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MRP Building, Mola Corner Pasong Tirad Streets, Brgy La Paz, Makati City

Girl in a jacket

If you’ve been spending most of your (locked-down) days scouring Facebook, then you may have already come across this event:

Almost 1M “attendees”! Check out the event page here: https://fb.me/e/4fNqbbayu

The event invite, with over 900,00 “attendees” as of writing, pokes fun at the idea that technically, we are about to celebrate the birthday of COVID-19.

The event/party/commemoration is also on Discord! (Yay?)

Check it out here: Discord

If the coronavirus was a kid, it would be taking its first step right now. Yikes. Now, most of us can chime in a coronavirus joke or two every time a conversation about the subject matter comes up, which can be attributed to everyone being forced to adjust to current times. But do you remember what it was like a year ago? Let us take you down memory lane (there will be a lot of Parasite references because to be honest, that movie foreboded what was to happen to the world).

A visual representation of all of us.

Throwback to that fateful day last year

It has been a grim 365 days since the Coronavirus Disease  COVID-19) devastated the world. And what do you know, it’s this monster’s birthday! So, let us all look back to the forsaken year that was.

November 17, 2019 was the original date when the first known case of COVID-19 was traced in Hubei Province in Wuhan, China according to a March 2020 report of the South China Morning. Chinese researchers however, said that Patient Number One experienced his first few symptoms on December that same year. The 70-year-old contracted the disease, even before the  term “COVID-19”was coined. He lived far from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan (the controversial wet market first believed to spark the pandemic) thus researchers and scientists never figured out how this man contracted the disease.

Related story: A year since first cases, mystery still shrouds COVID-19 origin

His case was first and officially confirmed on December 8 last year. So, technically, COVID-19 is celebrating its first birthday. Un-happy birthday, scumbag!

The year that was

Via user @alex_abads on Twitter

Birthdays, especially the first ones, are special milestones and are usually celebrated by a special video that features photos and clips of the baby’s first words, steps, food, and all that, just to remember how they have grown and progressing during the entire year. With COVID-19, there was none of those gradual achievements like first few steps…this monster didn’t walk, but as soon as it got up, it started running around and scaring people! Soon, it flew across the world and it was only a few weeks on January 2020 when a Chinese tourist visited her partner in the Philippines, with the monster in tow. He was officially declared the country’s Patient number one. Her partner died in February 1, the first COVID-19 death outside China.

And that’s just even the beginning. COVID-19 didn’t do the Dada-Mama stuff. I believe its first few unrecorded words were: “Let us prey!”

As the virus spread like wildfire and became mogwais turning into atrocious gremlins (which was maybe what it’s supposed be, a bat-like creature since some people believed it was likely born from wild bats in China), it has infected a lot of people. To date, there are 67.3 million cases, 1.5 million deaths, with the US still number one with 15.1 million confirmed cases, India with 9.6 million, and Brazil with 6.6 million. The Philippines is at the 27th place with 439,834 cases. The statistics still goes up daily.

Related story: Real-time COVID-19 updates from INQUIRER.net

While December 8 is the official birthday of COVID-19, it wasn’t until December 31 that China informed the World Health Organization about the outbreak. Yes, at New Year’s Eve, while everyone was feasting and lighting up the sky with fireworks, COVID-19 came with a bang too—proving that the first day of 2020 was filled with vexation before the year even began.

Related story: First international, Chinese expert meeting on virus origin–WHO

To date, vaccines are already underway, and we can only hope that the post-COVID world finally begins in 2021. Because we are so ready to leave COVID behind in 2020. But until a vaccine is fully ready, we’ll just always have to wear a mask and wash our hands.

Coping with the horrific disaster

The personification of this dastardly virus continued. Some people liken COVID-19 to an unwanted baby, unexpected and definitely not a blessing. Within the span of 365 days since it was born, it placed most of the world under lockdown, isolated people from their own loved ones, caused immeasurable anguish, insurmountable fatalities, children forced to study outside the school, economic losses by the industries that were forced to shut down, and took away jobs of many people.  COVID-19 is so harsh, heartless, and unforgiving that it just so suddenly stopped the normalcy of the daily humdrum, and caused prevalent physical and mental distress.

