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Business unusual in the ‘New Normal’?

By Mark Garcia

We are entering a very new and critical phase of our lives.

COVID-19 has brought upon all of us, a new way of living. Our daily activities, such as, purchasing grocery, visiting the dentist, dining in a restaurant, or working out in the gym, will never be the same, at least until global pharmaceutical companies successfully clinically test, produce and distribute the much-coveted COVID-19 vaccine globally.

The easing of levels of community quarantine does not in any way diminish the risk that the pandemic still brings. It’s the most realistic answer for now, so we may continue to live our lives as normal and as doable as possible, while we take the extra precaution. In short, we live while the virus is within our midst.

Thankfully, these last three months have bought us some time to adjust and formulate policies and actions to adjust to what is now called “The New Normal.”

How do we still continue our essential and economic tasks safely, while the virus is still within our environment? How will businesses adapt to ascertain the safety of their employees and customers?

We asked help from 8 leaders, from diverse businesses and industries, to share with us their plans and actions, to keep all of us safe during this ongoing pandemic, while operating their businesses.

We therefore asked each one, “How does your business adapt to the ‘New Normal’?”

1) Alfamart Trading Philippines, Inc.
Supermarket and Grocery Retailers Industry

We will continue to open new Super Minimarts, albeit at a slower pace due to quarantine restrictions, as we still want to bring a safe, convenient, and comfortable shopping experience closer to our customers’ homes.

We have adapted a walk-to-work policy, by hiring employees locally so they can be within walking distance to their assigned stores.

We have also heightened hygiene and safety protocols to protect our customers and our employees.

We have limited face-to-face meetings and rely on technology, to remain connected to each other and with our business partners.


Harvey T. Ong
Chief Operating Officer
Alfamart Trading Philippines, Inc.

2) Manulife IT Delivery Center, Asia
ITO, BPO, and Contact Center Industry

As an IT delivery center predominantly catering to clients outside of the Philippines, most of our work was already done virtually.

Our daily standups continued, albeit with the help of tools like MS Teams to ensure that we stayed on top of our deliverables and committed timelines.

More importantly, the lack of physical interaction made these daily meetings even more essential to ensure we also looked after the psychological welfare of our staff and devise other methods to keep our teams engaged.

We’ve continued to hire new staff despite the lockdown and have rolled out Virtual Onboarding to ensure we welcome, enable, train and get new hires productive as soon as possible.

We are now revisiting some of our policies around Remote Work, allowances related to Internet and Electricity usage, to see how we can truly enable our workforce regardless of the quarantine level of Metro Manila.


Hans Montenegro
Chief Operating Officer
Manulife IT Delivery Center, Asia

3) Blackrock Properties, Inc.
Housing Development

We are in the midst of unusual times and all businesses must adapt to the new normal.

For us in the housing development, the health and safety of our workers is top priority. We provided face masks, safety goggles, face shields and sanitizing mats in the construction sites.

We also assigned safety officers to make sure that social distancing is practiced.

For our buyers, we adjusted our packages to make it affordable for them to achieve their dream of owning a home. These are just some of the new normal practices we have adopted to allow us to continue serving the public without risk to our buyers or our workers and staff.


Art Evangelista
Blackrock Properties, Inc.

4) Manuel V. Gallego Foundation Colleges
Education Sector

We, at the Manuel V. Gallego Foundation Colleges, are adapting the flexible learning approach to meet the challenges of the New Normal in the field of education.

There are three modes in the flexible learning framework, namely, face-to-face; online learning; and self-managed learning. This approach necessitates having quality Teaching Tools and Materials (TTMs) which are, in essence, complete learning modules for the students to either access online or be given to them in hardcopies for those who do not have access to Internet connectivity.

The students can then learn at their own pace and in the environment they choose.

The online learning is for discussions, tutorials, mentoring, responding to queries and the like and can be done through discussion rooms or Facebook and messenger group chats, zoom, among other technologies. Face-to-Face learning will be reduced to only about 15% and can be used for assessment and evaluation and/or for special tutorials.


Dr. Joseph “Jojo” L. Gallego
Manuel V. Gallego Foundation Colleges (Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija)

5) Flavor8 Food Group
Casual Dining Restaurant Industry

Shift to digital marketing as people get more exposed to social media.

Setup capability to accept delivery orders through SMS, Messenger, Viber and Whatsapp.

Take this opportunity to retrench underperforming staff.

Strict adherence to safety protocols to ensure safety of customers and our personnel.

Aggressive cut on avoidable expenses. Negotiate for discounts and payment deferment with suppliers, landlords and service providers.


Norman Raquel
Flavor8 Food Group

6) Dentist
Dental Profession

Dentists around the world need to retro fit their dental clinics and purchase equipment that will eliminate or decrease the aerosole that is coming from their high speed handpiece (drill) and scaler.


Dr. Ramon Caeg


7) Abraga Fitness Center
Gyms, Fitness and Wellness Industry

Even though gym facilities are still not allowed to operate under GCQ, we always make sure that we still regularly sanitize and clean our equipment and facility on a weekly basis because we treat ABRAGA as our second home.

We also started offering online “Zoom” workout programs to our clients to help them maintain their programs with us.

This new normal setting is really challenging for us gym owners, but we are ready to slowly go back to operations.


Riego “Bam” Gamalinda
PBA Player
Part Time Owner – ABRAGA Fitness Center, Moonwalk, Parañaque City

8) The Palms Country Club, Alabang
Country Clubs

Palms has always been a home away from home for its members, right now the safest haven for us is home.

At Palms, we continue to foster safety by providing exclusive and private dining and sports facilities for members and immediate family only. This ensures minimum capacity of diners thus minimizing any exposure to the virus, a shift away from our previous practice which was to maximize capacity.

Now it’s all about members’ safety by providing the physical distancing that everyone is promoting right now.

Having hosted the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) as a temporary facility for doctors and nurses, it has given us first-hand information and training on how best to implement the highest standards of hygiene and safety.

Staff are more conscientious of handling themselves.

Engaging with external sanitation companies in providing professional sanitation in all areas of the club is a must right now.

The main thrust of the Club right now is regaining the trust of the members that we are still a safe place to be.


Chef Hans Neukom
Executive Chef and General Manager

The Palms Country Club, Alabang

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Source: Manila Bulletin (

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