By Nora Soriño
ILIGAN City–After some lunch with a friend in the city’s center, I walked to the plaza. Unhurriedly, I got to notice something. There were several spaces for rent where once, some businesses were operating. It occurred to me: some businesses here aren’t so good these days?
The spaces for rent were not only near the plaza. They were also near some banks about a hundred feet away. And I remember someone saying something about banks: “Don’t put your store near banks because banks make the place lonely!” Hahaha. Is that true these days?
I crossed the street to the plaza. There were some displays of products from the earth. Okay, agri products like fruits, root crops, vegetables, leafy and non-leafy inside several tents.
People were walking about, looking uninterestedly on those products. Then I saw Doming, which I knew from years back as a small-time dealer of fire extinguishers and other allied products.
“How’d you do?” I greeted him. I wanted to add, you look thin but did not say so for he might say, you look thin yourself! That’s what I got as an answer from former mayor Franklin M. Quijano when he was in the city for a presscon a few days about an industrial summit to happen in neighboring CdeO 25th to 28th this month. When I asked, “How are you?” he replied, “Here, looking thin, like you.” Well, with what happened in the domestic front early this year, okay, the stress he had to undergo relative to a beloved wife…
I closed my eyes for about three seconds to shut the thought away and then concentrated on Doming.
“What’s happening here?” From me.
“There’s an agri fair,’’ from Doming.
“I can see that,” I said. “But why are there only a few exhibits, from a few barangays?”
He understood what I meant, of course. Of the 44 barangays of the city, there were only eight that had tents for their agricultural produce. It seemed to me that they were just “token’’ participation, in the “binisaya’’ speech, just a “respetar.” I looked at some messages inside one tent which said, “Empowering the agricultural sector.” No, that sector is not presently “empowered,” I thought.
“Business is not good these days,” I said to Doming. “What could be the matter?’’ I wanted to add, maybe it could be the effect of the US-China trade war. But that could be a “heavy” thing to say. I thought of “recession” as some experts analyzed in a pre-Mindanao Business conference. But what is “recession?” it could be an equally heavy matter to say in a sleepy afternoon at the plaza. Maybe it was still the result of that so-called Marawi siege? And the city hasn’t regained its bearings after that? Many businesses here have closed because of that. Like the casino at Plaza Alemania which was closed at the height of the siege.
As I was pondering and groping for the right words to say, Doming suddenly blurted: “It’s because of shabu. The shabu business has slowed down very much here!”
Was I shocked, but not totally. For I’ve heard those words uttered in jest by some blokes. But I saw that Doming was serious as he said this.
“Hmmm,” I said. “The No. 1 shabu barangay here has transferred. It’s not Saray anymore. it is now Tambacan.”
He did not agree or disagree. “They’re on the run now,” Doming said. “Look at the shoppers at the mall, they’re few and the things they shop are few if you look at the items in their baskets. Whereas before…” His voice trailed off. I couldn’t get what he meant with “before.” Before Marawi siege? Or before the presidency of DU30, before the so-called “drug war?” Well…
“That explains the slowness in business,” he said, adding, “aggravated by the curfew…” He stopped for a few seconds and continued: “I like it though, I can walk at night without thinking that I’d be bothered by fear from the addicts.’’
“I got news for you, Dom,” I cut in. “Beginning tomorrow this week, there will be no more curfew. By a vote of 11 vs. 1, the Sanggunian had voted.”
“Ha?” This time it was him who was shocked. Pleasantly shocked, I suppose. For like the other businessmen, small-time or big-time, they were not in favor of curfew.
Hours after though, that converse at the plaza, the “shabu thing” he mentioned left me somewhat bothered.