The COVID-19 casualty: Health and economy

Nobody saw it coming.

Not even the experts at disaster preparedness. It took the World Health Organization to even decide calling the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in China, a pandemic.

Like a thief in the night, COVID-19 stealthily took over our lives and changed the way we lived in the last three years. Even as the WHO declared that COVID-19 is not a public health emergency any longer, those three years were undoubtedly painful ones.

People needed to change behavior. With high mortality at the beginning of the pandemic in the 21st century, science needed to step up quickly in order to find treatment and vaccines against the virus.

Unfortunately, as science raced to address the gaps of healthcare, the virus mutated to more evasive variants and sub variants. They too, needed to survive.

The casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic was not only health-related. Deaths, post-COVID sequelae, and other unaddressed health issues which were not attended to during the pandemic because of fear of going to hospitals and contracting the virus was something we needed to address. Immunization against common preventable diseases were placed on hold. Necessary work-ups for other ailments were on pause mode, worsening the saddled healthcare systems globally.

But health wasn’t the only major casualty of the pandemic.

The economy of various countries, particularly those that remained in lockdown for the longest period of time suffered the most. People lost their jobs because businesses had to close. Those that survived would need time to recover the 2019 numbers. And it’s not going to happen overnight. It will take more resources and deeper pockets to continue operating the same way we did 4 years ago.

There are lessons learned from this pandemic.

Lockdowns don’t work, particularly for poor countries like the Philippines, where majority of its people live below the poverty line. The fear of contracting the virus and getting sick was coupled with some very poor decision making from the previous administration. A bitter pill of truth that is difficult to swallow.

Disaster preparedness will require a political will. This will not be the last pandemic to strike us. If there are those in government who will misuse and abuse the coffers of the health department, we will end up waiting like beggars for dole-outs from donor countries for vaccines and medicines. By then, it would be too late.

If you look at the situation we are in today, we are still at the sad place in health.

We have little regard for the healthcare sector, and its healthcare workers. There is no budget for vaccines for its people and we remain mendicants in many aspects of health.

Quo vadis Pilipinas?

Back in Tokyo, post-lockdowns (The Muji Hotel at Ginza)

This isn’t a paid review.

A lot of people wonder how we were even able to get a room here. It’s not like a swanky hotel. It’s actually four stars. This reservation was made 6 months ahead of our planned trip. Hoping that nothing would come in the way, I went ahead and booked the three rooms for a party of six adults.

Located right smack in the Ginza district, this hotel has the minimalist and environmental-friendly feel. The location is the crown jewel stand out for this hotel. Right in the heart of the Ginza district, where the posh high-end shops are never ending, the hotel is just a few steps away from Mitsuhikoya and Matsukaya Ginza, as well as the branded names of Fendi, LV, Gucci, Prada, Hermés, Bottega Venetta, Valentino, et al, or the likes of Apple and Samsung flagship shops, Ginza is home to several Michelin starred restaurants and the more upscale Tokyo Peninsula.

So why pick the Muji Hotel at Ginza? But this hotel is not without hiccups! Aside from the aforementioned location, the flagship Muji shop is located on the first five floors and a Muji Diner at the basement of this building. The hotel, with 79 rooms, is located on the 6th to 10th floor. The stores and diner close at 9pm daily. That means the access to the hotel from the main shop closes as well. You will need to use the hotel entrance at the back of the store to gain access to your rooms after 9pm.

The reception is located on the 6th floor. There is no luggage service, so don’t expect a baggage boy come rushing to the doorstep to meet you. There is also hardly anyone at the front desk after 11pm. When we arrived close to 11pm last Sunday, I called the hotel and was asking where the entrance was, we couldn’t understand each other. While the staff may speak English, it’s quite basic and things get lost easily in translation. This is, after all, not the Four Seasons at Maranouchi (a favorite of mine).

The rooms are decent. Most of them follow a type C design. In reality, when Muji had bought this building, it was originally designed to be an office and not a hotel. Which accounts for the way the interiors of the hotel have been retrofitted to an appealing but not functional look.

Type C room
Toilet in one of the type C rooms. This is the bathroom of my mom. The rest of the rooms have a really small bathroom.
The directions from the hotel side

There are standard amenities which you can take home with you. It’s a mini version of what you can find at the Muji store.

