In retrospect: My life in lockdown

March 12th, 2021

The year 2020 was, undoubtedly, one nerve-wracking rollercoaster ride. And for someone who’s admittedly terrified of rollercoasters, I didn’t have the faintest idea about what I was forcibly getting into. And so did everyone else, I believe. Indeed, 2020 arrived with a bang—literally and figuratively—starting off with the eruption of Taal Volcano on January 12, its opening salvo. Whether we like it or not, the past year has brought with it three Ds: disaster, disease, and death. But during the course of the lockdown, it has also brought interesting things like self-discoveries, creative ventures, digital transformation, fresh work strategies, and quality time with the people we love. 

It has been almost a year since the seemingly apocalyptic coronavirus-related lockdown, and we are approaching the anniversary of when we realized that our lives would be deeply altered. So, let us look back at the grim and the joyful, the frustrating and liberating, and how the world’s longest lockdown has changed our lives forever.

a year in lockdown

A lookback at the launch of the lockdown

March 15, 2020. It was the first time I woke up to some foreboding sense of doom. I saw a huge crowd flocking to a nearby supermarket, traffic jams and long queues everywhere (in the grocery stores, banks, ATM machines, gasoline stations), people were panic buying (and some who did not have enough to buy, only panicked, as they used to say), and everyone was in a somber mood. It was the day that President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the National Capital Region and the municipality of Cainta, Rizal will be placed under “strict community quarantine” or a partial lockdown that was supposed to last only until April 14, after 140 cases were confirmed to be positive with the COVID-19 disease. 

March 16. Only two days after the “community quarantine” was announced, President Duterte placed the entire Luzon on “enhanced community quarantine” (ECQ), imposing a total lockdown. Malls and restaurants started temporarily closing down. Only supermarkets were open, and people had to wear quarantine IDs even just to buy groceries or pay bills; and only one person in the household is allowed out. The minors and the seniors are mandated to stay at home the entire time. Social and health protocols such as social distancing and wearing a mask everywhere one goes, was directed. Domestic flights were canceled and there was no available public transportation, rendering taxi, tricycle, and PUJ drivers out of work. Only bikers like me were delighted because more and more people suddenly biked-to-work (there was even an upsurge of bike sales), giving our long-time advocacy for proper like lanes in the metro, a valid reason to be revived and given the rightful attention. 

March 17. President Duterte signed Proclamation No. 929, placing the entire country under the state of calamity on account of COVID-19. Police and military checkpoints were stationed in every entry point near the border of Valenzuela, Bulacan, Las Pinas, and Alabang.  

March 25.  President Duterte signed the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020” into law. With it were 30 additional powers to handle COVID-19 and its projected aftermath. By then, the cases were at 636, surpassing the 600-mark.

April 14. Two days after the he Philippine government now required public disclosure of personal information of COVID-19 patients to further contain the spread of the virus, the COVID-19 cases were up to 5,223.  The government has finally approved the Small Business Relief Program to help some 1.6 million small businesses and their 3.4 million employees affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other areas of the country. By this time, BPOs gave their employees accommodation, either at a nearby hotel or inside the buildings. Hotels, malls, Food & Beverage, aviation, and retail industries were prohibited to operate, prodding most of these companies to do mass layoffs, and rendering thousands of people jobless. 

May 1. The ECQ has been replaced with the “general community quarantine” (GCQ) in certain lower risk transmission. Meanwhile, high-risk areas such as Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon continue to under ECQ.

May 31. This marks the end of ECQ, as municipalities eased into “general community quarantine” (GCQ), and the lockdown loosened up. Public transportation was back on the road (including the MRT and buses), and some people who worked remotely from home could now return to the office at certain days a week. Some restaurants, and retail shops in malls, except those that permanently shut down, reopened. The proper health protocols remained to this day even with the vaccines arriving in February 2021, nearly one year after the first lockdown.

June 25. The first tranche of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), which afforded Filipinos P8,000 cash assistance each was wrapped up, and not without some anomalies. The Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that up to 17.7 million qualified beneficiaries received the monetary subsidy.

February 28, 2021. After the controversial vaccination of some Presidential Security Guards (PSG), 600,000 doses of COVID-19 Sinovac vaccines from China arrive in the Philippines.