Remember that? Here’s a refresher.

If 2020 were a movie character, it is safe to equate it with a combination of lord Voldemort, Ursula the Sea Witch, Cruella De Vil, the Joker, Freddie Kreuger, Sauron, Gollum, Hannibal Lecter, and Darth Vader, among many other villains. Certainly, 2020 was a combination of everything we all existentially dreaded: the probability of death, illness, panic buying, unemployment, separation anxiety, mental torment, and fear of the unknown as we continue to fight an unseen enemy.

Most people were left with no option but to embrace the circumstance, adapt to the new norm with face masks and face shields, and followed the strict social distancing protocols. Suddenly, people are discouraged to hug or kiss their loved ones, and most meet-ups and get-togethers are done virtually.  Some employees worked from home, and students adjusted to online learning; everything suddenly turned digital including food delivery, mobile payment transactions, and even e-commerce shopping.

While locked down at home, people turned to their passion or curiosity such as cooking, baking, and urban farming. Others decided to take on the role of being plant parents, put up an online business, while the rest of the chunk drank daily just to cope. After the lockdown, we will see the outcomes and finally point out who, among us, became chefs, bakers, agriculturists, budding entrepreneurs…or plain alcoholic.

There were a bunch of witty artists who decided to just laugh it out instead of wallowing in wretchedness and distress. Soon enough, funny memes started to appear everywhere in social media. Like the meme of pilot who announced to the waiting passengers on a flight that he was working from home, or that one saying: “When you work in a bank and two guys with masks come in but they’re just robbing the place. Thank God!” With the lockdown, fur parents got to spend quality time with their fur babies, so there’s a meme of a cat with a caption that says: “Day 6 of the quarantine and my cat is still trying to figure out why I’m in his house after 8am”. Dogs have a funny version too: “The human has been working from home the last couple of days. And every so often, they let me participate in the video calls. All the other humans cheer when they see me. I am the only thing holding their company together” and that famous picture of an extremely exhausted pup lying on the floor, exasperated: “That’s the 6th walk today. WTH is a Corona???”

As COVID-19 continue to spread and the realities of the pandemic have set in, most people have turned to the internet for some respite. For a time, there was this hilarious trend to post a photo of yourself in your “corona staycation look”.  There has also been various Corona-themed Tiktok videos providing the comic relief we need through memes or GIFs that helps release whatever anxiety we have, especially when words fail us. It is because of these witty artists and creators who use their art and humor to bring people together and sooth global panic. Case in point–the Facebook event mentioned earlier in this article.

How do we mark the virus’ birthday?

Hands up if you have suspended your grand wedding and turned it into simple, no fuss ceremony at home. Hands up, if you have drank too much of that coffee last year in exchange for a single planner which was never even used. Hands up if you got travel plans cancelled, or if you have burned and got rid of every 2020 calendar you have at home. Well, you are not alone. Even birthdays this year have been simple or have included “Quarantine” as a theme, where cakes and invites say: “This is a quarantine birthday party. No one is invited”.

But with the monster virus turning one, I guess we may as well ‘celebrate’ it but in the most unusual way too, to mark the milestone of something that has changed our lives—good or bad—forever. I would gladly put together a special AVP showcasing morose scenes from COVID-19 ICUs, exhausted frontliners, empty malls, zoom meetings, people baking, cooking, plant parenting, and drinking alone, and other mentally distressed persons. Then I would include birthday wishes from Voldemort, Ursula, Cruella, the Joker, Kreuger, Sauron, Gollum, Hannibal, and Darth Vader. Then it would end in a lighter note with funny memes and photos so we could all have a good laugh, knowing that the pandemic may not be over, but here we are, coming out of this stronger than ever.

The cake! Of course, no one should have a birthday without the cake and COVID-19’s cake would be a bunch of toilet papers stacked up and with a single candle on top. And my special personal message to this notorious nemesis is going to be simple: “Un-happy bloody 1st birthday, COVID-19! My only wish for you is that you’d no longer stick around to see your second. P.S. Please stop preying.”

Un-happy birthday, COVID-19. Tumigil ka na sa paglaki, please.
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