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Brand & Business: Philippine cities of the future — How MyKuya and San Pablo put together a self-sufficient local economy amid the lockdown

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — As the National Capital Region adjusts to the declaration of Enhanced Community Quarantine effective from August 6 to 20, the livelihoods of millions of people will once again be affected. Due to various restrictions of movement and strict adherence to health protocols, virtually every industry must adjust, leaving many Filipinos unable to earn the money to sustain their day-to-day. In fact, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the hard lockdown in Metro Manila will displace about 1.8 million workers as businesses will be forced to scale down or close operations altogether.

Yet in nearby provinces, startups and communities have come together to adapt to the new normal. For instance, San Pablo, Laguna’s response has come in the form of digitizing the local economy.

A partnership between super service app MyKuya and the office of City Councilor Martin Adriano looks to extend opportunities to people and help local businesses to help keep the city afloat. The MyKuya app allows people to book a wide range of services at the click of a button, whether it’s grocery deliveries, air-condition repair, personal shopping, and more. MyKuya’s business model benefits users with its convenience, as well as their partners, known as “kuyas” and “ates”, by providing them with an alternative source of income amidst lockdowns.


One notable success story from this collaboration is that of San Pablo native Kuya James.

Kuya James is no stranger to doing whatever it takes to make ends meet. He is a former security guard, licensed electrician, and printing shop business owner. For a time, he also worked in Taiwan as an OFW, spending time apart from his family just so that he could support them. Like many other OFWs however, Kuya James had to return home when the COVID-19 pandemic displaced thousands of OFWs just like him (since May 2020, the government has repatriated over 600,000 OFWs).

It was MyKuya, however, that allowed Kuya James to make the most out of his skills while staying close to home in his native town. For example, using the MyKuya app allows him to locally advertise his services as a licensed electrician, letting his neighbors easily book his services when they have problems with their power. Additionally, the app makes it easier for him to get the word out about his printing shop business and gives him an easy-to-use platform for virtually interfacing with his customers.

And it isn’t just tradesmen and business owners like Kuya James who benefit from MyKuya’s presence in San Pablo. For one young mother, MyKuya has been a great help assisting her with housework after the hired help she used before the pandemic could no longer come around. “Nag wo-work from home ako, naglilinis, nagluluto. Tapos bago makapag-pahinga, nag-tututor ako sa anak ko na nasa grade 4 na (I work from home, clean, and cook. Before I even rest, I also tutor my child in the 4th grade),” she explained.

“Salamat sa MyKuya kasi ngayon, pwede na akong mag-focus doon sa mga pinaka importante! Ung pasuyo, palinis at pabili ay malaking tulong samin (Thanks to MyKuya, I can focus on what’s really important. Delegating small tasks, cleaning, and its buying services have been a great help).

Paving the way for economically self-sustaining communities
Overall, MyKuya’s presence allows the city of San Pablo to take part in the rise of e-commerce in the Philippines. Figures from the Department of Trade and Industry show that the use of e-commerce has been steadily increasing from 70 percent in 2019 to 76 percent in 2020 and 80.2 percent in 2021.

Through the use of the MyKuya app and its easy-to-use interface, businesses who learned from the lessons of past lockdowns now have a partner in making their business future-proof and resilient by digitizing aspects of their operations such as tracking job orders or processing transactions while expanding their reach.

The ultimate benefit, however, is that MyKuya gives people a way to uplift their local communities and give “tiny bubbles” a way to become self-sufficient. By showing people what businesses nearby provide the services they need, it ensures that their hard-earned money goes to people living close to them—or people they even personally know. “We hope that San Pablo’s example can be replicated throughout the Philippines,” said Serene Samuel, MyKuya General Manager. “Especially in times of community quarantine where opportunities may be scarce, we want to give communities the power to come together and uplift themselves.”

Kuya James himself is the first to vouch for MyKuya’s work. “Masarap ang feeling na ginagamit lahat ng alam at kaya nagpapasalamat ako na meron nang MyKuya dito (It feels good to put all my knowledge to use and that’s why I’m thankful MyKuya is here),” he said. “Sana marami pang sumali para talagang gawa ng buong San Pablo ang pag unlad ng San Pablo (I hope that more people join [MyKuya] so that San Pablo [residents] will really be responsible for San Pablo’s success). ”

Overall, San Pablo’s story shows that city transformation is possible for any place that truly wants it. Together with MyKuya, a business model that uplifts businesses in a community and offers convenience to its users is easily within reach—it’s up to cities to reach out and make the best of it.

Partner with adobo Magazine

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