March 1. Medical frontliners received their first dose of vaccine. Dr. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, Director of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and a renowned neurosurgeon—known for introducing craniotomy surgery in the country—made history as the first official recipient of a COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines. To date, more and more people are anticipating their turn for vaccination. Until then, and as COVID-19 cases continue to surge by the day, there is one question lingering in my mind: where do we go from here?

a year in lockdown

 

Tragedy of errors

A lot of noteworthy things—good and bad—have happened. There was a senator who stirred controversy when he and his then pregnant wife tested positive and instead of taking precautions, opted to visit the hospital, putting the frontliners’ lives at risk. There was this ‘mananita’ hullaballoo where a high-ranking police official and his team breached health protocols when they partied to celebrate their superior’s birthday. Both issues, and many more slip-ups, earned the ire of the netizens. 

But it was not only the prominent people who are committing such gaffes, but every single ordinary citizen who refuse to wear a mask and a face shield until now (or they have a mask, but one that’s dangling from their chins, or face shields hoisted on top of their heads). Sadly, they are the same persons who do not have medical insurances nor savings to fend for their medical expenses in case they would contract the illness. They are also these sector that, upon receiving the P8,000 SAP cash aid, immediately ran to the nearest sari-sari store to buy liquor, joined the neighborhood bingo session, bet in the online ‘sabong’ (cockfight), or visited the nearest salon to have their hair dyed or straightened. 

As the Covid-19 cases escalated, the Philippine Health Care system was overwhelmed. Some highly esteemed physicians succumbed to COVID-19, while other healthcare workers are falling ill while taking care of patients, responding to the call of duty while battling the fear and anxiety engendered by the disease. Soon, medical frontliners were all getting burned out, with the seemingly unending number of patients taken to hospitals for emergency care and confinement.

Wary of getting themselves infected and losing the fight against the virus, the medical community sought for #TimeOut and pleaded the government to re-impose the ECQ, even for just two weeks. This call for distress was led by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), along with other 100 medical groups. 

Cases were down in the next few weeks, but after the Christmas Holidays, when people reunited with their families, went to social gatherings, and with individuals who just don’t care, the surge continues even after almost a year since that fateful day in March last year.

a year in lockdown

Lighter moments during the lockdown

It was during the lockdown when the work-from-home era began. Many WFH-ers—especially parents—soon realized that there was a sudden blur between things: child-care and their deadlines, donning the corporate look only from waist up, and business zoom meetings becoming the norm. 

People likewise invested in rather interesting stuff: from laptops for their WFH setups and tablets for their kids who take online classes (and lest we forget those hilarious modules that we have laughed our hearts about, on social media!), to Netflix subscriptions for their daily fix of Korean drama series, and matching pajamas which families wore during Christmas and New Year’s Eve family photos.

People who were used to eating at restaurants suddenly turned to online food delivery service while those who used to scour the malls for their OOTDs frequented their favorite e-commerce portals every 10.10, 11.11, 12.12…ad infinitum. Our favorite hashtag? #AddToCart!

Soon, many of us (yes, me included!) have instantly become bakers or chefs and have jumped in the bandwagon and attempted to duplicate some lockdown food trends that blew the internet.  Indeed, because Filipino foodies really love to eat out but because most restaurants a still closed for dine-in, we have developed a way of replicating these dining experiences at home. Oh, and don’t you have that Samgyupsal grill and Air Fryer yet? 

So, what has been your quarantine craving? For me, it’s Sushi Bake, hands down. Also called Baked Sushi, it is basically a deconstructed Japanese/Hawaiian-inspired craze that made so much noise on social media!  What a joy it is to scoop a spoonful of this and wrap it in mini nori sheets then plop into your mouth?! For someone who just loves Japanese food, it’s the DIY experience that makes it priceless.

Since eating out as a family is yet to be encouraged, home-based Samgyupsal meals have also become a hit during quarantine celebrations. Families either order for delivery or prepare their own Samgyupsal packages which include marinated meats of their preference (pork, beef, or chicken) and Korean side dishes, like Kimchi, greens, and sauces. Then they simply get their electric grillers out and relive their festive Korean BBQ buffet experience. 

Other lockdown food trends include the “ube-quitous” Ube Cheese Pandesal, a variation of the ordinary breakfast staple, pandesal, which we have always enjoyed. This version is a soft pillowy ube-based bread with purple yam and cheese oozing with every bite. And for the most popular drink, Dalgona Coffee is the runaway winner. Dalgona is a cold latte concoction made from coffee, sugar, and water whipped vigorously to make a foam. I’ve even seen some of my friends whip up their own versions of Dalgona juice, Keto Dalgona, and yes, Dalgona Cake. 

Breads were also popular trends. This includes Sourdough bread, banana cake, and the Korean Creamcheese Garlic bread. Fancy noodles (mixed with vegetables such as enoki mushrooms, fish cubes, tofu, corn, and iceberg lettuce, poured into ready-made broth base, completes the delightful hotpot experience) also hogged the limelight, together with meal hacks like a corned beef hash, sardines or hotdog sisig, and mini pizzas, to name a few.  

