Episode 7: The Masa — How are they doing during COVID-19? (Part 1)

WiseOwl PH
13 min readOct 28, 2020

Communication is powerful. So let’s talk about it!

In the last few episodes, we talked about communication in a time of crisis, and the importance of conveying hope during COVID-19.

Today we continue to deal with the pandemic, and certain sectors are harder hit than most. This is why in this mini-series, we’ll check in on the masa and how they are coping.

The Owls (Oya, Joza, and Mika) are joined by Leo Laroza, the director for communication and information technology at SWS; and Wati Doctor, the president of Thinkscape Research.

OYA: I’m Oya.

JOZA: I’m Joza.

MIKA: And I’m Mika.

OYA: We are WiseOwl.

MIKA: WiseOwl is a consultancy firm that specializes in communication for social change.

MIKA: In the last few episodes, we talked about communication in a time of crisis,

and the importance of conveying hope during COVID-19. Today we continue to deal with the pandemic, and certain sectors are harder hit than most. Which is why in this episode, kukumustahin natin ang masa. We see a lot of clients dealing with the mass market in the work that we do. So alamin natin, how are they coping with COVID-19? We check in on their quality of life, as well as how they see what lies ahead for them. We invited two experts to the discussion. Leo Laroza, the director of communication and information technology for the Social Weather Stations or S-W-S.

LEO: Yes. I’ve been with SWS for more than twenty years and, basically my work involves putting the survey results out to the public.

MIKA: It’s Leo’s job to make sure the results of these Social Weather Report Surveys are released in a way we can all understand. But, they don’t do the interpreting for us. They’re just, as Leo says, “scorekeepers”.

LEO: Our work is founded on the principle that sampling works. Sampling because ah you only need a small portion of a certain population in order for one to be able to to determine how the population is. For example, it’s like getting your blood sample. You don’t need to get the whole blood to understand what’s going on with your ah blood composition. We make sure that our sampling is sound. We make sure that very single respondent nationwide or whether it’s a small city or the whole country, will get equal chances of getting selected in our surveys.

MIKA: S-W-S is focused on quantitative research, which takes the pulse of the people at a larger scale. But our second guest is from a firm that specializes in qualitative research.

WATI: Hi! I’m Wati Doctor. I’m a market researcher for twenty years now.

MIKA: Wati is the president of Thinkscape Research. They do focus group discussions, in-home interviews, ethnographic studies, and in-depth research. On everything from automotives to real estate, From finance to the pharmaceutical industry. From politics to social development.

MIKA: So Leo, kumusta nga ba ang masa ngayong pandemic?

LEO: Well, we have seen quality of life trends go down. Significantly. We say this because from December 2019 we already saw the decline in terms of people’s optimism with their personal lives. We’ve already seen its decline from May 2020 and it continued to decline to June and very soon we’ll be releasing reports from the September 2020 survey. We’re still analyzing the data but we see no other reasons for this decline except for the pandemic. People were losing their source of income. They’re unable to go out. And do their usual economic activities. Transportation has been restricted. So, whatever gains that we had over the past seven eight years or six years, all of those were completely erased by this pandemic. Hunger for instance it has been in a very favorable downward trend since 2012. And all the way to December 2019 with just single-digit levels that around 9 percent, eight percent. However, when this pandemic started and the first time SWS was able to conduct its phone surveys, we’ve seen hunger spike. And it has been spiking for the past three surveys. And it’s already at record high. 30 plus percent. Of course, it may not sound surprising but the levels of joblessness really shot upward because of all the restrictions happening. The transportation sector has been severely affected.

MIKA: Medyo, medyo nakakalungkot no?

LEO: It really is. We have news about jeepney drivers or certain jeepney routes being opened up. And they are allowed to go out and resume their trips. However, there’s the factor of fear

MIKA: Wati, what did you find out about the masa during the pandemic?

Pareho lang ba ang mga concerns nila based on your research?

WATI: That would be one paano sila makakakuha ng resources nila. So, since wala silang kita, pano sila makakabili ng mga pangangailangan nila. So yun naging secondary na lang yung virus kase tulad ng nakikita natin sa TV yung mga tao sinasabi nila, hindi sila mamamatay sa virus pero mamamatay sila sa gutom.

MIKA: Okay. So tulad ng nabanggit ni Leo, ang concerns ng mga masa ngayon, pagkain at kita.

Mapunta naman tayo sa emotional well-being nila. Anong nakita mo, Wati?

