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Sunday, March 22, 2020

How To Stay Sane Amid COVID-19 Home Quarantine

March 22, 2020 0 Comments

I sneeze a lot lately. Crazy thing!

I also felt my head throbbed. My sister bantered me to self-isolate because it might be something else. I would just grimace and dismissed it as absurd.  

Whether my sneezing is due to an extremely hot weather, allergies to pollen, or I'm unconsciously becoming a nerve wreck because of the rising cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, I came to realize that an ordinary flu nowadays is no longer taken lightly as some kind of seasonal malady. It is quickly associated to the pandemic, and a slight sneeze makes us easily freak out.

Sixth Day of ECQ

It's the sixth day of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila and Luzon and although I love staying at home and always desired silence of the environment, this one-month home quarantine already sounds like a far-away journey to the unknown and the six days feel like ages ago.

Even the quietest corner of the house, which I always considered as a protective arm from the noise outside,  can feel like a prison wall when uncertainty looms outside.

Our cat keeping me company while looking out of the window

In an article from the Daily News, a mental health expert says that "Our imagination runs away with us so we build on with all these psycho-social and environmental stresses and we began to worry, Mounting concerns over financial and physical being can take its toll on a person's mental health while home quarantining".

And I guess yes. The mounting cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines gives me a chill in the spine and I began to worry endlessly, not that I am alarmed to get infected with the disease but I am scared that if the case will continue to rise, the government will extend the home quarantine period and establishments might still not be operational.   

This sends anxiety to my well being. 

I've already resigned from my job in BPO and supposed to start working in Ateneo de Manila this March 23 but due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine imposed by the government last March 17, my start date in Ateneo has been postponed until the ECQ will be lifted.

The managers in my previous employment in BPO refused to approve my request for an extension of my resignation date (which I viewed as very callous, insensitive and unsympathetic with the current situation), my employment in Ateneo has not yet started, so I felt like slowly sinking into the quicksand with no one to pull me up. And this makes me anxious. But positivism keeps me afloat, hopeful that this crisis will end soon.

This too shall pass.

And having a positive disposition helps me keep grounded and motivated. "Things are not going to be like this forever", I assured myself to keep my spirit high. "I can get through with this. The crisis will end soon. I can start working again". It is a positive affirmation that I regularly uttered.

The Lonely World

But more than financial and physical issues, home quarantining and self-isolating take a huge toll on someone's mental health according to experts. In fact the harshest punishment a prison inmate can be subjected to in jail is solitary confinement. Because humans by nature are socially-inclined creatures not meant to be isolated.

But isolation and quarantine are the latest norms that we need to adopt. The world is in disarray due to the massive spread of COVID-19, it has still no cure, therefore to curb the disease, we need to abide all the precautionary measures imposed by the government.

Wearing mask makes us isolated from the rest of the people, though experts have been telling the public that healthy individuals do not need to wear mask, it is still our first line of defense age the cough droplets from whoever we encounter in the street.

This lonely world is even more emphasized when we are told to observe social distancing as a precautionary measure. This means we need to avoid being in the large crowd, meet friends, go somewhere or stay at the park. Even in the grocery or going to a drug store, this is being observed and I began to freak out if someone gets near with me.

Though we can assure everyone that this is temporary and home quarantine is not an eternal lifestyle. People have different coping mechanism on the crisis, especially when isolated from the outside world.

It is through this circumstance that I realized the importance and value of actual connection with people, with the world, with the environment and not through cellular phones and other electronic gadgets - to stay sane.

Gadgets and online activities never bring good to our depleting self-esteem in the time of pandemic. In fact, regular presence in the social media makes us even more prone to melancholy and feeling of desolation.

But the spread of the virus completely changed the way we connected with others. It is lonely out there. It is lonely being disconnected from the world we lived, from the people we normally associated with. From the source of living we depended on.

Just thinking how people are trapped in loneliness and the feeling of isolation even before we are home quarantined is a realization that we should not let others feel unwanted and abandoned because it is not easy to feel isolated.

So how to stay sane and keep spirit high during home quarantine? Here are some helpful tips:

1. Stay Indoor. Practice Good Hygiene and Keep everything clean
One of the reasons why we are anxious about the situation is the possibility of being infected with the disease. We also worried that one of our family members, especially the elderly, might catch the virus. This worry piles up in our system and makes us a little paranoid.

