Bah, humbug or are we “Scrooging” this Christmas?

(First of two parts)

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BACOLOD CITY – Larry (not his real name) looks across the main dining hall of his restaurant, gets a table napkin and wipes the sweat off his forehead as the sun casts an orange-red hue. “Kahinay gid sang kwarta subong (Money is hard to come by nowadays),” he said.

Restaurant owners measure a good day of sales offhand by the number of tables filled. In short, customers sitting around tables.

It was nearing dinner service and only five were filled so far.

Months ago, it would be normal in the country’s sugar bowl, Negros Occidental when the tiempo muerto or off-milling season is at its peak.

TIYEMPO GALING: Field workers load cut sugarcane workers onto a truck in a hacienda in Negros Occidental during the milling season in 2015. | Photo by Julius D. Meriveles Christmas
TIYEMPO GALING: Field workers load cut sugarcane workers onto a truck in a hacienda in Negros Occidental during the milling season in 2015. | Photo by Julius D. Meriveles

From the months up to August, work slows down or stops altogether in the vast sugarcane plantations. Money plays hide and seek, the local economy gets sniffles. Sugar, after all, is still the main driver of the local economy.

As it has been for almost a century.

But the “ber” months, however, are supposed to usher in bright days, or as the current “sugod galing (start of milling season)” myth goes.

Is it?

True, Jose Mari Chan has become an ubiquitous presence once again over terrestial radio, with some stations giving him more airplay, especially his “Christmas In Our Hearts” track. His memes, too, have been popping on our social media feeds as Filipinos started the longest annual Christmas observance last September.

Too, malls and department stores have spruced up their Christmas theme decorations and some already have their Santa Claus impersonators who look pale and wan.

TIYEMPO MUERTO: A sugarworker's son eats cassava grilled on an open fire for dinner during the dead season in 2015. | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
TIYEMPO MUERTO: A sugarworker’s son eats cassava grilled on an open fire for dinner during the dead season in 2015. | Photo by Julius D. Meriveles

Economic observers describe the current economic mood as brought about by the lack of investor confidence, and a hesitation in consumer spending that contribute the slowing down of the velocity of money.

Quite a mouthful?

In simple terms, picture this.

While malls have gone on Yuletide mode, only a few shoppers go out with full grocery bags.

Why?

Are we becoming like Ebenezer Scrooge who don’t like the Christmas spirit?

DNX talked to people in the community and these are some of what we found out:

Brexit, Sino-American standoff, etc.

To businessman Frank Carbon, four factors influenced the current economic mood.

Two are global events with local implications and the others are domestic events that influenced how consumers spend their money.

In part two: how is the US-Sino standoff affecting us and where are consumers spending their money?

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