As modern as it gets, there isn’t a switch in the room (except the bathroom). All appliances, lights, curtains, alarm, cleaning services and phone calls are made through a smart pad. That includes the level of lighting and whatever you’d want to operate in your room without having to stand up. Just bring the tablet with you to control all settings.

Breakfast does not stuff your face in a buffet. Although still a buffet, it’s a rather simple spread of traditional Japanese dishes. Breakfast is at the WA Restaurant to the left of the front desk. To the right of the front desk is The Atelier – Muji’s library – where there are tons of reading material and coffee, tea and some baked goods. The bakery is located in the first floor, while the diner is at the basement. The bakery and diner are open after 11am. Food choices are standard and limited.

Your stay at the Muji Hotel won’t be complete if you don’t visit their whole 5 floors of shop – from fashion to household needs and appliances to school and office supplies and to their famous diffusers and scents.

Here’s the photo gallery of the five floors of the Muji store below the hotel.

The Muji Hotel at Ginza has its plus and minuses. With Uniqlo and GU just at its side and the posh shops a few steps away, it is, hands down, the best location in Ginza.

But if you’re looking for a hotel with less hits and misses, Muji Hotel at Ginza is over rated as an eco friendly hotel doesn’t really work well for the elderly and persons with disability. If you fall into the latter category, this should not be a choice for you.

It’s also stressful that they require all guests to check out promptly at 11am. And they need all the card keys when you check out (so that means that there’s no taking home those card keys as a souvenir). But there is always a place to put your bags in the lobby and you can always have lunch at WA if you’re waiting for a late afternoon flight.

You can reserve a room online at this link:

Back in Tokyo, post-lockdowns (Getting there)

Japan culture and Japan itself is my go to place when it comes to Asian countries. A country deep in history, it also enjoys the climate one would truly appreciate when it comes to experiencing the four seasons of the year. Japanese people are respectful and their traditions remain deep in honor and accountability in spite of the rapid changing technology and generation gaps in this ultra-fast paced century.

The lockdown years were frustrating for those who enjoy traveling. And traveling is what my mom even at the age of 85 and wheelchair bound, enjoys. In spite of the physical and emotional challenges in life, traveling and relaxation makes her difficult life easier to get by.

The post-lockdown travel is a challenge – not only to those who are able-bodied but more so, to the physically handicapped.

Current travel requirements to Japan include full vaccination and ONE booster. Nope, Sputnik vaccines do not count. And if you only have a full vaccination or your full vaccination was a Sputnik vaccine and you had ONE booster of any other COVID vaccine brand, that didn’t count either. What to do? Get an RT-PCR, 72 hours before your flight. Validity for that PCR test is 72 hours prior to your designated flight.

You will need to fill up your travel details on this website and upload the quarantine requirements (vaccine certificates), obtain an immigration QR code, and obtain a customs QR code as well.

When your digital requirements are fulfilled, you should be able to get all these within less than 12 hours. The immigration and customs QR code are almost immediate. Don’t forget to take a photo shot of your QR codes and save to your photo gallery, just in case you don’t get a wifi signal or you’re too stingy to go for data roaming on your mobile phone.

The long Holy Week and holidays contributed to the exodus of Filipinos from the city. The airport was crowded and the immigration line was bad. Everyone wanted to be part of the “priority” (senior citizens and PWD lane) with the kids, teenagers and everyone else in their traveling party in tow. Discipline isn’t really part of the DNA of the Filipino.

Even boarding was mayhem in Manila. When the ground crew began to announce that boarding for children would commence – the rush to the gate was like all hell had broken loose. It’s like – didn’t you get a seat assignment?

The four and a half hour travel to Japan on ANA was smooth. Food was served promptly. But the choices on the Manila to Haneda leg wasn’t really great. You’d think that paying for business class you get you more than just slippers and a heavy blanket – but more decent choices as well. The over-all cabin crew service, however, was superb and made up for what was basically lacking in the business class food service.

