June 20, 2020

On a barren patch of earth a few steps from where our dog was laid to rest, we planted a young golden shower. A wooden swing from where we can tilt our head back to bright yellow blooms bursting in the summer, their dark seedpods hanging over us like precious heirloom jewelry - that was always the dream.

The man who sold it told me to wait five years. But to wait is tiresome. To witness without expectations, to allow for stillness, to simply be present as the tiny gears inch to full circle is much simpler, less heartbreaking, and sometimes, even fruitful.

As the pandemic-induced quarantine unfolded, I've become less concerned about waiting. I've stopped counting the days. They all look pretty similar to me – bare, often quiet, slow-moving as fog. Counting - anything remotely connected to mathematics, if I'd be honest - is not only my weakest suit, but it's futile to me and the work that I do in editorial and publishing.


Everything right now is a matter of uncertainty. The years seem like a nameless face, and anxiety a dull, redundant pain. I decided I will not participate in its mechanisms any longer - more than I allow myself to. I recognize the privilege in being able to say that, because millions of people around the world have no other resort but to wait – families who need test kits, the people who are waiting for their affliction to subside, essential laborers, healthcare workers stuck in hospitals for a week at a time. I am beyond lucky to be in a position where I can choose not to wait. I will forever be grateful.

Right now, we live our days mostly in the short term – except the part where we isolate for long-term gains. In a world where no one knows an absolute, exact solution; where even scientists can only estimate the number of days, weeks, months, years we need to bear to fight an enemy we cannot see, how do you keep counting the days and making elaborate plans only to be told “not yet” over and over again and not lose a thread of hope each time?

Sunset scene where we are

With many liberties taken, life has changed shape. Oft-overlooked simplicities have become valuable. I work 12 to 16 hours a day including weekends, and a bike ride to run errands is now a godsend. Pre-quarantine, I viewed it mainly as exercise; a way to reduce transport costs. Now, with freedom of movement largely restricted, without access to sights outside our home, our rickety bike has become the only means to keep everything up and running in the house.

It is liberation from the toll that everyday living in these uncertain times brings.

At sunset, I'd stomp on the pedal - full halt - and just spend minutes looking at the Sierra Madre Mountain Range from afar. I'd lean my head against the wind to marvel at birds flying in Vs. I don't even bother to take photos most of the time. Eternity in seconds. That's how sunset bike rides feel to me these days. They haven't been for a very long time.

For a long time, I was always in a mad rush to work. It's an innate characteristic that's hard to get rid of. I've yet to learn the art of doing nothing. Labor is an act I take pride in. One that I can be happily immersed in for more than half of a 24-hour period. But I've also rediscovered the meaning of and the joy in slowing down, even just for an hour three times a week. I've relearned the value of warm conversations and switching off for and with my daughter. Every day I am reminded of how it feels like to return to a time when connection meant things you can feel, smell, and see with your barest senses. To live simply, mindfully, and compassionately.

Wrote this poem entitled "Quarantine", which sums up what I feel recently about here and there in these crazy, crazy times.

I've learned to let go of expectations of an uncertain future and not be taken out of the now by gripping fear of ifs and whens; of possibilities that I am not sure will happen. I've learned to say “We'll see what happens” instead of “This is how it should happen”. And it's absolutely priceless.

This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance.

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