BIZ REOPENING. Garden shop owner Angelita Escaño mans her shop along Romulo Highway in Mangatarem, Pangasinan in this photo taken on March 24, 2021. She said her business was affected by the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon in 2020 but it is slowly recovering. (Photo by Joann Villanueva)

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan – What started as a hobby has become the bread and butter of the family of Angelita Escaño, 58, for more than a decade.
Before the words “plantita/plantito” went trending during the pandemic, Angelita said she has already been into ornamental plant gardening and has been giving away plants to her friends. 
“But some friends suggested that I sell some of my plants since I already have a lot so I could monetize it,” she told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) in Filipino. 
Since she began selling about 20 plants at the sidewalk around the Mangatarem public market in 2009, Angelita now has two branches – one at the public market and the other at the Barangay Quetegan community market along Romulo Highway. 
She recalled that the family had a junk shop before starting the garden business. 
“We went around several municipalities every day to look for recyclables to buy and later on sell to bigger junk shop owners. I and my husband were out the whole day so the small kids were left to the care of the older ones,” Angelita said.
The need to have more time to look after their kids made her and her husband decide to shift to another business. 
“We were out the whole day and sometimes, we don’t earn anything so we have to look for another source of income,” she said. 
With a capital of PHP1,000, Angelita said they bought small ornamentals plants, which they now sell at the public market using their tricycle.   
A plant costs PHP20 to PHP30 apiece and their daily earnings range from PHP200 to PHP400.
“Part of this (amount) is used as additional capital so that we could buy more varieties to sell,” she added. 
The business has grown since and Angelita said they were able to send some of their children to college.
To date, three of her children are married, one is in college, and one is in senior high school.
She said business was generally good until the pandemic struck last year. 
Following the declaration of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon starting March 17, 2020, most businesses were prevented from opening.
And because Angelita’s business is not considered essential, she had no choice but to close their store. 
“We were not allowed to go out. We were not even warned about the movement restrictions before it was implemented. That’s why we were not able to get any of our plants home,” she said. 
Angelita said they were only allowed to visit their store two weeks after the quarantine started and by then, most of the plants were dying. 
“I got so depressed and was not able to sleep properly for days because those are the only source of income. We lost a lot because of the quarantine,” she added. 
Although her family benefited from the cash aid from the government, Angelita said the value was not enough to compensate for their losses. 
Despite what happened, she said their family needed to get the business back on its feet.
Borrowing to survive
To augment their capital, Angelita borrowed money from a lending company that collects payments daily. 
“We needed to borrow otherwise we won’t be able to get back to our old system,” she said.
Angelita said the lending company charges 3 percent for a loan payable in three months.
“But I make sure to pay before the due date so as not to pay any penalty,” she said.
Asked if she tried to borrow from relatives before deciding to tap the lending company, Angelita said no. 
“I’d rather take a loan from a lending company than borrow from relatives because it’s hard to be indebted to your relatives,” she added. 
Angelita and her husband opened a branch along the national highway using the revolving loan.
Aside from selling plants and garden supplies on a retail basis, she said they also supply these items to other garden shop owners. 
With people having more time at home since the start of the pandemic, several hobbies became a trend, among them taking care of plants. 
Angelita said they have benefited greatly from this trend, especially in 2020.
“We’re slowly recovering from the impact of the temporary business closure and I hope this continues,” she added. (PNA)