My latest article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:
However, is the use of incentives, particularly raffles and lotteries, a good and effective policy for changing the minds of the vaccine-hesitant? Given that vaccination is critical to the lifting of restrictions that have stifled the economy, led to massive job losses, and closed scores of businesses, shouldn’t getting vaccinated be considered the civic duty of citizens?
Clearly, vaccination is a necessity from a medical and health safety standpoint, but there are strong arguments against making it mandatory. However, when circumstances and factors related to people’s livelihood and well-being essentially depend on it, that reality must be accepted. Choice in that situation is basically a luxury very few can afford.
Whenever I take a break from writing, I sometimes end up pondering about this state of enforced immobility and isolation. Here are a few of those random musings:
Instead of exploring places and wandering about the outside world, we make do exploring virtually and going inside our heads, wrestling with our thoughts.
It is an ordeal for a free spirit like me. There is a world of difference between deciding to stay indoors to being forced to stay indoors.
Trying to keep safe from the virus is also an exercise in keeping one’s spirit healthy and lively.
A new normal is being bandied about with vaccinations already ongoing, but will this be the case years down the road? History kind of shows that mankind is not that good in terms of learning from the past.
I so miss the little things, even the mundane ones of just having breakfast at Wildflour Cafe here in our area, then to Fully Booked, Healthy Options, and Rustan’s Marketplace. Spontaneously dropping by at friend’s offices, or having lunches or dinner with those whose work is near our place. Hanging out at Washington Sycip Park reading and munching on junk foods and when taking a break people watching those jogging fanatics across Legazpi Active Park inflicting pain on themselves by jogging or exercising.
Enforced immobility has forced me to come face to face with a personal project long on hold, disrupted by my frequent wandering about. The situation has finally got me to sit down long enough to finish it.
Life in the so called new normal. Adapting to new ways of working. Learning to cope with limited mobility and enforced isolation. Praying for the safety and health of loved ones. Making the most of the situation.
I believe it is already a given that the world and a lot of things in our lives are not going to be the same after this Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps there will be an effort to restore a semblance of normalcy and to regain the life that was before the pandemic, but I doubt if we could really recapture that fully intact. For one, this pandemic and what it has wrought this past year has affected me significantly on a personal level and I am quite conscious of changes it has brought about in me as a person.
The fear is not for me but for my family and loved ones generated by the threat posed by the virus has forced me to reflect on life in general. Then there is the death toll, and we are not just talking about the numbers, we are talking about our family, people we know or loved ones of friends, relatives and colleagues. It makes one re-assess one’s priorities in life. I suddenly found myself no longer caring about material things, and have slowly adopted a more practical and minimalist mindset. It’s no longer about what I want to buy, but about places, things and stuff to do, experience, see, taste, hear, smell and feel.
This experience has further made me touch deeper into my spiritual self. A renewed connection with my faith and with God. A newfound appreciation of the daily blessing of being alive, to be given another crack at life upon waking. I say a prayer of thanks at the start of my day and at its end. I guess in a time and condition that makes us feel very vulnerable, our faith serves as our armor.
The pandemic has also forced us into isolation and severely restricted our movements, and this is more pronounced for me as I have my health condition and being a wanderer at heart I’m not used to being constricted in one place, much so in a tiny condo unit. Yet, I found myself expanding and reactivating my network of friends and contacts. Thanks to technology I have been reconnecting with childhood friends from my elementary, high school and university days. I have gained new friends through online social interaction, whether through academic webinars, or simply engaging on topics of interest. Not to mention all the freelance gigs I’ve been getting since the start of ECQ last March 2020.
While I have also been actively involved in doing volunteer work as I like helping out people, I have had to adjust the manner by which I seek to carry this out. I would normally join a group and be in the thick of the action, onsite, helping out together with similar minded friends and people. Now, with limitations on my movement for health and safety reasons, I contribute where and when I can. This means helping those in close proximity, such as providing food for all the workers (guards, maintenance, housekeeping, reception and admin) in our condo building. We sent them meals during the times the city was under ECQ, MECQ and every time there’s a typhoon. We resumed it again starting last month when we went back to ECQ and then to MECQ. Also, provided food for several healthcare workers in UP Diliman because the caterer lives near the area. I would support local entrepreneurs by patronizing their products, which is usually food. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this crisis, one is that we are all in this together. We will only overcome this pandemic as a community working together and helping each other out.
So whatever happens to the world around us after all this, whether it will return to normal or not, things will definitely not be the same for me because I am no longer exactly the same person before it.
The start of 2020 was the end of one chapter of our life and the beginning of a new one. It was time to uproot ourselves once again and go home to the Philippines. It’s all part and parcel of the life we live and have chosen. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to move one’s life from one country to another, an upheaval of sorts. But this is our 5th time, so we got everything in hand. Slight difference is that our son decided to remain in Portugal, start his own chapter of his life separate from ours. No worries, we knew early on in our diplomatic posting that was his plan. If anything, it just ensured that Portugal would feature a bit prominently in our travel plans in the future.
Well, what we thought would have been a routine upheaval has suddenly turned into a major one courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. We didn’t see this one coming, and those assumptions, plans and expectations related to our return home all went flying out the window once Covid-19 went into full swing and started wreaking havoc on everyone’s lives and peace of mind the world over. It’s fair to say that no one anywhere really saw this coming, that this pandemic was a truly unprecedented situation but that still provided little comfort. The restrictions in movement, the enforced isolation, the anxiety and the mental toll this all brought about was further aggravated by decisions deemed pragmatic at the time before Covid-19. We figured we didn’t need much space in our residence as we would be taking every opportunity to be out and about, reconnecting with friends, visiting family and relatives, exploring the Philippines and the nearby region. Tension has suddenly become an uninvited guest in our home due to the nature of remote work and the setup of our cramped home. Not to mention loss and grief with their unannounced visits and rising frequency. Nothing to do but to cope, adjust and make the most of what is a truly difficult and challenging situation.
A year has passed and life still remains upended. However, it wasn’t without its good moments. Notwithstanding the challenges of traveling during a pandemic, the 3 of us managed to get together for Christmas and New Year in Istanbul, plus I also got to spend almost a month with our son in Portugal. Wonderful and brief moment, but well worth the effort, the risks and the cost to pull it off. A year has passed, and one is tempted to say we have slowly adapted to the “new normal” (I hate this term). Perhaps, but for me that was really just a matter of survival. We haven’t been really living this past year, at least not in my case. I am a wanderer at heart, I seek experiences, sights, tastes and sounds. I yearn for some semblance of normalcy that existed before this pandemic came around and turned everything inside out.
The vaccines have started to arrive. It represents a light at the end of this constricted tunnel that is our current existence. I look forward to the promise it brings, of the opportunity to get our lives back on track. They say life won’t be the same after the pandemic, and I will agree to that. What I am counting on, however, is that life can be and will be better with the shackles gone and our spirits and being once again unleashed and free.