Welcome to the New Neighborhood

While many industries have been hit badly by this pandemic, we’ve also seen a surge in  budding entrepreneurs catering to every food and urgent item whim one might have. We’ve changed the way we source our basic needs, putting a priority and a premium to convenience and safety. Suddenly we are forced to look inward; into our homelife and communities and we find new vistas and realities that we have never seen before nor really appreciated. I’ve been fascinated at how diverse and multi-functional neighborhoods work — that given an opportunity and a captured market, could blossom with creativity and camaraderie.

The listings in my neighborhood started out simple. Masks, meats, fruits, and an occasional dessert. As we went further into quarantine, the offerings became more elaborate: sushi platters, lechon, longanisa from Lucban, Baguio, Pangasinan or wherever, chicacorn and bagnet from Ilocos, premium seafood from Japan, pancakes from Jollibee, sangria from the supplier of a famous Italian bistro, the trendy ube pandesal, even items akin to a sourdough kit for those planning to bake their own version of this season’s bread du jour. It only takes one personal message and, like magic, the items appear on your front door, sans the service fee.

Now even as the quarantine restrictions are being relaxed and groceries and shopping malls are being reopened to resemble normal again, the dynamics still linger, and our shopping habits are forever altered. The currency of this buy and sell relationship with my neighbors is trust. Sure there is a felt increase in their prices compared to if I bought it in the supermarket myself. However for the ease of transaction and one’s safety, I don’t mind paying the difference. Since we all belong in one community, there is an added security that I would not be duped for less than what I negotiated for.

Many of us are still wary of shopping outside. This twist in the economy and life of the nation would likely be with us so long as a vaccine is not developed to secure us from the spread of the virus. Entering the mall is not the same experience anymore, with the lights dimmed, air-conditioning not on full-capacity, and the feeling that people are there because of necessity not leisure. The continuous efforts by ordinary people to help each other and be productive in this time is commendable in the various endeavors such as online shopping, virtual family hangouts, digital concerts and the like, goes beyond the use of the internet for business and commerce.

We’ve had more interactions with our neighbors in the last few weeks than in years, even decades, and it’s been lovely getting to know them a little bit more, one sales exchange at a time. Fred Rogers, famed for his thoughtful children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, explains it best, “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.” And the best part is: we stay home. 

The author may be reached at [email protected]

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