Did I mention the cabin crew? Yes I did and this cabin crew really did a great job in attending to my mom, in spite of the 3/4 full business class flight. And here’s the icing on the cake…

Upon arrival in Haneda, we would need to use a bus gate. That would mean stairs! Fifteen minutes before the arrival into Haneda, the chief purser had informed me of this. We were instructed that when we arrive and all the passengers have deplaned, there would be a special arrangement for my mom who would be hauled by traction down through the door on the right side of the plane where the special bus would connect us to a vehicle that would attach to the “cargo” and take us straight into the gate near the immigration area.

From the airline front door to the traction bus
In the traction bus which brought her down from the lift into a vehicle that took her right into Terminal 3

I was literally blown away with the service of ANA and the crew at the Haneda International Airport. Two staff were with us from the time she was shuffled from the plane into her own wheelchair, to the queue at immigration (in the priority lane), until we got our baggages, till we met our chauffeur at the arrival area.

Great job ANA and domo-arigato (どうもありがとう) to team ANA!

[On a side note, the average duration from arrival to exit took the other members of our party 2 hours to queue in Haneda. So many tourists arriving that same evening! In spite of the fact that we waited till the whole plane was emptied of passengers before we could deplane, and took our ‘private’ transfers from the bus gate to immigration, we were finished within an hour after our arrival into Haneda. The Japanese immigration was not spared from the stampede of tourist arrivals. All those who had kids in tow (even if they were not with children less than 2 years old or who did not require strollers or assistance) were on the same ‘priority’ lane as the elderly and disabled. The woman triaging the passengers was completely overwhelmed at the multitude of arrivals that compounded with the language barrier, there was nothing much she could do.]

The 3.6M views…

To date, I have had close to 3.6M views and over 1800 quotes and close to 500 likes for a post in Twitter. As the Twitter language would put it – I was ‘ratioed’ (not grammatically correct but as those that coined this would say – who cares!). It means that there were more dislikes (and reactions) than likes from various sectors.

We all know that Twitter has very limited character typing and you really cannot keep making a whole trail of events, but let’s capture that now in the proper context. [Apologies if the context was not provided the way people wanted the whole story told.]

I run a company (own) that is hiring additional personnel. We are a healthcare industry. There were several applicants. We interviewed them all. Decided on one qualified applicant. Invited the applicant over for the the job offer. Discussed with the applicant that we offer a month of sick leave, vacation leaves, all convertible to cash and cumulative (which means if it is not used this year can be used in subsequent years for tenure incentive). There’s also a 14th month pay and profit sharing bonus. The pay was above average standards for the industry [which means that we’d be shaving from our budget this year but well, we just needed to be fair to the employees in these trying times].

The applicant requested to ‘think about the offer’ and get back to us in 7 days because the family was traveling outside the country. Although we needed the placement ASAP, I acceded. HR informed the applicant to decide soonest so that we can fill the service gap, which is vital in the healthcare industry.

After 2 weeks, I requested HR to kindly follow-up with the applicant on the decision. The applicant said, yes, but there was an added request – to provide additional paid vacation leaves.

Of course, I was stunned because that would mean that if we gave in to one, we would need to change the whole company handbook. And that would mean also additional expenditures for the company. [Please remember that providing added leaves would mean we are understaffed and that would mean hiring more people again and the vicious cycle continues.]

And at the end of the day, we compromise patient services resulting in poor patient care.

I asked politely why the applicant needed additional PAID LEAVES. The reply was that the applicant had several circle of commitments outside of work – friends, social organizations, bonding time with colleagues for networking purposes and exploring additional opportunities outside of working for us.

While the applicant was qualified, we did not share the vision that the healthcare industry cannot have a similar work life balance relationship the way the applicant envisioned. [Note here is that we encourage people to use their leaves so that they can have a good work life balance. Unfortunately, we cannot over stretch this to more than a month.]

In fairness to the company, during the lockdowns, we drained resources in order to provide private shuttle services to and from work for the workforce. We provided added sick leaves and COVID19 leaves with pay. We sent swab kits to the families of the workforce when anyone was sick or needed to get tested. The HMO coverages to employees who got sick and needed hospitalization came in handy.

