2020 Q3 Cityscapes Features

Pandemic Lockdown: A Quarantine Experience

Suddenly, the world turns upside down and the people are in quandary, brought about by the looming dangers of the pandemic.  COVID-19 according to WHO is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The virus manifests as mild to moderate illness symptoms associated with cough, sore throat, and headaches and could potentially and quickly develop into a severe respiratory illness that can claim one’s life.

In his prayer, a writer said that maybe this virus is God’s love in disguise. Assuming people do the acts of contrition and repentance, they turn back to God with love and prayers and ask for guidance. All sorts of fortune-telling, tarot cards,  cards reading, bible prophecies, and other superstitious beliefs held the headlines. Some doctors and prevention herbalists flooded social media. There was even a shortage of bananas of all varieties here in our country as a mythical claim that banana can thwart the onset of the virus has surfaced in the media. Paranoia and procrastination came in too, as news on the spread of COVID-19 went viral. Proper ways of wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing of hands were aired constantly on TV.

As the immediate effect of COVID-19 ripples through every person in our society, the plight of repatriating OFWs comes to my mind.  It is sad that after being away from the country and their family for a long period of time, the much-touted heroes of recent times will come home with nobody to greet them, nobody to hug and kiss them, no more fanfare trumpeting their arrival at the airport in recognition of their decades of heroic contribution to the nation’s economy that is now being ravaged by the virus.  And painfully, our beloved OFWs will then be ushered in and subjected to a 14-day quarantine.  They are home by definition but rendered estranged by the coronavirus, at least until the quarantine is over.

Public gatherings have been suspended and legal cases were filed against quarantine violators, cockfighting, boxing, and street dancing. But the organizers deplored the exemption of the mañanita event of Gen. Debold  Sinas and labeled it a double standard.

I remembered a video sent by a friend of a rich guy crying since his parents were no longer accommodated at the hospital due to overage. Persons above 65 yrs old were not accepted in that hospital. On the other hand, in a certain clinic, an old lady was giving away her respirator to the younger patient, saying she has already lived and enjoyed her life and is ready to go. Nuggets of heroic deeds emerge in the unlikely circumstances, proving once more that kindness and ultimate sacrifice still prevail in a time and place where survival is foremost in everyone’s mind.

Oil prices rolled back almost weekly, highlighting the paradox of impracticality as nobody will avail of cheap gas as private vehicles stayed parked and will remain parked for an unforeseeable time due to lockdown. Lockdown forces people to walk their errands on quarantine pass. Staying home was strictly implemented and enforced.  In normal circumstances, it would have been a welcome opportunity to stay home and be with our family and loved ones without the pressure of looking for excuses to get a day off from work.  It would have been glorious to stay home when “home” is not followed by “quarantine” during the time when “pandemic” is not a moniker describing our current circumstances.

The pandemic has become an open opportunity for politicians to show ill-driven motives and somehow display their arrogance in the arena of public service, especially in the distribution of goods and amelioration funds. Complaints immediately reached the president’s door but finger-pointing will never reach resolution and justice. But there are still a few honest and conscientious politicians who never cease to provide service to the people with unflappable character.  Respectable and honorable politicians may be an endangered specie in times of the pandemic where occasions to cheat and rob are aplenty.  The rarest their numbers are, the strongest I feel to exalt them to a pedestal.  Even the world’s most beautiful, loudest and brightest tourist spots like Las Vegas, were silenced by the coronavirus. Amusement and entertainment seemed furthest from our minds as we confront the uncertainty surrounding the state of our health and fear from an invisible adversary that can strike even in our most vigilant moment.  And it seemed we forged a covenant with God that all riches and material possessions no longer matter. Pieces of jewelry and other expensive ostentatious bling for personal embellishments are unnecessary and their value doesn’t seem to appeal to anyone anymore when human beings are constantly engrossed with the acquisition of food or lack thereof.

So many songs of praise have been sung, prayers and supplications have been uttered and sent to God. Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has claimed so many lives the world has ever recorded in such a short span of time.  The disease knows no disparity and it does not discriminate.  It can strike anyone, rich or poor, young and old.  People lament with pains and frustrations because the cure for the virus seems to appear too far and depressing in the end.  Only time can judge the outcome.  But like any frame of time expressed in the future tense, the cure for the virus remains an uncertain future and better be left to posterity.

The effect of the pandemic was still felt strongly on a 15-day home quarantine time, even though we received our ayudas of sardines, noodles, and rice. Still, our cellphones never sleep, always on the watch out for any posts and eventualities that could bring a glimmer of hope. Some fake news on immediate remedies has gone viral and people began to get excited, confused, and eventually frightened as reality sinks in.  During this time when fake news becomes part of our daily consumption, you don’t know what to believe anymore.

But prayers flow like rivers, and we swim in it and allow ourselves to float on its spring. Online rosaries, novenas, and masses were broadcast on television and on social media channels. We enjoyed the pope’s Urbi et Orbi, the Vatican Palm Sunday mass, Sto. Domingo’s siete palabras and the pope’s thanksgiving mass on the resurrection.  On Urbi et Orbi, the pope preached about the Contagion of Hope, challenged us to ban indifference, self-centeredness, division, and forgetfulness.

It was good to find time in the morning to meditate and reflect on the many things that confront us every day, and to pray to St. Dominic and the Memorare of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For anyone who does nothing but continues to lurk in one corner waiting for ayuda from the government, a day seems to end forever at quarantine. But with books, prayers, gardening and carpentry works, boredom, depression, and anxiety attacks are never issues of concern. COVID 19 gives us moments of discernment about ourselves and on our faith, gives us ample time to reckon how much we love and need God especially in this trying times. We have been monks and nuns without vows for some time now and that would be enough to ponder on and look back to.

This pandemic has created heroes in all of us, the front liners and many more who rise to help others – doctors, nurses, hospital hygiene staff, grocery workers, essential needs attendants, supply chain personnel, drivers – they work tirelessly to ensure our health is not compromised and food supply and other basic needs continue to flow in.

The ordinary people’s color blends in the rainbow and serves as a beacon of goodwill and hope.  Blessed are those who genuinely touch other’s lives with compassion and love, especially for those who are in dire needs, for they shall be rewarded.

Edwin Manuel
After graduating with an A.B. Philosophy degree from the Dominican House of Studies in 1982, "Fray Edwin" left the Dominican Order and worked as an emergency employee of NCSO (now Philippine Statistics Authority) as Data encoder while moonlighting as a laborer painting houses and commercial buildings and putting up advertising signages on strategic places. Later he joined Asia Pacific Circulation Exponents Inc., an exclusive distribution company for Asian Wall Street Journal and USA Today where he was offered opportunities for training that he benefited a lot from. In 1990 after a Hong Kong trip, he suffered a major stroke paralyzing most parts of his body. He then continued to be employed on a part-time basis as a handicraft designer when he was well enough to work. Plagued by a series of strokes after the first major one and not wanting those experiences to dampen his spirit, he endeavored to find health products that would help him recuperate and potentially build a modest income with Amway, Swiss Double Stemcell and Lifewave Stemcell Patch Photography.

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