WATI: Honestly nung nung nagkaron ng lockdown Sobrang grabe yung emotions ng mga tao. May takot, may worry. May anger. may depression, may anxiety. Tapos dun sa mga nakausap naminthey do go online di ba? Sa social media. Pero kase nakikita rin nila na grabe ang daming negative rin. Laluna nung nagkakaron ng mga issues about yung mga yung mga anti-terror law. Yung ABS-CBN. Yung mga LSI. Andami-daming bashing. So there was a time na parang gusto na lang ng mga tao, pwede bang positive na lang magtulungan na lang tayo. People are looking more for hopeful or inspirational messages. Something that will help them go through the day, go through the week.

MIKA: Ano pa ‘yung ibang siguro mga notable highlights or changes na nakita natin in how Filipino masses are reacting in crisis. When they relate to their family or their community. Or even baka politics.

WATI: Actually naramdaman nila may positive and negative. Ano ‘yung positive? Nagkaron sila ng quality time with their family. Ngayon eh sabay-sabay na silang mag-almusal, pananghalian, hapunan. Kung dati eh hindi sila nagkikita, ngayon magkakasama na sila di ba? Kung dati wala sila masyadong hobbies, ngayon andami na nilang magagawang hobbies. Marunong nang magbake, marunong na magluto ng pansit. Marunong nang mag-ihaw. Tapos ano pa bang nakikita nilang positives. Gumaganda ang environment. Mas nagiging malinis. Meron ring nagsabi na bumaba ang crime rate kasi nga lahat ng tao nasa loob. Tapos yung mga pulis nasa labas. Eto yung time na may lockdown. Nakita rin natin may negatives. Negative in the sense na, nawalan ng kita, nawalan ng trabaho. O kaya, bumaba ang kita kasi nga nabawasan. Hindi nila hindi sila pwede magkita-kita ng mga kaibigan, ng mga pamilya, ng lolo’t lola. Marami rin silang naramdaman na hindi maganda like yun nga may times na sumusunod sila pero meron ibang officials na hindi sumusunod tapos hindi naman na paparusahan. Ang sentiment ngayon ng mga tao is hanggang kailan pa ito? Tapos ang sinasabi na lang is mag-intay na lang tayo sa vaccine. So lahat ng tao naghihintay na lang sa vaccine. And at the same time, nag-aadapt na rin sila trying to live with the situation, with the virus. So alam nila yung face mask, yung social distancing, yung alcohol, yung face shields. Pero nasa, nag-aadapt na rin sila na okay eto yung kailangan kong gawin kapag lumabas, kapag bumalik ng bahay. Hindi pwedeng nandito lang ako sa bahay kasi kailangan kong kumita, kailangan kong kumayod, kailangang may gawin para matustusan ang pamilya.

MIKA: Do they relate with the outside of the family or talagang focused lang sila sa pamilya?

WATI: They do relate. Paano? Social media. So dito nila nakukuha yung information about what’s happening in the country and dito rin sila nakakapagconnect with their friends or their relatives. So dito yung nagkakaron sila ng group chats, Viber groups, FB groups.

OYA: Do they discuss mga larger issues? Mga political issues or social issues or maybe the kind of government response to the pandemic?

WATI: There would be some people who would discuss about it. — — So, alam nila yung mga nangyayari sa sa Pilipinas the issues, nakikita nila yung mali. Nakikita yung irregularities. Meron namang mga tao na gusto ko lang maging masaya, gusto ko lang tumulong sa gobyerno at matapos na to.

OYA: Ano yung nakita mong parang big concern nila about the handling of the pandemic?

WATI: Mainly one yung sa distribution of ayuda. Ayuda and the SAP. Nakikita ng mga tao na may mga hindi qualified na nakakuha. Meron namang mga qualified na hindi nabigyan. So feeling nila nagkaroon ng inequality. May mga nagrespondents na nakawitness talaga at naramdaman nila yun. Naramdaman nila or naramdaman ng mga kamag-anak nila at kaibigan. They were the ones who are able to voice out their concern. So pinuntahan si barangay official or si barangay hall. Kinausap or nagpost sa social media. Sila talaga yung gumawa ng aksyon to help those na feeling nila eh dapat naman talagang tulungan.

JOZA: So given yung parang ang concerns nila ngayon like hunger, jobs. How do they see their future?

WATI: Generally may uncertainty sila and takot. Hindi nila alam kung saan sila patutungo. Nag-eexplore sila kasi nakita natin na nagkaron ng rise in online businesses di ba? So maraming nag-oonline business ngayon via Facebook. May mga dumidiskarte pero yung pagdidiskarte nila nasa in the moment. Parang eto yung kailangan kong gawin ngayon para may mapagkuhanan. Pero in the future, andyan pa ba yung trabaho ko, may makukuha pa ba akong trabaho, malaki yung kumbaga feeling of uncertainty nila.