My sister, who is getting weird since the virus sets an alarming rise of infected individuals in the country, puts alcohol, antibacterial soap and a cloth outside the door and always reminded me to disinfect before entering the house.

There is no approved vaccine yet for COVID-19, the best way to protect ourselves according to Center for Disease and Control  is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Observe social distancing when outside, wash hands with soap and water at least 20 seconds, in the absence of soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or alcohol that contains 60% solution. Avoid touching mouth, eyes and nose. Clean and disinfect the frequently touched surfaces in the house daily, including gadgets.

This might be uncomfortable for now but we need to follow government's directive to stay indoor to stop the spread of the disease. And follow the basic rules of home quarantine. The pandemic has brought so much stress, anxiety and even emotionally induced asthma to many. It's important to never panic and stay informed.

Looking out of the window everyday reduces my anxiety

2. The art of positivism. 
To think positive is easier to say than act perhaps because our subconscious is easily attracted to doubts and fears. Everything in our surrounding now feels scary which is being absorbed by our subconscious and manifested by our actions and response to the crisis. So the art of positivism helps us cope up with stress especially in today's moment of uncertainty. 

One trick to foster the art of positivism is to start the day with positive affirmation. I always practice this ritual and it brings good to my depleting energy. I train my subconscious to welcome positive vibes and discard negative presumption, accept the new norm of self-quarantining and that this would not last forever.

Each morning upon waking up, we need to inundate ourselves with an optimistic view that something good will happen in the day. Waking up for another day is already an opportunity to see the world again, it is a great blessing from God, allowing us to witness the beauty of the environment and be hopeful again. We need to think of anything good, a plan, a goal, that can help us stay motivated. And discard negative notions of a bleak tomorrow.

Let us not get tired of dreaming and believing of tomorrows. It is a gift, another lease of life.

3. Reduce presence in the social media.
Although we rely information every hour in social media, too much presence is detrimental to our mental health. News feeds we got from our social media account are not helpful all the time. There are misinformation, fake news, rants, nonsense shared posts. All of it depletes our energy and affects our emotional and mental health.

Lately, I stopped scrolling my feed to avoid reading the rants and spread of fake news, even the news about the virus in all parts of the world already drained my energy. I often ended up my day feeling exhausted.

To avoid feeding too much stress to our well being, we need to reduce our time engaging in the social media. We also need to connect only to people who provide good vibes and minimize the conversation that centers on coronavirus, the feeling will only get worst.

Instead, focus to other hobbies especially to those who are not working from home. Read self-developmental books, minimize the hours spend on TV other than news. Too much exposure to motion pictures can also trigger anxiety and apprehension. Reading self-help books helps boosts wisdom and personal growth and keeps us from the thought of worries, tension and panic.

4. Keep yourself busy while at home
Home quarantine for a long period of time is a trying episode for everyone because people are innately social creatures. To be isolated from the outside world sometimes triggers emptiness and depression, and to get rid of the notion of a lonely state, we need to keep ourselves busy in the house. 

What I'm doing right now is creating a plan for my day to keep things going. Upon waking up, I do body stretching, mild workout like dance exercise, lifting heavy objects, jumping routine or play with our cats. It makes a big difference to my emotional state. 

Then cook breakfast and feed our cats, My sister and I take turn doing this routine. Wash clothes, eat breakfast and take a bath. At 10:00 in the morning I start working in my laptop, writing, revising plots, editing, blogs.

I take a break at noon for lunch then siesta for one hour. Resume writing in the afternoon or take a break by reading books. When reading tires me, I will clean my room, fold my clothes or walk at the backyard to see trees or stare at the blue sky to inundate serenity in my mind. This exercise of the mind is soul-lifting and it makes me forget the chaos over the virus outside.

5. Develop a new hobby. 
Just treat this month-long home quarantine as an opportunity to develop a new hobby or cultivate the one you have neglected for a long time because of limited hours. Now is the perfect time to work back with those passion. 

Reading, writing, composing a poem, sketching, gardening, cooking. Anything that keeps your mind away from the social media or online activities and make use of your energy and time on actual and physical activities. 

