Retrenched but thriving: Kapamilyas become entrepreneurs in wake of ABS-CBN shutdown

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2021 08:01 PM

Retrenched but thriving: Kapamilyas become entrepreneurs in wake of ABS-CBN shutdown 1
Members of the board of ABS-CBN console each other after the congressional legislative franchises committee decision voting down the network's application on July 10, 2020. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/file

This article is part of a series commemorating the House of Representatives' 70-11 vote on July 10, 2020 rejecting ABS-CBN's franchise renewal. 

MANILA—After nearly 2 decades of being surrounded by files inside ABS-CBN's hectic newsroom, Mitchelle Tan is now living a more laid-back lifestyle selling plants and decorative pots.

After being retrenched by the Philippines' largest broadcaster last year, Tan invested a portion of her separation pay to mount a business with 3 other ABS-CBN employees.

"Kahit na umiiyak ako, alam ko na kailangan ko magstart ulit, kailangan ko bumangon. Kailangan ko magstart na maging busy ulit, para hindi ako masyado mag-emote," she said.

(Even if I was crying, I knew I had to start anew. I had to get up, I had to start being busy again so that I would not drown in my emotions.)

Just three months after launching their plant venture via Instagram, Tan and her partners have recouped their seed money. About a year after, they have partnered with various plant shops and are now planning to join large e-selling platforms such as Shopee and Lazada.

She credits the fast growth of their business to her 2-decade experience as a logistics officer at ABS-CBN.

After working as a marketing researcher from 1998 to 2001, Tan was tasked with getting accreditation IDs for major news coverages, as well as deploying meals and other necessities for news teams reporting in disaster zones.

"If there's a will, there's a way. If you put your heart into it, you should do everything to get things done," said Tan.

"Hindi ka puwede ma-rattle. Dapat ready ka sa lahat ng obstacles, sa lahat ng challenges."

Jamie Jose, who was also retrenched from the network last year after a House of Representatives panel rejected ABS-CBN's franchise application, has also managed to take part in at least 4 business ventures after working in the production unit of ABS-CBN.

Jose, who started as a production assistant at the Kapamilya network in 1998, now owns a bills payment center, has shares in a gasoline station, and sells food items online.

"Sa dami namin na na-retrench, na-surprise ako na ganun pa rin 'yung [separation] package," she said.

(I was surprised that we still got that kind of separation package even though a lot of us were retrenched.)

"Suwerte kami kasi very generous pa rin sa ABS-CBN until the end," she said.

(We are lucky because ABS-CBN was very generous until the end.)

ABS-CBN Corp earlier reported a net loss of P3.9 billion in the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of its free TV and radio operations, which the National Telecommunications Commission ordered on May 5, 2020. Two months later, the House of Representatives denied the network's bid for another 25-year franchise. 

By the end of 2020, the network said it had 5,932 employees including independent contractors, a drop from a total 11,071 employees before the shutdown. 

Jose said the way she runs her businesses is closely patterned after how things were done in the Kapamilya network, where she worked for 21 years.

"Sa inquiries, ang bilis ko sumagot. Natutunan ko ito sa ABS-CBN kasi bawal ang mabagal sa ABS," she said.

(I am quick to answer inquiries. I learned that from ABS-CBN, because there's no room to dilly-dally there.)

"Sa bayad center, ayoko na pinaghihintay 'yung mga tao sa line. Nakuha ko 'yun sa ABS-CBN, kasi sa atin dapat mabilis na efficient."

(In our bills payment center, I don't want people to wait long in lines. I also got that from ABS-CBN, because there you have to act quickly and efficiently.)

"Maraming magagandang bagay na pina-practice mo sa ABS-CBN na kapag lumabas, bigla na lang magpo-pop sa isip mo, 'Kaya ako ganito kasi ganito kami sa ABS-CBN'."

(You practice certain things at ABS-CBN that, when you find work outside, just pop in your head like, "This is how I work because this was how we were trained at ABS-CBN.") 

Despite enjoying the success in their respective businesses, both Tan and Jose said they would still want to work for the broadcast giant once its free-to-air operations resume. 

"Gusto ko minsan magtext sa desk na, 'Huy, patulungin niyo ako kahit free service'," Tan said.

(Sometimes, I want to text the desk and tell them, "Let me know if I can help, even for free".)

"Hindi na kasi ito about money or sahod . . . 'Yun na 'yung passion ko sa buhay. When you're with news, siguro hindi na mawawala sa iyo na kapag may big coverage gusto mo kasali ka, tumutulong ka sa kanila," she said.

(The money is beside the point. This is my passion. When you're with news, when there's a big coverage, you want to be a part of that. You want to help. It's a feeling you can't get rid of.) 

Jose said she also misses working in ABS-CBN's production unit, especially when there are big events in the Kapamilya noontime show "It's Showtime," which she was a part of for 9 years.

"Happy naman ako pero siyempre hindi mo maaalis 'yung paminsan minsan, may sundot ng lungkot," Jose said.

(I'm happy but you can't take away the feeling that sometimes you still feel sad about it.)

"Minsan nagde-dwell ako doon. Minsan naman pinipigilan ko na 'wag basahin para hindi malungkot," she said.

(Sometimes, I still dwell on that. Sometimes I try not to read posts on social media to avoid being sad.)

It's hard to outgrow and move on from being a Kapamilya, Tan said.

"Although there is life after ABS-CBN, I still want to be part of ABS-CBN . . . Dito ako lumaki, dito ako natuto kaya parang ang hirap i-uproot ng sarili ko up to now," she said.

(I grew up here. This is where I learned, so it's hard to uproot myself up to now.)

"Kahit na I'm OK, I'm doing good right now, parang kapag tinawag ako, babalik at babalik ako sa ABS-CBN."

(Even if I'm doing good right now, when ABS-CBN calls, I will always go back.)