COVID-19 Recovery in Southeast Asia: Snapshots from Metro Manila, the Philippines

A Photo Essay by Aildrene Tan

COVID-19 Recovery in Southeast Asia: Snapshots from Metro Manila, the Philippines

More than a year since COVID-19 spread overseas, many countries are still struggling to cope with a pandemic that has challenged health systems, governments, and societies.

The Philippines is among the worst-hit countries in Southeast Asia, with more than 1.1 million confirmed cases, and more than 18,000 deaths as of mid-May 2021.

This photo series looks at how Filipinos in the Philippine capital of Metro Manila are trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

📷 Crossing the Frontline: health worker calmly crosses an overpass from the Makati Medical Center, one of the country’s biggest private hospitals. During the worst outbreaks, hospitals have been subjected to full capacity, with shortages in beds, equipment, and health staff. Periods of relative calm punctuate the outbreaks, but they come at a cost of strict lockdown measures.
📷 Building Back the Economy: The construction, travel, and airline industries were among those heavily affected by the pandemic in 2020. According to the Asian Development Bank, the Philippine economy is expected to recover with a 4.5% growth rate in 2021 and continue its momentum with a 5.5% growth rate in 2022. However, Moody’s Analytics added that the Philippines could be the last to recover among 14 Asia Pacific countries.

Getting Around the City

📷 Passengers queue up and board an empty jeepney in the central business district of Makati City.
📷 Commuters queue up and wait for shuttle services during rush hour at the Makati City central business district.
📷 Commuters have to take temperature checks and fill up contact tracing forms at the MRT station before taking in-city trains
📷 Health Checkpoint: Entry to public markets such as this one in Marikina City is highly regulated. Shoppers go through a disinfection tent where their temperatures are checked, and then they are sprayed with alcohol sanitizer.
📷 Fruits of Labor and Safety Nets: Residents don’t have to leave home to buy fruits, as ambulant vendors like Elias Balinas (left) supply them with seasonal fruits. In 2020, around 18 million households were enlisted under the government’s Social Amelioration Program to compensate for the loss of income during lockdown. Elias received a total of PhP 16,000 (~330 USD), which he used to buy his own equipment and fruit stocks. In the past, he worked for a businessman, and had to split his profits selling fruits. Now that he fully owns his mobile fruit shop, he has increased his daily income, and has more time to volunteer in his community.
📷 Virus-free shopping: Malls stay open for essential services, with safety precautions put in place. The crowdedness of Manila’s shopping malls seems to be a distant memory, at least for now.

Community Pantry / Bodegang Bayan

📷 Community Pantry: A humble bamboo rack in Maginhawa Street, Quezon City, serves as a station to receive donations of food and other essential items.
📷 Bodegang bayan: Started by Ana Patricia Non, the Maginhawa Community Pantry invites people to leave donations that can be picked up by people in greater need. With the motto, “Give what you can, take what you need,” the pantry has been replicated in communities all over the Philippines, and inspired a nationwide movement of giving.
📷 Mega Vaccination Facility: Large sporting events have been replaced with vaccination drives, as the Marikina Sports Center has been transformed into a Mega Vaccination Facility.
📷 Plantitos and Plantitas: Stay-at-home restrictions have encouraged the rise of plantitos and plantitas (plant uncles and aunties). This home’s garage has turned into Clover Leaf Manila, a plant shop that accepts orders online. The shop’s owners quit their full-time jobs to attend to their growing business. Loyal customers say that the plants provide comfort by bringing a sense of the outdoors into their homes.

A Dose of Hope

📷 A Dose of Hope: A health worker from Pasig City prepares a vaccine shot for a priority patient. Health workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbities comprise the priority groups for COVID-19 vaccinations.
📷 A wall at Pasig City vaccination site decorated with hashtags #BakunaNgPagAsa which means Vaccine Of Hope
📷 The Pasig City vaccination site is being disinfected after a full day of vaccine administration.
📷 A Post-COVID World: A man takes off his face mask as he crosses a busy road. With limited vaccination taking place and struggling economy one can only hope that the pandemic will eventually end, and life will return to normal.