Sunday, March 14, 2021

How I Lost My Business…But Found Myself Along The Way

 

 


MAKATI, Philippines, March 14, 2021 — As we hit the anniversary of the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, I look back at what transpired in the last 12 months. To say that the Coronavirus, more aptly called nowadays as COVID-19, has changed the way we live is an understatement.

It is clear that we are not really going back to the way we used to live before. As we’ve often heard it, the New Normal has come. The time when we could freely crowd a mall, a government office, a restaurant, or attend a seminar/event is gone. Even with the vaccine in sight and within reach, at least for other countries, it will be hard for us to resume the old patterns of living, traveling, and even celebrating.

Such behavior has impacted the industry that I am in. I come from the outdoor advertising industry. In the past, this field was commonly referred to as billboard advertising. Today this industry and the medium it literally banners is known as Out-of-Home media or OOH. Much like the travel industry, OOH media has really taken a big hit because of COVID-19. Out-of-Home media thrives on the premise that 94% of the Filipino population is outside of their home at least once within their day.

Being out-of-home makes the perfect case for us who are in the OOH industry to erect billboards, posters, and LED signs, in order to convey the advertisers’ message to the commuters and pedestrians in the course of their daily activity.

When the Enhanced Community Quarantine was declared in March 2020, the metropolis suddenly became a ghost town. Suddenly, the need to view the billboards on EDSA or SLEX, and the lightboxes on Ayala Avenue or in the malls became irrelevant. This predicament obviously made the business I had started and operated for the past 15 years slide.

Like all other businesses which have been greatly affected by COVID-19 and the quarantine, I would say that I valiantly tried to keep things up for as long as I could. In the time that there were no billboard bookings and the advertisers pulled back their budgets, the upbringing instilled by my late father, who taught me practicality and mental fortitude was undoubtedly put to the test. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that other entrepreneurs, most especially the men would agree with this, that COVID-19 has brought out the best in us despite the mental strain. And that strain is different especially if one is the head of the family, for therein lies the responsibility to provide that hedge of protection over the wife and the children.

There are times though when courage is best displayed not by fighting on, but by surrendering. So by September 2020, I made the decision to finally close the business I had started from the time I left my employment in McCann-Erickson in 2005. In my mind, fifteen years for me was a good run. It was not an easy run. There were many hardships in between especially with government regulation perennially at the throat of the billboard industry.

With hardly any advertisers making bookings on billboards, I had to tell my staff that we would be closing shop. It was sad, but it made us all realize that no matter what,God’s sovereign hand was guiding us in everything. Finding out what would be next to do had to take some time. However, one of the things I have really wanted to do was be a full-time artist. I’ve never had the chance to be that given the frenetic pace of the advertising world. I also believe that I am not alone among advertising peers who wish to break free and just do art.

Throughout the quarantine period, we’ve heard a lot of talk about innovation and reinventing ourselves. That holds true for me as well. I had to dig into what I really love doing. The long and short of it is that I love to write and I love to paint. As a child, I used to draw and color a lot. I hung around a lot of artists and visited galleries. My late father even gave me the opportunity to go sketching with the late National Artist Cesar Legaspi.



My 7 year old self sketching with the late National Artist Cesar Legaspi in Bacolod City, 1975.


Recently, I painted the largest abstract painting in the Philippines, entitled “Alab ng Sining” (Blaze of Art), a poignant reminder for me to stoke the flames of art. The size is 62 feet high by 40 feet wide. The total surface area is 230 square meters, which is about the size of a regular subdivision lot. It is too big to hang in a gallery so I hung it on an EDSA billboard.



IN FOCUS : My artwork, “Alab ng Sining” which is the largest abstract painting in the Philippines.


This is where my profession as an advertising guy meets my artistic self as a painter and artist.

Despite the loss of my business, I am finally finding myself, and the purpose for which I was cut out for. This for me is the silver lining of the pandemic — that things slowed down enough for me to reassess what I really need to do. As what the Generation X hero, Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So going back to innovation and reinvention, sometimes the personal “innovation” or “reinvention” we need is nothing really new. Most of us need to just go back and RECAPTURE the vision of our best selves — that person we were supposed to be before the cares of this world took us down a different path.






Link to PeopleAsia Article






About the Author

Lloyd Tronco

Author & Editor

Lloyd Tronco. Artist. Writer. Entrepreneur. Undiagnosed ADHD. INTJ.

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