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?
Today is the one-year death anniversary of Dad (my father-in-law). Except for Mom and one sibling in Bacolod, all of us (children and in-laws) were in Manila because of the MECQ in place. No flights, and almost everything was closed. He passed away and we couldn’t be there with him and Mom in his final moments.
A death in the family is always difficult. The loss is painful and it rocks you to your core. You work through the pain by grieving, letting it out in the hope it moves on. Apparently, it isn’t that simple. It is a year since Dad’s passing and with no closure we continue to grieve. I could feel it in me, persistent and heavy, weighing me down emotionally.
When someone dies unexpectedly, there is the shock that comes with the realization of the news. This wasn’t like that at all. Dad didn’t die of Covid-19, but his body was letting him down. He was getting in a bad way, but we figured he might bounce back from it. When he had to be brought to the hospital, we had a chance to talk to him over video group chat and figured things might still turn out okay.
Except that wasn’t the case. I can’t imagine what Mom went through when the doctor asked for her decision, but she handled it with strength and a calm resolve. Dad was the spirit and soul of the family, but Mom is the bedrock that holds us together. When Mom updated us the harsh realization that we were going to lose Dad started setting in. This was a shock that leaves you numb. There was also a crawling, creeping fear, bubbling and simmering inside, increasing in intensity as days pass.
It just got worse from there. Bad enough we had to start dealing with losing Dad, it is further aggravated by knowing we couldn’t fly out to be with Mom and him because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. As he had to be sedated, we weren’t even able to say goodbye to him by phone or video chat, to let him know how much we loved him and how we were going to miss him. It’s like torture, I am haunted by the thought that if it weren’t for the pandemic, we would have been on a plane already the moment he was brought to hospital. It feels like some minion of Fate is mocking me, playing a cruel joke and enjoying my grief and misery.
It is one year from Dad’s passing and strangely, Metro Manila is still once again under MECQ. I still haven’t found closure. I miss Dad a lot and whenever his name is mentioned and something is written about him, I tear up and I think all of us do. I still grieve for his loss, as I’m sure the rest of the family likewise continue to do so in our own ways, fractured from each other and stuck in our respective isles of isolation.
Sharing these thoughts and feelings is I guess one way I deal with the loss and this grief I continue to feel. I know there are many around the world who find themselves in similar or somewhat related situations, grieving for a loss in the family from far, far away, waiting to be able to take that journey home to pay their final respect. I think this is a common and indelible feature of the human race, the need to properly mourn and pay respects a departed loved one. I sometimes take small comfort in the words of Helen Keller:
“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world—the company of those who have known suffering.”
In the meantime, I will continue to carry the hole in my heart created by your departure from this world Dad, and fill it with the pleasant memories I have of you.
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.
(I wrote this sometime in 2011, a year and half after collapsing and being placed in ICU for a week. With this current pandemic, it just seems appropriate to recall anecdotes that highlight the good in people)
Whether it’s an unusual show of courtesy or a loving action that flows from a compassionate heart – the smile and friendly words of a stranger have the power to re-empower another. We experience this everyday, from that shy child you walk past on the street to the tireless cashier at your market….
It reminds me of an incident two weeks ago at the Greenhills Antique Furniture shop where I was checking on some stuff for the house. Due to the heat and the large number of people doing last minute shopping for school items, I got one of those dizzy spells that plague me. I approached the nearest shop where an elderly couple seemed to be arguing about something. I asked them, “Can I sit here, please?” and pointed to one of their antique stools. The woman replied with a quiet, sincere smile: “Please do.” They asked me if I’m okay and I just said maybe it’s the heat. The two nodded and before I knew it the elderly man bought bottled mineral water, got his electric fan and set it up in front of me. When I got up to leave a while later they thanked me for the company! I was left stammering, I was so grateful for their simple, kind welcome it left me tongue tied. It hadn’t been an overly inspiring day for me, and that incident somehow offered new hope for the often-dreary present.
A quote whose author is unknown to me: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes can last a lifetime.” I want to say thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Samonte.