Oct 26, 2020

Trends during the Palawan quarantine

You must have already tried baking cheesy ube pandesal, making Dalgona coffee, bartering your preloved items online, survival gardening, growing your decorative cacti plants, and did your short dances and lip-syncs via the Chinese video-sharing TikTok, which are not your expertise but did, anyway, because long months of quarantine pushed you to explore strange grounds.

According to Jackielyn Soquerata-Abela, a professor of Popular Culture at the College of Arts and Humanities at Palawan State University (PSU), these trends during quarantine brought people a feeling of comfort and joy, along with a sense of community even when they’re physically distanced.

Photo by Wikieditkid through Wikipedia.

They’re called #Quarantrends generally flowing from social media. Fads, or intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something that is really short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities.

“Basically, trends are fads, and they emerge based on different cultural backgrounds. The #Quarantrends we have right now generally flow in social media. For example, Dalgona for coffee variation. Why do people engage, try fads – it’s an association, group or community recognition, more like bandwagoning,” said Abela.

Abela explained that it’s people trying out everything they could to make them feel connected and to stay away from anxiety and loneliness.

Tiktok, FaceApp, Netflix

Some of the things that hit the trend list in the early phase of quarantine are the Tiktok application. Even if it is already popular in 2019, more users were observed to be doing dances and lip-sync during the lockdowns. With over 2 billion downloads, TikTok owned by ByteDance multinational internet technology company is now the world’s second most downloaded application next to Facebook.

User Lieryfeljohn Ello said he was convinced to explore the application while doing nothing on weeks passing. Even if he was already trying the application in February, he said his use of the app became frequent when the government implemented the enhanced community quarantine sometime in March.

“Staying at home, being quarantined for a long time with nothing left to do made me explore the Tiktok app. I never expected that I’ll enjoy exploring and using Tiktok. It was one way of staying away from boredom during the quarantine period. It was fun,” he said.

Another app that’s highly being patronized these days is FaceApp. The app is a photo and video editing application for iOS and Android developed by Wireless Lab, a company based in Russia.

Individuals who are curious to know how their opposite gender will look like using the app have been posting them on Facebook. Despite various articles warning that their identities could be stolen when they morph it using FaceApp, nothing has prevented netizens from checking out what their faces would become through computer-generated portraits marked with wrinkles, graying hairs, and all.

Netflix has also seen a surge in subscriber additions and free cash flow since it started in 2014. Under lockdown, more people have resorted to passing time watching movies on subscription-based streaming services.

Abela said patronization of these is part of coping mechanisms or ways of people to cure their cabin fever.

“Tiktok, FaceApp, Netflixing – that’s how we cure cabin fever. So instead na magmukmok and be sad about everything, we try to find positivity by doing these things – hello, everything!” she said.

Bartering (exchanging goods for other goods and services)

If you’ve recently swapped a book, a dress, a plant, or any other preloved item with a friend you haven’t seen personally for a long time or a newly-met person, then you’ve bartered. This old method of exchanging goods in return for other goods or services without cash involved has seen a comeback during the quarantine.

In the city, the Puerto Princesa Barter Community on social media now has over 29,000 members (and counting) after setting up on May 21, 2020. Since then, many successful barters have happened among friends and people who do not even know each other.

Mikeecen Lim said she was encouraged to frequent the page after successfully bartering her unused printer. She said her time during the quarantine made her spring-clean her home, along the way discovering items she could exchange in return for something she might be able to use.

“Lagi kong pinoproblema dati, ‘Paano ko ba mababawasan yong mga gamit ko sa bahay?’ Hindi ko naman pwede ibenta kasi minsan kahit once ko lang nagamit parang super depreciated na agad. Kaya thankful ako na may group na ginawa kasi yong mga gamit ko noon na hindi ko na nagagamit, nagkaroon ulit ng use. Mapapalitan siya ng kailangan ko sa present time,” she said.

Some members have exchanged items in return for Yakult, land titles, cars, drones, and other items that no longer have use for them but might be useful to others.

Abela said that today bartering has already become more sophisticated in the use of the Internet to make exchanging of goods easy. If in the past it only happens in a small community where people are familiar with each other, now bartering can happen among strangers.

“Barter is another thing – it’s a pre-colonial practice in the Philippines. Some rural areas in the country still practice the traditional barter system. However, since it is now done online, the platform has changed compared to the traditional barter system,” she said.

Online selling

Abela said online selling activities also spiked since the quarantine controls were imposed. This increase can be associated with the Filipino people’s natural tendency to be resilient when faced with challenges.

Many people need to bounce back after being retrenched or losing their jobs, she said.

From being just her part-time business, May Joy Vasquez said she has made her online selling of clothing items a full-time income-earning activity to augment their needs in this pandemic.

“Naging isang reason siya why naging active ako sa online selling. I mean, I was doing it pero part-time lang kasi may work pa ako that time. Extra income kung baga. I wasn’t into it talaga, if I needed extra money lang. Everything was planned for this year. I quit my job so I can focus on my review because I was planning to take the LET (licensure examination for teachers) this year. Then, COVID-19 happened,” she said.

Vasquez said it’s always risky to sell online, but she was surprised how her business became even better compared to the period when there was still no quarantine.

“Risky siya because I invested my extra money on it. Nagbabakasakali na kumita, which is I think okay naman,” she said.

Baking cheesy ube pandesal

Local baker Annze Anna of Confection Confessions said there’s nothing like spending some time in the kitchen to unwind during this stressful time.

She said while she’s sheltering in place, she had resorted to watching videos of how to bake all kinds of pastries and pieces of bread — cheese rolls, cheesy ube pandesal, croissants, cheesecakes, and others.

However, what sells the most is her cheese rolls and cheesy ube pandesal.

Breads by Confection Confessions by Annze Anna. (Photo by Celeste Anna Formoso)

This new twist on making the Philippines’ most-loved breakfast bread is a hit because of combining the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of purple-yam.

“Yong cheesy ube pandesal ay patok siya ngayon kasi nga masarap yong combination ng saltiness ng cheese at noong ube jam na paborito ng mga Pinoy. Kung dati ang ube parang special lang siya na lalo kapag Christmas, ngayon kahit everyday puwede siyang kainin sa loob ng masarap na pandesal,” she said.

“Every week lang ako nagba-bake, pero hit na hit talaga ang cheesy ube pandesal kasi sa melty cheese filling din niya,” Anna said.

Fads are temporary?

Abela said that getting into all these is coping against the stress of dealing with COVID-19. People would rather immerse themselves in positive activities than wallow in anxiety and sadness over the situation.

“Food innovations, online selling, food deliveries, and all kinds of services, those that trended, were brought by the fact that our movements were restrained,” she said.

Abela said that as “fads”, they are temporary.

“It is expected that many activities and things will trend in months passing by while everyone is under community quarantine protocols. It’s a factor that they have essentially nothing to do. Pero ‘yong iba, the pandemic itself, put them in that situation. It’s resiliency on their part,” she said.

“On the bright side of participating in fads, we are helping the environment, because people are planting more. And sa barter, we are helping one another, it also solidifies our sense of community,” Abela added.

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