It all started when the firecracker, gunshots and fireworks haze lifted about 6 a.m. the first day of January 2015.
All NAIA and domestic airports were practically empty. No taxis, FXs or jeepneys. There were no Filipino workers and first time immigrants leaving for destinations abroad. The departures only had airline crews waiting for the signal to board the aircraft.
The POEA and BIR desks collecting travel tax from Filipinos only had the collectors ready with their receipts. So were members of the airline ground crew craning their necks for passengers to come and check in.
The immigration officers were ready with the terminal fee receipts. But there were no travelers in line.
By the end of the day, the Duty Free shop and concessionaires had no sales. No planes left. No planes landed.
The Middle East, the Asian countries, Europe including the UK, the US and Canada blacklisted Filipinos because of the Pambobola virus, a vicious strain that attacks the host’s moral fibers thereby causing the spread of willful misrepresentation, production of fake documents, testimonies and spurious affidavits.
Patient zero was identified as Pol E. Tishan.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had to lay off personnel because nobody was applying for passports. The next government agencies to close were the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas and TESDA.
Severely affected were the NBI, National Statistics Authority’s Serbilis program providing officially issued birth, marriage and death certificates to 5,000 Filipino workers leaving daily and the 60,000 immigrants just bound for the US alone.
By June, the airlines had to cancel flights and sell off planes that were just accumulating parking fees. Schools had to lay off teachers because children of Overseas Filipinos could no longer afford the tuition fees.
Banks had to consolidate and sell off assets because OFWs were no longer able to pay mortgages. Or provide down payment for first time homes or renovation of existing ones. Realtors had to dip deep into their pockets to prevent default of their bank loans, acquired in anticipation of buyers with dollars coming in every month or a total of more than $24 billion in 2014.
The Big Three telecomm firms took a hit as texting locally and overseas stopped. Gadgets were being offered with prepaid plans but there were no takers. Without money to pay for the highest electricity and power use in Asia, households used alternative fuels and power sources. The biggest power distribution firm had to turn off lights it does not pay for (but instead charges to consumers as part of operating costs). Employees of public utility firms – power, electric, water, telecommunications – were laid off.
Cable TV died. Free TV hemorrhaged because advertisers were not making enough money from consumer purchases. No advertising income, no shows. People had to go back to reading and talking to each other in person. The Philippines lost its record as the texting capital of the world.
Taipans stopped building malls as concessionaires started closing down one by one for lack of customers. Highly leveraged in debt with their eyes on the remittance prize, malls closed. Employees were laid off. Unemployment soared to triple digits.
The last batch of half a million college graduates were lining up not for the Metro Manila Film Festival but miles around the block of the POEA office, licenses recruitment as well as manning agencies—looking for jobs.
One unintended consequence happened: NAIA was removed from the list of the worst airport of the world.
Manufacturers of consumer items —food products, electronics, gadgets, had to write off billions in bad debts. Even motorcycle companies suffered a flat. OFWs were no longer buying tricycles to augment their income after selling off parcels of land to pay for placement fees. Travel and tour operators, immigration consultancies vanished and with them their employees.
Without the tens of billions of remittance-dollars shoring up the Philippine peso, the country was not able to pay for imports and defaulted on external debts.
Unemployment—and consequently crime—soared. Incapable of providing protection to the city and provincial residents, the military took over. Martial law was declared.
Hot money flowed out. The elite liquidated their assets and moved them elsewhere. No airlines? No problem. They have their own private planes and chartered ships.
A miracle happened: Patient Zero died. So did the rest of the species of Pol E. Tishan.
What remained of the government were the career officials who rose in the ranks through merit. An antidote emerged in the form of a moral fiber strengthening simple supplement—Vitamin Pagsisil-B.
Just in time for the presidential election of 2016.