I’ve always regarded you as a survivor. You kinda grew up on your own, without the usual parental supervision most kids experience for a greater part of their childhood. Mom and dad separated when you were young (less than 10 years old) and you and your sister went to live with your maternal grandparents first, your paternal grandparents later. Mom’s side of the family moved to the US and so you’ve been going back and forth two continents since your teen days. You started taking charge of your life when you were maybe 12. You would enroll yourself in school, manage your own savings account, and so forth. Of course your aunts and uncles provided guidance which is how you were able to chart your life’s course so well.
In December 2019, we went to Los Angeles where mom’s side of the family is based. Christmas there is always a memorable and joyful occasion. We only have a chance to spend it together every few years. Never would I have imagined that it would be our last normal Christmas… or the last of many things. I mean, really, would it have ever crossed your mind that you would experience a global pandemic in your lifetime?
The first few months of living with COVID-19 felt surreal. I lost all interest in everything I had been doing up to that point. I was spending days cooking, watching K-dramas, and sleeping. Rinse and repeat. I did not turn on the computer for maybe an entire month… which is something of a record for me. I wasn’t blogging or posting on social media. Business was bad. We deal in construction supplies and well, there isn’t really much construction going on. We also rent out properties but most of our tenants were either losing their jobs, working from home, and so forth. In other words, everyone was preterminating their lease. I do PR work on the side but as most of you know, everyone is cost-cutting and media events have become a thing of the past. I don’t think we’ve ever had it this bad. After ECQ shifted to MECQ last year, we gradually went back to work. But we are still not normal. Our work hours are shortened and we’re not quite near the level of sales we used to generate.
Since 2020, my Facebook feed has resembled the obituary section of the paper. So many people I know and don’t know have succumbed to COVID-19. Last October, we lost our lola… not to COVID but well, because of COVID we had no choice but to watch on video calls how she was deteriorating. My mom was already telling us that she’s hasn’t been well since the first quarter of 2020. If these were normal times, we would have gone to see her. But given that we reached the height of the pandemic last year, it was not possible. I just comfort myself with the thought that at least we got to spend one last Christmas and New Year with her. When I was packing Christmas gifts back in December 2019 I actually got this foreboding feeling that it was the last one I’d get to give her so I made sure it was something she would really love. This is the most important thing that this pandemic has taken from me — the last chance to spend time with my lola. I had spent a chunk of my growing up years with her and whatever confidence I have now can be traced to her unwavering belief in me and what I can do.
But here we are, still thankful for what we have. We have a roof over our heads. We eat well. Our kids have the luxury of pursuing their studies online. None of us have gotten sick. We’re actually prepared for rainy days and right now we are in the eye of a freaking storm. But for every earning opportunity that was lost, alternative ways of generating income have been found. Life has become so much simpler. Yes, we miss traveling. We miss getting together with friends and loved ones. We miss the privelege of going around maskless. But we just focus on surviving this plague and keeping ourselves healthy. When this storm finally passes, and it surely will, we can once again enjoy life the way we used to.
It can only get better. Let’s tell ourselves that. Let’s believe that it will.
This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.
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