages. This included banana cake, banana bread, Maja Blanca, Dalgona coffee, coffee jelly, cookies, and others.
Making work, work
“Work From Home” became a reality that many only dreamed of due to the pandemic. After all, the economy still needed to move because people still needed their salaries but social distancing and restrictions to contain human movement altered the landscape. Most businesses weren’t prepared for the shift but some entrepreneurs were able to do the digital pivot to meet the needs of an adjusted marketplace.
Risa’s Chocolates owner Pam Cinco talked about how digital has become an enabler for her business and is now an integral part of it that can thrive with current restrictions with online delivery as her current reality and the future of her business. Former freelance digital artist Sam Lara was forced to move from her creative freelance job to a frozen meat supply. She added that there are more clients and income now, but still not as much as before COVID-19.
Pinoy ingenuity faces new challenges but armed with technology
Whatever the terminology for the status of quarantine, it seems less and less likely that Filipinos will be able to roam around their cities like they used to. Unless a vaccine is discovered and distributed, the freedom of movement that we enjoyed becomes less realistic.
Yet dogged determination coupled with inventiveness in the use of technology and online channels as embodied in the Filipino term “diskarte” is giving our countrymen at least some semblance of hope that this very difficult situation can be overcome or, at the very least, managed.
The global effects of this pandemic are clearly unprecedented and have led to several chaotic scenarios, yet Filipinos have survived world wars, dictators, natural calamities (several times a year), and other adverse situations. COVID-19 has been a sobering lesson for Filipinos on proper hygiene, respect for healthcare workers, frontliners, and first responders.
Yet as we celebrate Independence Day in 2020, far removed from Aguinaldo waving our flag for the first time in Kawit, Cavite, the pandemic has also taught us that digital can be a great equalizer for different facets of our lives. In spite of so many restrictions, both forced and unforced, that we have suddenly been confronted with, digital has allowed some of us to still live and even flourish in ways we did not think possible.
Read more on AdSpark’s website