The healthcare business is different from other industries. And without having to sound offensive to the dissenting Twitters out there – is not comparable to any other work from home or hybrid playground you are currently in. Sure you can get a consultation online with a doctor who may be sipping Margarita enjoying the sunset in an idyllic resort, but that’s not the right way to assess sick patients. You will most likely miss 50% of the right diagnosis and make as much error in prescribing the right medicine with an online consultation, especially for acute illnesses. [I’m not saying a virtual consultation does not help, I’m just saying it’s not the ideal way of seeing acutely sick patients and may increase morbidity if not addressed correctly.]

The gap in the delivery of healthcare services is palpably felt not only in the Philippines, but globally as well. That’s why our healthcare workers prefer to leave for better pay and opportunities to care for foreigners rather their own people. I cannot blame them.

But we have a nation of 115M Filipinos to care for. A sizable chunk is the growing elderly population whose medical needs have incrementally increased during the pandemic. As a matter of fact, they were the most vulnerable and it was heart breaking to see friends and relatives succumb to this. Then there were those who came down with COVID-19 and post-COVID problems (long COVID). This took a toll among patients from all walks of life.

The healthcare industry was affected mentally, emotionally and economically. Healthcare workers who were my dearest friends passed away from COVID. Many of the frontline healthcare workers simply gave up from sheer exhaustion and moved to office jobs. Many older doctors just closed their clinics and went into retirement. Hospitals and clinics were understaffed. And the cycle of surges and lockdowns and deaths pushed other healthcare workers into just throwing in the towel. While we are seemingly at a better situation today than three years ago, the first three years of the pandemic upended many things.

The pandemic allowed innovation and technology to be part of the solution at the front and center of the work force. This allowed the economy to push on, albeit slowly, in the local and global front. Undoubtedly, the Philippines still had the poorest working conditions especially in the health sector. Underpaid. Overworked. The government did not care for its healthcare work force leaving them begging for the scraps that were promised and due them.

Many left the country. And that created wider gaps in healthcare. Hospitals now run at half its bed capacity because we have a shortage of work force – in all areas. Often times, a procedure would have to be moved to another day or that you’d need to wait in vain for a bed – not because we have no room at the inn. But because we have less people to care for the sick. And it’s heart breaking to see your next of kin, father, mother, brother, sister, friend or family wilt away or have to move from hospital to hospital because of the challenges the pandemic created in the healthcare system.

Today, we’re trying to rise out of the rubble of a pandemic.

This was explained to the applicant and sadly, it ended in a no deal.

The frustration here is that the applicant could have told us earlier during the negotiations what other wants, requests and other needs the applicant needed. If it was unacceptable from the get go, then we both could have walked away and not wasted each others time.

Now it’s back to square one. A whole month wasted on interviews, offers and negotiations.

In the meantime, the sick are piling up across the hall.

Of onions and third world woes

Only in the Philippines.

So the past months has been a woe in the cost of onions. Onions, for God’s sake.

This country never ceases to amaze the rest of the world. A third world nation with an agricultural land that occupies 13.42 million hectares (as of 2020) has hogged the media headlines over the skyrocketing prices of – yes, ONIONS!

Photo from The Manila Times (CTTO)

The cost of onions in the country is 700-800% its actual market value. It’s more expensive than a kilo of pork or chicken, and is the most expensive vegetable in the BAHAY KUBO song. At 750-800 pesos ($12.50) per kg of onion.

How did it get to this point?

I mean, seriously, we just go ahead and blame everything in skyrocketing costs to the Ukraine and Russian war or the extreme weather disasters and supply chain snags occurring, but the buck stops with the Department of Agriculture.

Some lawmakers have raised the issue of an “onion cartel” that hoards and controls and manipulates the onion prices from the farm gate to the market by big traders. In a country that is as poor as the Philippines, having a cartel that controls which prices of basic goods and commodities from the angle to supply and demand should be punishable by life imprisonment. But we know who these big players are, don’t we? After all, we’ve gone through shortages in rice, sugar, garlic and other basic commodities in the past. It’s just that the shortage of onions is the icing on the cake.

Besides, it’s not like an overnight problem. The dwindling supply of onions was noted as early as August 2022. The solution of importation of onions should have been made at the point of recognition. This is called risk mitigation. Because no one did anything as early as then, some groups have profited big time in this onion depletion fiasco.