In between reading and writing, I take a break to cook or sit at the front yard and look at the green plants and inhale air. It gives me a purpose of life. The dancing leaves and clear blue sky provided me peace.

Sunny weather in the garden

6. Engage in a conversation with family members. 
Family is the biggest emotional support group we could ever have during the time of home quarantine. Put down your gadget and engage in a normal conversation with your family at home. Being trapped at home can be mentally torturing and emotionally distressing but a conversation and laughter with your family make you feel at ease.

If your family is far from where you are living, stay connected through skype or viber or any means of communication that can stay you away from scrolling your facebook  or instagram feeds and focus on the conversation with your family. My sister and I get connected with our family back home in Surigao through text and call because our mother is so old-fashioned and does not like facebook messenger.

7. Meditate
Deep breathing exercise can make a lot of difference. It clears foggy thoughts and helps recharge sagging energy. I always do this upon waking up in the morning. 

Here's how to meditate: Choose an area in the house where no one can disturb you for five minutes, find a space where you can sit or lie down. Clear your mind from any burden, worry, tension. Close your eyes and breath naturally. Feel the silence of the environment and let your thoughts flow. Follow your breath. And focus on the rhythm.

The power of self-meditation is enormous. It reduces stress and controls anxiety. It also boosts self-awareness and focus and helps set a motivated self for the day. 

8. Pray. The benefits of praying sincerely are massive. It helps lift hopeless spirits, it boosts mental, emotional and psychological aspects especially during trying times. There's nothing more assuring than knowing there's God who take control. Daily praying gets us reconnected with our spiritual being and with our subconscious.

It helps us align our will with God and helps us find meaning in our existence. It will help lessen the emotional burden we are carrying now and the possibility of getting depressed due to the current crisis. 

9. Don't be self-centered.
The best way perhaps to get through the difficult times we are facing right now is to think of others not just ourselves, those who died and the suffering of their families, those who suffered and ravaged by the disease, the health workers who are out there tending the sick, the front liners who are doing their calls to serve the public, one way or another, they are more prone of catching the virus. We need to pray for them.

10. Live life 
Life is not about giving up, it is about living free from fears. It is also about accepting the hurdle and treat it as a new task to conquer to move to the next step. We cannot change how the current environment rolls, but we can change our mindset and our purpose how to make life worth living. Life is a gift, appreciate it with gratefulness. We should be thankful we are free from the disease and

And whatever happens, just choose life, choose happiness. It's a choice and it is something we can decide for everyday. Despite the unhappy notion of being stuck at home, let us treat it as a rare change to spend time alone, spend a day in silence, indulge on the forgotten hobby. This is very rare and never happens all the time.

Imagine this.

It's a typical day, you wake up, roll out of bed, step out of the room, go to the kitchen cook breakfast or prepare a cup of coffee, sit near the window, look outside, stare at the blue sky, feel the morning breeze, sip your coffee, take a deep breath, listen to your favorite song.

That's life. And it is free. 

I am limiting my hours in the social media to reduce stress and anxiety because the more I scroll my feeds with news and post sharing from others, the more I feel frustrated and tense. I am focusing now on other things like writing, reading books, playing with cats, cleaning the house and cooking. It minimizes the feeling of gloom and keeps me away from the apprehension brought by the crisis.

I am confident it would not take long to combat the disease if everyone will cooperate. We can still see a better world in the days to come. Stay safe everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19 Is Not A Bio-Weapon Like In The Stand

March 19, 2020 0 Comments

Since February 2020, the world is plunged into uncertainty due to the massive destruction brought by COVID-19 to humanity. Except for Antarctica, all six continents have infected individuals recorded. The World Health Organization (WHO) already declared it as pandemic and considered as deadlier than SARS-COV, another health crisis happened in 2003 that also originated from China.

This latest strain of coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, the center for commercial and trade of Hubei province in China. It was believed to have transmitted to human from bats or snakes and caused severe respiratory disease.

Despite confirmation from health experts and WHO that this virus was caused by eating wild species, there are some who propagated that it could be a conspiracy theory developed by the United States. Well, because people are naturally gossipers and love to develop a silly theory out of an emergency.

Even it is sounded stupid.

