Plants and sushi bake: Filipinos bet on low-budget 'rakets' to survive pandemic

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2020 03:39 PM

MANILA - From beautifying brides, professional make-up artist Ricee Agripalo now sells "sushi bake" after the coronavirus lockdowns put the wedding industry to a halt since March. 

Agripalo said she used to have a calendar full of weddings and pre-nuptial appointments but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events have been suspended, along with her prolific income.

Her partner, who works in the photo and video industry, was also affected by the lockdowns.

The entire island of Luzon was placed under lockdown in March to contain the spread of COVID-19. Businesses, except essentials were forced shut. 

To provide for her 2 children, Agripalo turned to her other passion, which is cooking, jumping into the sushi bake craze. A tub costs P120 which she sells online. 

Sushi bake is deconstructed maki rolls using Japanese rice, salmon or crab meat with cheese but is served in a baking pan. Consumers need to assemble the food using nori flakes or seaweed wrapper before consumption.

"Naisip ko po ito, dahil, wala pong pumapasok na pera sa min, puro palabas po ang pera ngayon at kailangang kumilos. Kung hindi mauubusan po kami ng savings. At the same time mahilig din naman po akong magluto, Agripalo told ABS-CBN News. 

(I thought about doing this since we have no income, everything is outwards and we need to do something. If not, we will drain our savings at the same time, I also enjoy cooking. 

Plants and sushi bake: Filipinos bet on low-budget 'rakets' to survive pandemic 1
Ricee Agripalo opened Tasty Sushi PH during the coronavirus pandemic. Handout

Many Filipinos who permanently or temporarily lost their jobs were quick to pivot to home-based, online and low-budget businesses to earn a living during the pandemic.

Today, Agripalo said she sells up to 45 tubs a week, noting that curious buyers boost her sales. 

"Mahirap po, mahirap sumugal ng puhunan. Dahil alam din po naming karamihan sa mga tao ngayon ay gipit din. Kaya dapat po talaga maging wise sa paggastos sa panahong ganito," she said.

(It's difficult to spend on capital since a lot of people are short on funds. That's why you need to be wise on spending during this time)

Creative businessmen, no matter the size of their firms, can easily pivot to more sustainable means of living, said Philippine Commission on Women OIC project manager Carmen Lopez on Teleradyo.

"Ngayon po creative ang ating mga babaeng negosyante all over the country. Hindi na lang po sila nalimita sa pagpo-produce ng mga pagkain pero may iba po talaga na nag-pivot sa ibang bagay. Kumbaga gumawa sila ng ibang produkto," Lopez said.

"Babalik na lang daw po sila sa kanilang original na produkto pag natapos na ang quarantine," she added.

As the pandemic disrupts major industries such as aviation, tourism, transport and almost every business there is, unemployment ballooned 17.7 percent in April which translates to 7.3 million jobless Filipinos.

Home-based and low-capital businesses which do not require hiring staff and highly technical skills proved to be the most popular alternative during the pandemic, financial adviser Salve Duplito told ABS-CBN News.

Banking on digital platforms also helped home-based business reach consumers, Duplito said. 

"In selling plants all you need is dirt, a pot and patience... companies are pivoting digitally and don’t have money to hire full time staff," Duplito said. 

Chef and culinary instructor 29-year old Michael John Nicasio temporarily shelved his toque to sell indoor house plants during the pandemic. 

Nicasio saw an opportunity in selling ornamental plants by tapping condo dwellers forced to stay indoors during the pandemic. He said sales "we're doing well."

"Dahil sa mga dahilan na ang mga tao ay nasa bahay lang dahil sa quarantine and most of the people in Metro Manila are condo living, I wanted to promote a relaxing sight to them and life inside their homes, which is the plant," Nicasio said.

(Since everyone is at home during the quarantine and most are in living in condos in Metro Manila... I wanted to promote a relaxing sight to them and life inside their homes, which is the plant.)

Aside from the health benefits of indoor plants, having a house plant could also enhance well-being and mental health, the self-confessed "plantito" said. 

Although it's hard to compete with tons of sellers online and surging delivery rates, Nicasio said being flexible in pricing helped grow the business.

His plants ranges from P250 to P3,000, with the Monstera Deliciosa variety and other rare plants as the most expensive.

Plants and sushi bake: Filipinos bet on low-budget 'rakets' to survive pandemic 2
The self-confessed plantito said his passion for plants inspired him to sell ornamental plants online through his Let's Make Tanim Facebook Page. Handout

Diverting to plants made him realize his other passion, too, Nicasio said. 

"Isa din ako sa nawalan ng pagkakakitaan at rakets, mahirap talaga sa panahon ngayon, dahil hindi madali ang pinagdaraanan ng lahat pati ng ekonomiya. Huwag lang mawalan ng pag-asa, always think of another plan to get back on track. At malay mo baka ma-discover mo pa ang iba mo pang hilig sa buhay," he said.

(I am one of those who lost their income, its difficult during this time since the economy is suffering. But don't lose hope, always think of other plans to get back on track. Who knows you might end up discovering your other passions in life.)

Duplito said those who lost their jobs could also explore reselling popular items or engaging in disinfection businesses which are currently in demand due to COVID-19.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier said small businesses earning below P250,000 annually were exempted from paying taxes. The agency, however, encouraged all those doing business online to register.