The president has now allowed the importation of onions to mitigate this problem. But it is harvest season for onions, according to farmers. Which means that in the coming weeks, there would be an oversupply. And that would bring the cost of onions down – to the detriment of the farmers.

Such a shame that in an agricultural developing nation like the Philippines, our main woes today are around the cost of onions.

Go figure!

Why the New York Times is counting it wrong

I am a subscriber to the New York Times, And one of the go to sections of mine is the COVID-19 update – both in the US and globally.

So yes, the world isn’t counting the real numbers anymore. Not even in the United States of America. And this is by no means a sin. Testing strategies have changed. Other countries do not even report the true number of COVID-19 cases. Even the World Health Organization acknowledges this huge gap. With how COVID-19 has run the world in the past three years, everyone and yes, everyone is just sick and tired of seeing the numbers.

But when the numbers being announced are wrong because someone was just basing information on someone else, then that’s called fake news. The people in the New York Times probably wouldn’t give a sh*t to a blogpost from the Philippines about this. But it matters. It matters because you would expect a respectable newspaper to get the information right.

The data on COVID numbers for the New York Times is based on the data provided by Johns Hopkins. They have a disclaimer on that.

At their online site, it’s clear that the newspaper just obtains data from the Center of Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The very same center the generates the information in The link is provided here:

Those responsible for the data at Johns Hopkins are:

The information gathered by Johns Hopkins are from the internet. Bluntly speaking, they are only dependent on the information that is published in the website of, say, the Department of Health. And when the DoH has a ‘glitch’ in publishing the right numbers, then what is churned out of Johns Hopkins and of course, the New York Times are wrong data.

To date, the Philippines has not had a surge as published by Johns Hopkins and then culled and quoted by the New York Times.

So where is the error coming from?

Well, to start off with, the automated system (I suppose it is automated) in Johns Hopkins most likely looks at the total and deducts yesterday’s total cases with the one today. On January 3, the Department of Health announced a jump in the number of total cases in spite of the 174 additional new cases alone.

Based on the above infographic, the number of new added cases of 174 did not match the total cases, which had jumped from 4,065,173 to 4,200,225 or an addition of 135,052 cases overnight (from January 2 to 3).

Even on the premise that it could have been a pouring of backlog reports to achieve that number, (notice that the number of recovered had also jumped from 3.98 M cases to 4.12 M cases with a gradual decline in active cases), it would be mathematically improbable that there would be that many backlogs. Why?

Two reasons: (1) the Philippines averages 10-11,000 individual PCR tests daily. (2) positive rate is at 5.7%. Which means that even if we did 25000 tests a day (remember, we do not record antigen tests in this country), the most number of positive cases would likely be around 1400 (or even lower).

So why was the January 3, 2023 infographic wrong? Human error. Someone put the wrong data in and did not bother to look or discern the numbers.

As of yesterday, January 7, our numbers are back to reality – 4,067,170 total cases and 3.99M recovered.

Something which the New York Times or Johns Hopkins did not bother to correct. If they were using an automated tool, then that would have generated a negative number and we all know that the 7-day average of cases cannot be NEGATIVE. It’s either you have cases or you don’t.

But that’s what happens when data isn’t really analyzed. Garbage in is garbage out.

And that’s why I’ve stopped counting.

The glitch – a traumatic inconvenience

Oxford defines a glitch as “a sudden, usually temporary malfunction or irregularity of equipment“. Which means that when we refer to a glitch, it points to the equipment as the problem.

It is short-lived and the system is at fault.

But systems have their limitations. Which means that when we refer to a glitch occurring, it cannot be just the equipment that’s the problem. Equipments require human intervention. To turn them on. To shut them. For maintenance. Or even to upgrade. To lay the blame on equipment failure alone is lack of accountability and responsibility by whoever is tasked to make sure that these are in tiptop shape and well maintained. It’s also why audits are important. These provide quality checks and balances in the workplace, making sure that “glitches” do not occur. Back-up systems or risk management plans are written and should be documented and followed to the letter.

What do you do when system A is down? What’s the fail safe plan or exit plan?

Even when there is a fire or an explosion, there is always an escape plan.