OYA: Okay so now we’re in this pandemic, and they’re doing the best they can. They have worries about kung anong mangyayari sa kanila. Anong prognosis nila? For themselves and the country.

WATI: Honestly hindi nila alam. As in blangko sila. Kase one ang unang tanong nila is kailan ba matatapos to? Kasi hanggang sa meron tayong pandemya, hanggang sa merong Covid, eh saan ako pupunta? Wala naman akong trabaho or baka pwede akong mawalan ng trabaho. So they are in limbo. Which is why medyo nagdedespair na rin sila kasi hanggang saan nga ba talaga to? And they are already hoping na sana meron nang vaccine, sana meron nang vaccine. Pero, syempre andun pa rin yung, kailan ba [laughs] darating yung vaccine na yan?.

OYA: They pin their hopes on the vaccine? Kapag nagkavaccine na, do they think everything will be back to the usual, the normal?

WATI: Yes they are hoping that.

MIKA: Let’s go back to the lockdowns. There were — and are — strict guidelines about what we can and cannot do during the pandemic. How did people react to that? Did they respond willingly? How did that pan out?

WATI: Yung mga nakausap natin, sumusunod sila kasi tingin nila that’s their contribution to what is happening right now. We also noted na may mga sinasabi silang ay may mga taong pasaway. May mga tao kase na tingin nila na tumatagal ang lockdown dahil may mga pasaway. Right? Yung mga pasaway na ito, kung titingnan mo naman is may mga rason kung bakit sila lumalabas. Kasi nga kailangan nila magtrabaho. Ang mahirap lang dito is kapag palaging nakablame sa mga pasaway, hindi talaga kumbaga masosolusyunan kase ano ba talaga ang dapat gawin ng tao? Dapat ba tayo ang mismong magresolba ng mga nangyayari ngayon? O dapat ang gobyerno? Kase basically ang gobyerno dapat may role sya para proteksyunan at para alagaan ang kanyang citizenry, tayo di ba? Pero kung palagi na lang sasabihan na pasaway yan pasaway yan pasaway yan. Alam mo yung parang ang tayo na nga yung biktima, tayo pa yung nagiging masama kasi nagiging pasaway tayo. Eh kung bibigyan naman kasi tayo ng tulong eh baka naman wala naman yang pasaway pasaway na yan.

OYA: So anong anong implications nun in terms of their attitudes towards those pasaways and really how the pasaways are dealt with?

WATI: Yung mga tao kapag nakikita nila na may mga pasaway, galit sila. Bakit? Tingin nila ay pasaway yan. Nang dahil sa inyo, andito pa rin tayo sa Covid, nagsespread pa rin ang pandemya. Instead of us all coming together.

MIKA: So parang ang nangyayari, napipin yung blame sa pasaway for bigger things na beyond lumabas ka ng bahay.

WATI: Yes.

JOZA: Na ang hirap kasi di ba namention kanina na they’re actually parang mataas yung empathy nila for others but also meron din nung pasaway angle, so paano nadidifferentiate ng masa kung sino yung worthy of their empathy and sino yung masama lang yan, pasaway sya?

WATI; Ang ganda nung tanong mo. Sobra. [laughs]

MIKA: Ang ganda nga. I’m really, I’m really like wow. [laughs]

WATI: Okay, pano nila nalalaman if the person is worthy of their empathy. Kapag tingin nila na talagang victim yung tao. Yung frontliners, wala namang kamuwang-muwang, tumutulong na nga sa tao dinidiscriminate pa. So tingin nila, this person is worthy of my empathy. Kaya dapat, tulungan ko sila. Versus yung mga pasaway na ay nako labas lang ng labas wala namang ginagawa. O vulnerable sector bakit kayo nasa labas? Alam nyo naman dapat nasa loob kayo. Kasi itong tingin nilang may pasaway may maling ginawa. Kaya hindi sila worthy of your empathy.

OYA: But it’s ironic no kase a lot of the at least the ones na nabalitaan ko na mga cases ng mga pasaway na nahuli for example, they were they were trying to find work or you know naghahanapbuhay.

WATI: Eto rin naman yung mga tao na sinasabi dapat pinakinggan sila. Hinayaan silang magpaliwanag bakit sila nasa labas. Pero hindi naman sila pinayagang magpaliwanag. Nakikita nyo medyo medyo sobrang compartmentalized kapag mag-isip ang mga tao. Kapag biktima sya wala syang kamuwang-muwang naging biktima, dapat kaawaan. Kapag tingin kong may kalokohan syang ginawa, eh dapat syang kainisan. We are so quick to judge people. But at the same time gusto nating dapat mapaliwanagan if directly ka naapektuhan, gusto mong dapat pakinggan ka. Pero kapag wala sa’yo malayo sa’yo, quick ka to judge others.

