"We need to help ourselves and others."
As I was beginning to write this, I was interrupted by shouts of “Mama! Mama! We’re here to have lunch!” My heart skipped a beat. It was my grandchildren with their mom and dad. I have not seen these two for more than two months since they were picked up from my home.
My daughter and her husband are both doctors. They had to undergo self-quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19 colleagues. Also, at the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), we all decided that it would be best for the kids to stay with me first since my two doctors were, and still are, on the frontlines.
So when the kids were with me, my home was busy and alive with the laughter, shrieks, running around, and sounds of the two fighting like any other siblings. During the evenings, virtually all our lights were on until the two were already sound asleep. We had our hands full as we were constantly thinking of food, activities, and things that would keep them busy and entertained since we knew they were missing their parents and their home. There were the regular morning and evening video calls so the family was kept connected. The kids knew and understood about the virus and what their mom and dad were doing. So we were also in constant discussion with them especially because the older often expressed concern about her parents.
All these helped me deal with the uncertainties, danger, and apprehensions brought about by the pandemic and the fact that I have two doctors out there right in the frontlines, fighting the pandemic and treating patients. The kids helped me cope.
The kids’ leaving was like a switch that turned off the lights and sounds in the house. Suddenly, we were engulfed with silence and we needed to find other ways to cope.
My life is a lot better compared with the millions of Filipinos who, even before the pandemic could barely make both ends meet and who, because of this crisis, need to find ways so their families can have food on the table.
Luck is on my side since I can still work from home, and thus, earn some even as most of our projects are on hold. It’s worrying but my kids all have stable jobs and I need not ask them for help. Groceries and goods from the market are delivered to us, and our utilities are paid. What more can I ask for? However, like many parents, being dependent on my kids is not the life for me.
Despite the lockdown, I do not feel as constricted as others because parts of my home have an outdoorsy feel. Friends living in condominium units have been saying that their anxiety level is rising because of being in enclosed condos day in and day out.
Like many others, plants have been effectively tempering my stress levels. We have harvested pansit-pansitan for our salad, a five-kilogram ube, and one big guyabano while waiting for the seven other fruits to ripen. I have papaya, kangkong, ampalaya, squash, tomato, carrots, chili pepper, tarragon, malunggay, and laurel plants. My cacti, succulents, and other ornamentals are nicely surviving and many are used to decorate and bring the outdoors into the house.
Music, especially that of my generation, is another thing that entertains me. So are Korean dramas. Although I got hooked late, it was at the tail-end of the popularity of Crash Landing on You, I am liking the storytelling, the complex characters, and the reference to Korea’s history. Yes, Netflix and YouTube are my newfound friends during this pandemic.
Because of the long ECQ, the decision to stay home unless it is important, and the fact that we still cannot do activities in communities, I have been busying myself with writing, doing policy advocacy primarily for the pro-women and pro-workers bills in the House of Representatives, coordinating with other civil society organizations (CSOs) on the issues we work on, participating in online webinars, and finding ways to help in initiatives to assist those who are adversely affected by this crisis. My activism is continuously expressed primarily through social media. Taken everything together, despite all the limitations, being productive is something that we can still achieve.
Government initiatives to help people maintain our mental health is minimal at best. Anxiety and stress levels are high. Families who lost loved ones are grieving and we can only console them with our words. Our families, friends, and families of close friends are getting sick. Doctors are saying that there has been an upsurge of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila since we went on General Community Quarantine (GCQ). There have been cases of suicides among our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) due to depression.
Millions have lost their jobs and poverty levels are its highest. Our human rights are being threatened left and right. These are very challenging times and we need to cope especially in the face of government’s demonstrated incapacity to address the pandemic. We need to keep our sanity. We need to help ourselves, and others, cope.
Too many of our people are suffering. Those of us who are in a position to help, please do. Let us cope together.
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook