The COVID-19 pandemic which has been officially declared on March 2020 in the Philippines is still growing strong even after more than 16 months and with no end in sight. But Filipinos try to cope with the situation the best way we can. One of our coping mechanisms is very much visible in the way the drive-thru concept (specialized booths where people in cars can order and get their food without setting a foot outside their automobiles) has grown by leaps and bounds in changing the landscape for commerce and business in the Philippines.   

Drive-thru or drive-throughs have been with us since the 1980’s when McDonald’s popularized its widespread adoption in the fast-food chain it was opening in the country. Soon enough the novelty of getting your food ordered, paid and delivered to your hands without setting foot inside the restaurant has become a standard for new food chains such as Jollibee that would provide a spirited competition to McDo in the Philippines. The very efficiency and speed by which these drive thru(s) operate has, across the generations, became the standard on how to succeed in the very competitive world of fast foods and soon enough changed the ways by which food is consumed on the go from the seat of your car even as you drive. Mobility becomes the name of the game and nothing comparable to the past can measure up to the times that we live now, when the drive thru has itself undergone a qualitative leap in quality and sophistication.

The new ones cropping out are architecturally and elegantly integrated in the main body of the resto unlike before when drive-thrus are just appendages that are more like huts extending from the wings of the fast-food establishment. The very nature of this pandemic where social distance, avoidance of physical contacts and the phobia of the virus circulating in closed spaces have made al fresco or out-dining the norm rather than risking exposure by ordering one’s food indoors. Take the new Starbucks Café in our part of Quezon which sort of surprised me as the space was occupied before by another restaurant but this Starbucks outlet outshone its neighboring stores making the nearby fastfood outlet seemed a bit dowdy. And there are others I have noticed as I drove around the Metro. The thing about them is their smart and welcoming appearance, clad in glass and chrome and beckoning to the motorist to put an order to go.

Underlying this sort of boom in drive thru commerce is the accompanying shifting of how we transact our business – which is more and more cashless and rely not on paper or coins but in cyber strokes in electronic banking using such modes of payment like QR codes that eliminates the handling of money between buyer and seller. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, (BSP) as a result of the pandemic, the use of e-payments has spiked “more than 5,000%”, thanks to the increasingly ubiquitous use of QR codes to move money between people and merchants. It is foreseen that, even as the economy reopens to a “new normal”, electronic commerce will grow more and more in the country.

Finally, as  people are finding drive-thru convenience as an essential part of our daily lives, there is one drive-thru that I personally dreaded going to during this pandemic. This was the COVID testing drive-throughs which have proliferated around Metro Manila in response to the high incidence of the virus infection. But much as I feared it, I did not have a choice as I was exposed to a person who was positive with the virus. So off I went to Ateneo Campus along Katipunan where the Ateneo BlueSwab testing facility can be found.

The testing facility as it turned out was convenient and efficient service at its best: the personnel were courteous; the swabbing was fast and thorough and I got my results by the end of the day (I came before their 8 a.m. opening).  The screening procedure was flawless and I would recommend it to those who may want to avail of their service. And yes I tested positive for Covid-19 and had to isolate for 14 days yet thankful that I had been fully vaccinated and was asymptomatic throughout my health crisis.

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