Frontliner Story #11: Ranniel Reyes

Beyond the Comfort Zone: How COVID-19 Affected a Retail Worker

By Dana Eunise Cruz

Edited by Phoebe de Leon

Frontliner sourcing by Vim Casinabe

When 26-year-old working student Ranniel Reyes first heard of the COVID-19 pandemic, his immediate thought wandered to how the pandemic may affect his work.

Working as a production artist at a Metro Retail Store in Market! Market! and studying Office Administration had been a “go with the flow” routine for Reyes. “Usually pumapasok ako nang umaga then pagdating dito sa store, provided na lahat ng [kailangan sa] work.” (“Usually, I go to work in the morning then when I arrive at the store, everything that I need for work is provided already.”)

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Poster by Renz Lalic

As his work relies heavily on events and promotions, he knew they would be affected greatly by the pandemic.

“Nagmeeting agad kami with the managers and corporate affairs, then na-realize namin na for sure kaya magpapameeting kasi magbabawas ng manpower,” he said. (“We immediately had a meeting with the managers and corporate affairs then we realized that, for sure, they’re holding the meeting because we need to reduce manpower.”)

Now, he also worked in overall operations and corporate work during the pandemic. “Wala kaming choice kun’di gawin ‘yung mga bagay na hindi namin naturally ginagawa,” he said. (“We have no choice but to do things we don’t naturally do.”)

When he first heard of the pandemic, he was at work. During that time, only one emotion was triggered the most in him: fear. His work required him to be exposed to people and take risks.

He stressed, however, that while his health is on the line, he still does his best to provide services for other people.

He described the way he felt as, “More on takot pero kailangang i-pursue ‘yung work.” (“More on fear but we still need to pursue our work.”)

When asked if he felt ready to face a pandemic, he gave a resounding “no”.

“Sino ba namang tao ‘yung may gusto nito?” (“Who you want this [to happen]?”)

At work, he can’t go about his normal routines. He can’t tap the shoulders of his colleagues upon arrival or give a “normal” greeting. He also has had to wear protective gear to protect him from the disease.

He jokingly narrated how going to work leads to his frustrations with the numerous gear, saying, “Ang dami na naman ilalagay sa mukha!” (“I have to put so many things on my face again!”), but also clarified that he understands it is part of the “new normal” to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.

On top of that, the pandemic affected Reyes’ finances. Since their store had to take precautionary measures, and shifted to a skeletal schedule, the number of his work days was halved. From the typical schedule with only one day as a rest day, now, he only gets to work four days in a week with three days off.

When asked how much stress he had to deal with, he said most of his stress is because of the fewer work days.

“Parang ‘konti na lang ‘yung pera ko, pa’no yan?’ kasi siyempre ‘yung work mo half lang. ‘Yung income mo, ineexpect mong konti lang din” (“Like ‘I only have little money left, what now?’ because the work [days] were halved, you expect the income to be halved as well.”)

He went on, saying that half of his income usually goes to his tuition but, with the pandemic, this would also mean less money can be allocated for his studies.

If he were to rate the adjustments he had to deal with since the pandemic started, he would say it was an 8 out of ten.

He felt like nothing was normal, from the protocols he had to follow at work to the big changes with his mindset. “Let’s admit na talagang lahat nagbago. Sa lahat ng kilos mo, may changes,” (“Let’s admit that everything has changed. Every move we do involves changes.”)

At home, he also took precaution: from disinfecting shoes, thoroughly washing hands, and eating healthy — basic precautionary measures that still give them some semblance of safety.

With that, he left a message to fellow Filipinos: “Stay at home hangga’t maaari kasi nasa kamay natin talaga ‘yung safety ng ibang tao para mapanatiling safe ‘yung community natin. ‘Wag nilang i-risk ‘yung life nila dahil lang alam nilang may nagririsk ng buhay para sa kanila.” (“Stay at home as much as possible because the safety of other people and our communities are on our hands. Don’t risk your lives just because you know other people are risking their lives for your safety.

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