OYA: But in a way I think in my mind no? Pag iniisip ko lang, it’s a that yung compartmentalization na sinasabi mo, it’s a way din for them to cope. Kase this, this whole crisis can be very overwhelming and so the way to parang get some sort of control over what’s happening to you is to break it up into smaller chunks. It’s a coping mechanism din eh.

WATI: Mm mm. Tama tama. It’s how they cope.

OYA: Wati meron din akong mga naririnig at nababalitaan na may mga tao naman na talagang tumutulong naglolaunch ng mga donation drive para makatulong sa frontliners. Or mga feeding program for like puro communities, mga ganyan. Ang sinasabi mo ba hindi iyan yung yung the norm?

WATI: Yeah it’s not most people. Meron lang talagang mga these exceptional people who would be able to kumbaga organize groups and do donation drives or magkaroon ng mga grupo na para sa specific purposes. Na makatulong. Pero mas maraming tao who would just do something on their own dahil gusto nilang tumulong. So mas marami yung individual na talagang na tumutulong versus yung organized groups.

OYA: I see it now as a challenge kasi if it’s not the norm, di therefore as a communicator and also somebody who wants to see social change happen. Papano ko maitatawid yung ganung thinking. Yung mga tao, yung karamihan towards that sort of thinking and that sort of action na mas tumutulong kapag may nangangailangan.

WATI: Yes. It’s a challenge mainly because at least yung nakita ko dun nung lockdown a atsaka nung pandemic. Hindi alam ng mga tao kung saan sila magbibigay. Saan sila pupunta. Tapos kapag meron silang nakita na o etong grupo na to like yung a eto nakita ko sa Facebook. Yung mga nun daw sa Monasterio de Sta. Clara wala na raw bigas. So on their own yung mga tao pumunta dun at nagbigay ng bigas. Pero was there an organized group? Wala. Kasi basically hindi nila alam kung saan pupunta. Eh sino kokontakin. Andun yung gusto nila a. Pero the steps to achieve that or the steps to go to a group wala.

OYA: Ah so yun yung importante, yun yung missing. Parang missing part na-

WATI: Yes.

OYA: kahit it might be they wanna help pero hindi nila alam kung papano atsaka saan mga ganyan.

WATI: Exactly exactly.

JOZA: Iniisip ko din for communicators and advocates parang mas mas malaki yung responsibility laluna ngayong pandemic na we are conscious of the kind of messages and communication and outputs na nilalabas natin sa mundo kasi nga parang people are more black and white mag-isip ngayon rather than grey. So hindi na nakoconsider na halimbawa for the pasaway narrative na people are just going out kasi kailangan naghahanap sila ng trabaho and when we are not conscious of yung underlying messages like that parang nasusurface lang yung negative aspect of it or something.

MIKA: And also you know yung the point nga on basically parang being very very clear if you do have an advocacy, what your call to action is. And being very clear about the steps that can be done by people. Kase otherwise oo, sold ako pero ano na ngayon nganga.

OYA: And also very being very clear that it is possible to achieve what we want to achieve di ba? And this is how we get there. Hindi ito imposible.

MIKA: I agree with what you’re saying Oya and also kase di ba namention din ni Wati kanina, even in terms of what kind of parang anong klaseng mga messages yung hinahanap din nung masa audience? It’s about something more hopeful, more positive, more inspirational. So we cannot linger and just talk about what the problems are and what we don’t like. Kailangan sya magshift at some point kasi yun din yung hinahanap eh.

WATI: Right. Eto problema, ano ang solusyon, ano ang pwede kong gawin, saan tayo patungo? Ano ang maaachieve natin?

MIKA: Yay. At least may hope hope naman pala yung [laughs] conversation natin. Hindi sya completely nakakasad. [laughs]

MIKA: And that was the first of three episodes of Give A Hoot that we’ll be dedicating to the masa. Next, we’ll talk about who the masa is, and why we need to talk about them.

We’ll also tackle the way they consume and use media, as well as their values and beliefs. Thanks again to our guests Leo Laroza and Wati Doctor. And to the people who made this possible, specifically PumaPodcast, the Spark Project, and our backers. Shoutout to our producer Tricia Aquino, our sound guy Mark Casillan, and our audio editor Niko Bolante.

OYA: I’m Oya.

JOZA: I’m Joza.

MIKA: And I’m Mika.

JOZA: Look for Wise Owl PH on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium. You can visit our website wiseowl.ph. We’d love to hear from you. Send your feedback to hoot at wiseowl dot ph.

MIKA: Use your voice. Give a hoot