The recent “glitch” in the air traffic systems in the Philippines on January 01, 2023 was a nightmare to all travelers. For all the airports in the entire archipelago to shut down, there has to be a reason beyond just blaming the equipment.

While authorities attributed the air travel mayhem to equipment failure, and the call to shut down operations as a safety concern, a lot of questions need clear answers – beyond whitewashing this incident. The call to an investigation into this unfortunate inconvenience is needed. The public has the right to know why and how this happened and who is responsible for it. After all, the inconvenience did not only take away the time of passengers who had to wait for hours or even days before they could get a flight to or from the airports. The economic ramifications of this on a personal and national level is too huge to just shrug off as something that was a ‘glitch’.

This cannot happen again. It’s bad enough that the Philippines is reeling from an economic crisis due to the lockdowns at the time of Duterte. Revenge travel should not have to be this traumatic. It’s really not more fun getting caught in the worst airport in the world because of a glitch.

A year of hope in the year of the water rabbit

The Chinese calendar revolves around five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

The year of the Tiger exits early this year as we welcome the Year of the Water Rabbit.

Among the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit is the most tender and gentle. It is also the luckiest of the 12 animals and symbolizes energy, elegance and beauty.

Chinese philosophy dictates that everything exists as inseparable and contradictory opposites. Female-male. Dark-light. Old-young. Strong-weak. Passive-aggressive. Bad-good. The pairs of equal opposites attract and complement each other. In the Yin Yang model, each side has at its core an element of the other (represented by small dots). There is a balance in each pole in order to achieve harmony.

The year 2022, while the year of the water Tiger was a yang. The year of the water rabbit is a yin. Meaning passivity of the universe. A year of relaxation, fluidity, quietness and contemplation.

The rabbit is an agile animal. Moves quickly and is the most clever. While the rabbit exudes overall energy in what it does, it is gentle, calm and moves with confidence and ease.

The year of the water Rabbit should soothe the ups and downs and swings of the year of the Tiger.

Because of the steady movement of the rabbit, there should be amore steady goal regardless of negativity or problems in the coming lunar year.

As the rabbit is associated with peace, prosperity and longevity. optimism is the key as the year of the water Rabbit is a year of hope.

There is no better time to see the pandemic come to closure than the year of the water Rabbit.

恭喜发财 (congratulations and be prosperous) and 新年快乐 (happy new year)!

I’ve stopped counting

When I created this blog, it was designed to write about the random thoughts on everyday life that would bring us joy.

The title called Relative Joy for You was culled because Joy in itself is relative.

What may be good for the goose may not necessarily be exhilarating for the gander. And that’s pretty much what life is about. Relative Joy.

In December 2020, when the World Health Organization finally officially acknowledged the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in China (after much skepticism on the purported ‘rumors’ in the Chinese press), this blog initially provided some information on the beginnings of what would be a pandemic. In a few months, the world was mired in one global economic and health catastrophe.

Through those difficult beginnings, many friends and colleagues had untimely passed away. Too many. Too young. Too soon.

In the beginning, we learned that mobility would be challenging and masking became a rule rather than exception. Only one nation in the world embraced the concept of a ‘face shield’. In the real world, we all know that ventilation was the most important deterrent of the virus. Those face shields and plastic barriers in the Philippines remained remnants of ignorance of government advisers on the physics of viral spread by an airborne route. In a country once led by an incompetent leader, we all know how the story ended and how much corruption played a role in why those ‘face shields’ insistently remained not mandatory requirements when moving around.

Over the past years several variants of concerns emerged. And several treatment options as well as vaccines as well. Vaccines decreased severity of illness while treatments saved lives.

To say that this pandemic is over is an understatement and of course, a complacent attitude.

Three years have passed and the world has begun to ‘live’ with the virus. Borders have opened and only China was the last to embrace that a ‘zero COVID-19’ policy will never work. Omicron remains the major circulating variant with many sub lineages every now and then.

Today, many countries have changed the way they test and when they test. Policies differ from nation to nation. Testing has not become mandatory and neither has contact tracing anymore. The virus co-exists and will remain to co-exist with us as the true number of daily cases is now a blur. Even those who pass away from COVID-related illness is now becoming a challenge with countries not truly reporting COVID-19 as the direct cause of death in many patients.