Following the spread of COVID-19, fake news spreaders claimed it could have been a bio-warfare accidentally released from a remote laboratory in Wuhan or a biological weapon secretly shipped by the U.S Army to China.

As funny as the theory is, the nature of this story sounded like a plot straight from the pages of a  fantasy novel. Perhaps, the fake news spreaders got the idea from THE STAND, a post-apocalyptic horror-fantasy book published in 1978 written by the master of the horror novel, Stephen King.

THE STAND centers on a pandemic of a flu-like virus that purportedly developed to wipe the world's population. It tells a vision of a planet's destruction following a virus that was accidentally spread. it started when a man escaped from a remote laboratory maintained by the U.S Army and carrying with him a strain of influenza called Captain Trips. It was later revealed the virus is a weaponized superflu known as "Project Blue".

The virus eventually killed 99.4% of the world's population with the remaining 0.6% fighting for their survival. To get a stronghold of life, they need to cling to two powerful creatures: Randall Flagg, an aide of darkness, and Mother Abagail, a personification of  "light" who received visions from God. These two forces fought for the FINAL STAND to revive the lost generation, a fight between good and evil.

So this is where all the conspiracy theory about COVID-19 came from because people by nature love gossip and fiction to escape from reality.

Stephen King already made an appeal to the public through his twitter account to stop comparing COVID-19 to The Stand's Project Blue because while the latter is fiction, the former is a deadly disease that the world needs to fight to eradicate.

There is at least one parallel between The Stand and COVID-19, the fight between good and evil. If we side on the good and the vision of light, we can get through this biggest health crisis to hit the world since SARS-COV and MERS-COV. If we continue to cling to the darkness personification by abusing the wild species and nature, we are at the losing end.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Inside The Quarantined Metropolis

March 18, 2020 0 Comments

The disease that changed the world

COVID-19 is the official name given to a new strain of coronavirus which has characteristics almost similar to SARS, but deadlier. Now, it reached a larger scale of destruction in six continents.

In what could have known as a disease caused by eating wild animals, particularly bats and snakes, COVID-19 has put the world into unprecedented unrest, triggering social and economic instabilities, modifying people's lifestyle and altering day to day activities. Establishments are shut off, social gatherings are halted. And close to 20 countries are now implementing a lockdown policy.

This deadly virus was believed to have started in a seafood market in Wuhan and recorded its first detection in December 2019. However it did not reach global news until the middle of January 2020 when a young doctor from Wuhan revealed in the social media that a SARS-like flu is emerging, and might spread to every part of the world if China will suppress information. He later died from the disease a month later.

It was a warning that was not taken seriously, with Countries, including the Philippines, still welcoming tourists from China. The Philippine president. known to develop a silly fondness over China, even hesitant to impose restrictions on travel.

Two months later, the world woke up in shock to see the scale of the disease's massive damage to human life. Now, it is the rest of humanity that will going to pay a high price for the government's negligence and lack of immediate action.

Nations are now in chaos how to mitigate the spread of this deadly disease, which transmitted human to human through respiratory droplets. Countries scrambled to implement strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. From Lockdown policy, community quarantine to self-isolation, social distancing and travel bans.

But are all those measures effective?

It could be, but in some parts of the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila, social distancing and home quarantine still generation away, I supposed. I still saw people roaming around, piling in the street, standing in line going to the grocery and entering the bank. Without anyone controlling them. Stubbornness at its finest.

It is uncertain if the enhanced community quarantine measure for a month is really effective with this type of citizens. So far as of March 18, infected individuals already rose to 202 with 17 recorded death and only seven have recovered. With 8.42% fatality rate, Philippines has the highest mortality rate on the disease compared to other countries that have the most number of infected people. China, where the virus originated, only has 3.98% fatality rate, and Italy, which is the epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe, has 7.94% fatality rate.

Why is this so?

Perhaps due to poor healthcare system in the country compared to China and Italy. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a global health emergency in February 2020 and on March 11, 2020, due to the rapid spread of the virus, it was thoroughly declared as pandemic.

Political and social impacts were massive. Schools were closed and social events, including gatherings in sports and celebrations, were prohibited. There's also a heated discussion among citizens who will take responsibility on the spread of the virus in the country. Even criticizing the government for lack of concrete action before the outbreak. Powerful nations blaming each other for lack of support.

