Tikoy sales surge as Filipinos, Chinese welcome Lunar New Year despite pandemic

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2021 10:01 PM

MANILA — Sales of 'tikoy' or the sticky rice cake have surged despite the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread financial hardships among consumers that made manufacturers of the popular giveaway treat actually brace for a bad month especially since the traditional way of celebrating Chinese New Year will not be observed this year.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Abigail Tin, marketing manager of Polland Hopia, said the demand for tikoys for the upcoming Lunar New Year on Feb. 12 surprised the company.

Tin believes that the people's desire to change their luck — from bad to good by sharing or consuming the delicacy — is one of the reasons for the strong sales.

"Business is quite booming. We were expecting it to go a bit slower because of the pandemic, lockdowns and everything,” Tin said. 

“It is more of [a] symbolism for us Chinese. Even if it was a bad year last year, you can’t stop it, we will celebrate Chinese New Year. The symbol of bringing luck, gusto nating sumuwerte. If I buy tikoy, it will change my luck for the better,” she added.

The Filipino word tikoy is adapted from the Hokkien/Fujian word ti (sweet) and ke (cake). It is made of glutinous rice, lard, water, and sugar, pounded into a paste and usually formed into a round shape.

It is considered good luck to eat the glutinous rice cake at this time of year.

 TRADITION, GIFT GIVING AMID PANDEMIC

Rice retailer Joseph Concepcion had a lot of what he considered as bad luck because of the pandemic. But he felt lucky for his store to be still open, even if many of his regular customers no longer showed up.

“Mahigit 70 percent [na kita] ang nawala. Kumbaga, hindi na sapat para sa upa, sa pagkain namin. Kung hindi ka nakapag-ipon noong araw, hindi na rin kami kakain,” Concepcion said.

(We lost more than 70 percent of our income. And we no longer had enough to pay for the rent, for our food. If we were not able to save up before, maybe we won't be able to eat anymore.)

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Despite the hardship, he said he would still give out tikoy this year, even if he needed to squeeze this into his already stretched budget.

“Nagbibigay pa rin naman kami kahit papa'no. Pero nag-adjust na rin. Kumbaga katulad ng Pasko, imbis na magbigay ka ng P100, gagawin mo lang P50 kasi wala ka ring huhugutin. Para bang mairaos lang,” he said. 

(Somehow, we still share. But we made some adjustments. Just like during Christmas, instead of giving out P100, P50 will do because there's barely any cash you can get, and it's just to get through it.)

“Basta, para makapagbigay ka. Kasi nakikita mo yung mga tao, puro wala nga, tapos di mo pa sila aabutan. Kahit papano, ‘yung konting kasiyahan lang.”

(It's important to share. Because, you see people have nothing, and yet, you won't give them anything. Somehow, let's make people a bit happy.)

Construction supply store owner Albert Choa, meanwhile, said the gifting of tikoy during Chinese New Year is a tradition that needs to be followed, noting that the act implies strength and resilience. 

“Magbigay tayo ng tikoy, dahil 'yan ay isang tradition naming mga Chinese. Kaya yung tikoy matamis at malagkit, malaki at maliit. Yung malagkit, 'yung mga kapamilya niyo, kaibigan, magkakasama kayo… Yung tamis, yung tamis ng pagmamahalan n'yo,” he said. 

(We need to give tikoy because it is a tradition among Chinese. Its stickiness represents the relationship among families, among friends. Its sweetness pertains to your love for each other.)

Filipina business-owner Elma Birad said she is also looking forward to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

“Di ako nagreregalo. Kumbaga, ako ang binibigyan ng mga Chinese… kasi dumidikit ang suwerte… Kasi, ano, nagbibigay ng suwerte gawa ng, sabi daw eh dumidikit kasi malagkit 'di ba?” 

(In my case, I always receive tikoys from the Chinese... It's for good luck. Its stickiness represents attracting good luck, right?)

All expressed hope that luck everyone's luck will change for the better in the coming Year of the Ox.