June 12 is ‘freedom from COVID-19’ for Iloilo’s events industry

Hazel P. Villa
June 12 is ‘freedom from COVID-19’ for Iloilo’s events industry
The newly-formed Iloilo Live Events Alliance will present 'Go Live to Live' on Philippine Independence Day, a fundraiser for the benefit of members of the Iloilo live events industry who have been hard-hit by the pandemic

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – As early as November last year, just like in their preparations for the world-renowned Dinagyang, event organizers and allied industries were starting to get frenetic with preparations for the Paraw Regatta held every third weekend of February in the beach area of Sto Niño Sur in Villa District here. 

However, around that time, news about Wuhan’s residents suffering from COVID-19 was making the rounds, with worries exacerbated by the Philippine government still allowing flights from China to enter the country.

The Paraw Regatta is a sailboat race featuring a Visayan double outrigger sail boat that is “considered the oldest traditional craft event in Asia and the largest sailing event in the Philippines,” according to the Iloilo City government website. It had to be moved to April.

Knowing how much the coronavirus pandemic has affected their industry, organizers and workers of the city’s live events decided to be proactive. They will stage “Go Live to Live,” a fundraiser and Independence Day Celebration on Friday, June 12.

The fundraiser is presented by the Iloilo Live Events Alliance (ILEA), a new non-stock, non-profit organization formed on June 1, with the aim of building a strong and united live events industry here. 

“Go Live to Live” is co-presented by the Iloilo City government led by Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, along with the JS Layson & Company, Hotel del Rio,  and the Iloilo Convention Center. It will be livestreamed at 6 pm on Friday.

Conceptualized by the creative minds of Ilonggo production and event planners, directors, and choreographers, “Go Live to Live” will feature “Hilway,” a showcase of performances from Iloilo artists, actors, musicians, and dancers; and  “Gugma,” a film preview by Ilonggo videographers and moviemakers about love in the time of the pandemic.

Donations and proceeds of “Bulig,” ILEA’s fundraising project, will benefit the sectors and members affected by the pandemic and will help fund programs and projects of the alliance. For details on where to watch and how to donate, please follow ILEA’s FB and IG pages @GoLiveToLive, YouTube and Twitch: Iloilo Live Events Alliance. 

Multimillion-peso losses

The Paraw Regatta postponement, along with other major tourism activities and various fiestas, greatly impacted the live events industry which started feeling the pinch as early as January 2020.

All the sectors and members have been greatly affected – losing jobs, businesses, projects, and livelihood. The challenge of how to address these concerns brought events people together to work as one, paving the way towards the formation of ILEA.

Income lost in the industry amounted to more or less P50 million a month for Iloilo City and the entire Iloilo whereas the pre-pandemic income last year, was 10 times more or P500 million per month, said Jida Hautea, owner of Passion8, an activation and production agency that also took the lead in organizing ILEA.

In 2019, the live events industry alone had a national gross revenue of P200 billion and generated about 400,000 jobs , Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia said in a privileged speech on May 22.

There are roughly a thousand ILEA members registered as direct workers and business owners, not counting freelancers and industry per project hires or workers.

From live events to everything else

ILEA organizers said the pandemic has impacted them, forcing them to get out of their comfort zones and find means to support their families, considering that many also did not qualify as recipients of the government’s emergency subsidy program.

Some shifted to selling food and plants; making and selling personal protective equipment; or doing online work and applying to call centers. Others organized donation drives for frontliners.

“Our industry has been greatly affected by the pandemic and we need to help it bounce back. We have come together to form an alliance that will take care of the welfare of the members with our very own initiatives and programs and not just depend on the aid from the government,” said Jida Hautea.

Jong Combong-Pijuan, ILEA sector representative and owner of Adworx, an events and integrated marketing company, said that “as a creative sector, we are constantly innovating, finding ways to maximize our resources and skills.”

“We are rethinking our approach on how events should be held, exploring other platforms like going online or virtual. It is also our priority to build customer confidence by developing and practicing safety and healthy protocols that we can apply throughout all phases of event production and execution,” Pijuan added. – Rappler.com