There are everyday heroes in the face of adversity. Examples of everyday Filipino heroes were shared by Alfamart Chief Operating Officer Harvey T. Ong at the recent 27th National Retail Conference and Stores Asia Expo organized by the Philippine Retailers Association.    

On the morning of March 17, 2020 Michael, an Alfamart store crew, woke up to news that Luzon was on Enhanced Community Quarantine and that public transportation came to a halt.  Faced with this, he had two choices: file for emergency leave or walk to work. He chose to do the latter, walking three hours that morning from his home in Las Pinas to his store in Pasay City.

“I actually met him on his way to his store. After Michael shared his story, I asked him what made him decide to walk. His simple answer was ‘Kailangan ako ng team’ (my team needs me). He didn’t want to let them down,” Mr. Ong said.

Alfamart’s Human Resources team immediately began reviewing store assignments, reassigning employees to stores that were closer to their homes.

Mercy, who worked at one of the Alfamart stores in Laguna, was one of the employees who received the offer to be reassigned. But she refused, much to the surprise of the company.  She wanted to remain with her store so she can continue serving her community.

To get to work, she bought and learned how to ride a bicycle and rode it to the store every day, an hour’s ride each way.

And then there’s Rodel, who works at one of the Alfamart stores in Rizal. Rodel regularly goes out of his way after work, using his own personal time to deliver groceries to his regular customers: an elderly couple who cannot leave their home. “It’s true that a crisis brings out the best in people and this pandemic is no exception. We are blessed to have employees who go over and above the call of duty. Engaged employees are particularly important for us in retail, because despite the advances in technology, retail remains a people business,” Mr. Ong said.

Alfamart employees celebrating the opening of their 1000th store in November 2020

Alfamart takes pride in its people and the way they have been driven by purpose to serve the communities where they work especially during this pandemic.

“The power of purpose was apparent throughout this pandemic. Communities were counting on our retail front liners to keep their operations running. And when they did, the public took note of their sacrifices. They noticed and appreciated our unsung heroes,” Mr. Ong said.

To ensure the safety of its people, Alfamart strictly adhered to government-mandated safety protocols.  Employees were all provided with protective gear and Covid-19 testing was arranged for those who worried about exposure. Shuttles were temporarily provided during times when public transportation was suspended. Alfamart continues to limit the number of people inside their stores and implement temperature checks, contact tracing and regular disinfection.

As vaccines became more available, the company encouraged employees to avail of vaccination programs arranged either by SM or by their respective LGUs. This included transporting employees from their place of work to the vaccination site. To date, over 80% of its employees have been partially or fully vaccinated.

Mr. Ong relates that in Alfamart’s case, its purpose has been to uplift the lives of its people and the lives of residents in underserved communities.

Even with the pandemic affecting the company’s sales, Alfamart kept all of its stores open. 

“We could have easily just temporarily closed down the stores that were not performing well. But that would have meant abandoning the communities at a time when they needed us the most. And that would not have been consistent with our purpose. Aside from keeping our stores open, we even decided to keep opening new stores so we can serve more communities,” Mr. Ong said.

Despite the pandemic, Alfamart opened over 250 stores in 2020, the most it has done in one year. Today, it continues to open new stores in various parts of the country, seeing huge potential once the economy recovers.