With sites like the World Health Organization, OurWorldInData and Worldometers having different numbers coming out of their reports, none of the data is accurate and official.

As 2022 came to a close, the news of COVID-19 surges in China had become an issue among governments globally (either political in nature of a true scientific concern where new variants could potentially emerge). The demand for transparency of cases and deaths emanating from China became the debate of whether border control should be reinstated among citizens traveling from China. After all, reciprocity demands reciprocity. China requires a negative PCR for foreigners to travel to the mainland – vaccinated or not.

A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab sample from a resident at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Beijing, China April 28, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

As the year came to an end, one thing was certain. People were tired of COVID-19. Lockdowns had hurt the economy, both locally and globally. And it was time to move on.

In 2023, it is time to stop counting the COVID-19 cases in the world…

Staycation at the New World Hotel: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (Part 2)

The last day of our staycation was expectedly hectic for the hotel staff. Breakfast was erratic and the servers were busily confused. With the crowd pouring in yesterday for the New Year celebration, the chaos was expected. However, I am sure that the marketing people expected this. But degrading the Residence Club to an area that has no privacy feel is really not worth the hype or the extra charge for the supposedly whistles and bells to the more expensive floors.

The good

Dinner at Jasmine was good. Not very good but good. But that’s it. On a better day, I would most likely come back but this wouldn’t be my go-to Chinese restaurant. There are better.

The bad

For a hectic harassed day (or night) at the food outlets in this hotel, the least they can do with mediocre food is to compensate with better service. Yes. That’s the first rule of thumb. A good service always shines above an ordinary meal or below par accommodation.

Breakfast today was a joke. You had to literally wait for a refill. Which didn’t come until I stood up to inform the concierge desk to stop making people come in and take care of the food and the service first.

When something as basic as bacon can’t get refilled, this is classically bad service. And the coffee took quite awhile. I had to stand in line before a lady approached me to ask me what I wanted. I said – coffee. No one assisted me at the door unlike the first day. Chaos overtook service.

Coming from lockdowns in 2021, 2022 supposedly had prepared them for better customer experience. There was Christmas Day to practice anyway.

Even Jasmine was not spared from the attack of the “staycationers”. Dinner reservations was at 730pm. They actually placed us in a shabby makeshift room which hardly justified the ambience of the place.

The set menu was a “blah” so we decided to get what was worth a New Year dinner. But the service was sadly turtle paced. The prawns came ahead of the soup. The cold cuts were the last to be served. The roasted duck was just okay. The dessert was forgetful.

Because the staff needed to go home, they were in a hurry to close all orders by 930pm. Take note that it took us 1 hr to get food on the table because we ordered ala carte. The rest of the snail-paced food finally arrived by 9pm. The kitchen was literally overwhelmed.

The ugly

And while the food came at such a slow pace, they missed one dish. After the meal service, the server noticed that the dish which was never served was just lying on the service table. Now how bad was that? With all servers running back and forth, not one of them bothered to ask – who’s dish was this?

Finally, check out was a breeze at the 24th floor. But the elevators took more than 30 mins to even get a ride. And that is really a bitch with the “overnighters”.

Finally, if you can – DO NOT have your car valeted. It took us almost an hour just to have the car delivered to us. And you still needed to pay for valet with that kind of service.

The recommendation

While the hotel is just a stone’s throw from the Greenbelt mall, that’s its only strength. The rooms are outdated. The place isn’t highly recommended as many of the rooms (and we booked 3 for 6 adults) have awful beds (sleep quality is 1 of 4) and broken furnitures.

It’s a pet-friendly hotel. And seriously, the pets were more behaved than rowdy kids that rolled around the hallways and lobby. (I hate saying it but the kids needed the leash more than the pets.)

While it was understandable that it was, after all, a vacation for everyone after the more than two years lockdown of Du30, the hotel should have been more prepared.

Among many of the hotels we stayed in for our staycations, this rates at the bottom rung.

On check-in, we were welcomed by someone who asked me about where our previous vacation hotels where and she responded that she hopes after our stay this New Year, we would make New World Hotel our destination staycation hotel of choice from now on.

I recall those very words. And as we checked out of the hotel, I laughed and thought she was joking. They don’t know how bad their hotel is.