Those who have a knack for cooking or baking got busy in the kitchen, while those who don’t, went for the DIY cocktail kits that are available for delivery. Now, the question is, after these strict quarantine restrictions, what have you become… a chef-baker or a plain alcoholic?

People who swear to have ‘green thumbs’ slowly confessed to being a ‘plantito’ or ‘plantita’ (plant lovers or someone who has developed fondness for plants) and suddenly got busy swapping or buying indoor and outdoor plants, potted herbs, succulents, and even vegetables for their backyard or urban gardening setups. Plant-parenting, was and until now, has become another hobby with a league of its own. Whether it is in the social media or in our apartments, the influx of flora has been cheerfully providing a green scene in our otherwise grayish days.

While gamers are engrossed in playing Mobile Legends or Minecraft, couples are busy, uhhh… playing in the bedroom, too. And mind you, there is an actual prediction of a baby boom when all of this is over. 

In the realm of social media—aside from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube where we spent most of our time in—comes the TikTok generation. And whether you say yay or nay to it, TikTok has become a social media giant that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has utilized this medium and created a public page to provide authentic information during this pandemic crisis, reaching millions of users across the globe. 

Introverts like myself were a little happy actually, because for the first time in so many years, we didn’t have to deal with people’s dramas, and we have all time to read books, spend quality time with our loved ones (our fur babies included!), do yoga or home exercises (with the temporary closure of some gyms), learn a new craft or musical instrument, or even declutter the home (where I found out that I have two coffee makers, three salad spinners, and loads of stuff of to donate).

Other people returned to old hobbies they loved but completely set aside for lack of time, and started picking up their knitting needles, paintbrushes again to knit or paint; enrolled in online short courses and started a small online business selling kitchen gadgets, COVID-19 essentials (such as masks, face shields, sanitizers, alcohols), homemade desserts, even DIY furniture. These hobbies are important activities to relieve stress, especially during these times when finances are low while anxiety levels are extremely high.

To update us with the fads about what’s hot and what’s not were notable trending hashtags that are altogether serious, funny, outrageous and moving. #COVID19PH was number one, followed by #StayAtHome #StayAtHomeChallenge, and #StaySafe. Some of the more meaningful ones, of course are #SaveOurFrontliners, #MabuhayFrontliners, and #ThankYouForYourService, because the truth is all frontliners—whether they are teachers who painstakingly make modules for their online students weekly, security guards who risk their lives at every shift, garbage collectors who make sure our trash bins are empty, supermarket staff who help us get our daily sustenance, delivery riders who risk their lives on the road just to deliver our cravings, and of course, our barangay volunteers, and medical personnel who sacrifice not going home to their families just to ensure the recovery of thousands of Filipinos afflicted by COVID-19. They are unsung heroes without capes. So, yes, salute to all of you and #ThankYouForYourService!

a year in lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown

The Philippines has taken some of the most hardline measures in the world to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but to no avail. The cases continue to surge, some people are still insensitive, hard-headed fools who meet up with friends and party, and defy the basic health protocols. Despite everything, it is comforting to know that Filipinos are still holding up; and being who we are, we still discover the proverbial silver lining in every circumstance.

Days in lockdown became opportunities for parents and children to reinvent learning and playing, making the most of what is available. Meanwhile since family gatherings are still discouraged, we found creative ways to reconnect, despite distance and time zones. Birthdays, anniversaries, and every personal milestone away from each other gave us the drive to reunite with the ones we love, even just virtually. 

The lockdown has taught me personally to “live for the moment and take it one day at a time”. My life, like everyone else’s, was put on hold, but not my dreams; so I just decided to change the way I think about things and mindfully live in the now. How about you? Maybe you wanted to change your career path or have a baby for so long. Perhaps you’ve dreamed about traveling or making amends with one person. Right now, you can’t do any of these things because you have to wait. And who knows for how long? So, live your dreams while you still can and not constantly postpone it, waiting for the right moment as this may never come.  

While it is true that this pandemic crisis has taken a toll on humanity, it has also provided us with an opportunity to reconnect, reunite, and feel the gaps of our longing for belonging. With so many deaths and sickness around us we realize that, indeed, life is too short to be wasted. 

So, appreciate what you have, spend quality time with your loved ones, take good care of yourselves, and enjoy the little things. The future is still uncertain, but these are the simple everyday things that keeps us truly alive.

 

 

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