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It’s been almost a year

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Mar 11, 2021 4:00 pm

Lives and livelihoods were lost because of COVID-19. Those who lost their friends and loved ones are still finding the courage to move on. Some have remained still, unable to cope, lounging in sadness, living a life that’s almost bereft of life. 

It was on March 15, 2020 when the government put the country on lockdown. The concept of enhanced community quarantine then was as alien as the novel coronavirus.

The measure was imposed after COVID-19 cases in the country had spiked from six cases on March 7, 2020 to 111 cases on March 14. As of this writing, there are 591,138 recorded cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 12,465 deaths.

It’s been almost a year since then.

The government’s ability to address the pandemic was questioned by some. Some implementors of the quarantine rules were said to be the alleged violators of the rule of law — from lawmakers to cops to LGU officials.

 Cops man a checkpoint in Manila during the enhanced community quarantine in April last year.  Photo by MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

It’s been almost a year since then.

The virus did not respect international boundaries. Rich and poor suffered. Big and small businesses scaled down their operations, if they did not close altogether. The number of unemployed increased, thereby leaving many mouths hungry, in search of food, dignity, and for some, justice. 

It’s been almost a year since then.

The pandemic made it more pronounced that there’s good in every evil. The virus can kill humans but it can never kill the human spirit.

The vaccine recently arrived on our shores. A ray of hope gleamed. Yet, people are still wary about getting the jab because of fear of amplified horrors of its side effects. But the vaccine is here. We waited long for it.

It’s been almost a year since then.

The pandemic made it more pronounced that there’s good in every evil. The virus can kill humans but it can never kill the human spirit.

The need for community became prevalent while people stayed at home. Families became closer. Old friends found each other and burned telephone lines. Old flames were rekindled. There were breakups, too.

Some friends and officemates have yet to see each other again after work-from-home mode became the norm. 

It’s been almost a year since then.

The pandemic brought about the concept of heroes and villains. Woe to those who hoarded face masks, vitamin C and rubbing alcohol. But hooray to those who gave of themselves selflessly, like Jhobes Estrella, a young designer from my barrio of Gulod who withdrew all his savings to make PPEs for hospital frontliners in Laguna.

Kindness came from all fronts — from those who have barely nothing, to socialites; from celebrities to ordinary teenagers, who raised funds for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. 

It’s been almost a year since then. 

Doctors and nurses died in the fight. Many are still continuing the fight. With the recent surge in numbers of COVID-19 cases and its new variants present in the Philippines, medical frontliners still advise people to stay at home.

The cry for social distancing is still written in bold letters. The checkpoints that used to be heavily manned by uniformed forces are no longer there. But that does not mean the silent enemy is defeated. 

It’s been almost a year since then.

The cry for social distancing is still written in bold letters. The checkpoints that used to be heavily manned by uniformed forces are no longer there. But that does not mean the silent enemy is defeated. 

It seems like business as usual in many places. People carelessly roam the streets sans a face mask. The face shield is used sometimes as props before entering a mall or a hospital. Once inside, the face shield is used as a headband.

Those safety nets give discomfort, sure. Do people need to be reminded again that in this fight with the virus, the face mask and face shield are the first line of defense? 

It’s been almost a year since then.

In the time of the pandemic, people found new passion. The more entrepreneurial started a business at home, mostly food businesses. Overnight, many became chefs and bakers, their sweet and savory dishes becoming a staple on the table here, there and everywhere. 

The green thumbs sprouted as plantitos and plantitas discovered their passion to take care of other living things aside from themselves, their families and their pets.

It was never heard of before to order plants online, let alone to have plants delivered from Mindanao to Makati the way letters are delivered to houses. 

 The pandemic brought out the plantitos and plantitas in many Filipinos.  Photo by EDD GUMBAN

Others found their passion on the road while riding the wind on a bicycle. A friend observed that prices of bicycles and other related accessories jumped during the pandemic. In a country where cars remain a status symbol, the cheapest option is to bike to work or to any desired destination. 

It’s been almost a year since then. 

Others fighting cabin fever brought about by the strict lockdown turned to exercising at home — because gyms were closed and walking in the park or even outside one’s home was not permitted for months during the ECQ.

Others turned to Netflix — because the cineplexes were closed; they have yet to open, though possibly soon, with social distancing rules to be implemented. 

Even in the basketball arena in Clark, Pampanga where the PBA cagers playing in the last season had no crowds watching and teammates had to live and play in a “bubble” where they — and only they — could interact.

The players, and I based my observation on the IG posts of Ginebra star point guard LA Tenorio, are now out of the bubble. LA made it public on his Instagram how he missed his wife and children after not seeing them for months.

It remains to be seen whether or not some fans of PBA teams will be allowed to watch games live when the next season opens on April 9.  (Now, you can just imagine how many teenagers in every nook and cranny of the country are dying to have the basketball courts in their barangays open to them.)  

Culture and entertainment paused for months until they got the go-signal. Television variety shows still have no studio audience. Art exhibits are mostly done online or, if personal appearance is required, only a few people are allowed to enter the gallery at a given time.

The virus dimmed the klieg lights. The theater curtains have yet to be opened. We need to wait before we can shout “Bravo!” again and again to an encore performance.  

It’s been almost a year since then. 

Students and teachers have yet to fully acquaint themselves with distance learning. Every day, I hear my brother Rod? a public high school teacher, remind his students to turn on their camera as they do online discussion. He holds his classes in our kitchen or in the verandah or under the himbaba-o tree or in a spot where the internet signal is strong.  

It’s been almost a year since then. It’s easy to say that 2020 did not happen. But it did. From the lessons the pandemic taught us, we will still be vigilant as we learn more surviving skills. 

It’s been almost a year since then.