More than 130,000 are now infected worldwide with more or less 3,700 recorded death. The epicenter of the disease, Wuhan in Hubei province, China, remained isolated while Italy suffered the most among countries in the first world.
Situation in the Philippines

The country recorded its first case of coronavirus in January 30, 2020, a Chinese tourist from Wuhan who arrived in the country in January 20, she later recovered. Two days later, on February 2, 2020, her partner was confirmed by DOH to have died from the disease. It was the first death outside China related to the disease.

Currently, the number of cases in the Philippines rose to 202 with 17 recorded deaths and seven who recovered. Most of the infected individuals have no travel history outside the country, thus, a community transmission was believed to have already established.

To prevent further transmission, the government, after public pressure, announced that the National Capital Region, which is also known as Metropolitan Manila comprised of 16 cities and one municipality (Pateros), will be placed on community quarantine starting March 15.

Netizens again were engaged into heated debates to resolve the difference between a Lockdown and a community quarantine. Political ideology strife is alive once more with the government's trolls and fanatics came to the rescue to defend this administration even if its gross negligence was the culprit why we are plunge in uncertainty right now. This cultural disease of Filipinos sounds like deadlier than the virus. I find this tiring very tiring and annoying and mentally exhausting.

Consumers were plunged into hysteria and panic buying mode, scrambling to stock pile commodities for a possible closure of major establishments, some were hoarding sanitary products like alcohol and toilet paper, Lysol disinfectant and, well, face masks, which have longed been out-of-stock since January.

In as much as I was trying to avoid a situation where I would join the "mob" diving to the shelves of groceries to grab food and sanitary supplies, I could not just stand the agony of piling in the long queue to the cashier for hours just to for a pack of wet wipes and vegetables. So I joined the chaos. 😂

Panic buying hits the Philippines
Photo: ABS-CBN News

Saturday was terrible. As though we were travelers, racing with time to reach the border before its closure. It was less than 12 hours before the community quarantine will take effect in NCR. The scene was intense, travelers going home to the provinces crowded the bus terminals, supermarkets and groceries rammed with shoppers.

Scene in SM Supermarket looked like an airport with tense travelers hurrying to catch their departure schedule. It was a bit stressful to see the environment plunged into anxiety. Everyone wanted to stockpile items in the pushcart that I could not even find a small bottle of Garnier facial cleanser.

I wanted to take a breath in the corner but I could not, because the line going to the cashier was getting heavier. At last when I was done, I finally took a deep breath. I went straight to the food court to eat my late lunch. I saw only few mall goers in the area, which was always filled with a thick crowd taking meals during regular days. I went home with an exhausted mind and body. So tired I felt I was having a flu haha!

The Community Quarantine

Under the guidelines released by DILG, community quarantine of NCR, which took effect on March 15, Sunday, movements of people will be limited and will be restricted only to traveling between home and workplace. Borders between provinces should be closed. Social distancing should be strictly observed. But public transportation within Metro Manila is still operational exempt for local travel through sea, air and land outside the border.

Photo credit: Phil Star

When I went to work on March 16, I decided to take a bus all the way to Mandaluyong to avoid the large crowd in MRT. Only in the platform that social distancing was observed in MRT but on the ground, people stood up close to each other on their way to the staircase. A scenario that would possibly lead to transmitting the virus.

I could feel a very tense environment while on the bus. Everyone was just minding their phones and cautious not to look around. When someone would sneeze or cough, I felt like hiding beneath my seat, and my first reaction was to pull a bottle of alcohol and started spraying my hands.

The whole scenario made everyone feel a bit paranoid. We clung to our alcohol spray as if it was the the last resort to stay alive. About 90% of us wore face mask, a circumstance almost unthinkable three months ago.

I was also in a cranky mood because the bus driver was still allowing people to get aboard despite some were already standing in the aisle. See, this whole community quarantine thing would be very useless with public transport drivers being stubborn to follow orders.

Borders have checkpoints but soon getting crowded due to confused individuals and motorists over rush announcement and vague guidelines. Whatever it is, community quarantine seemed ineffective since it will still allow movements of people, works and public transportation still operational, and the possibility of catching the virus was still imminent,

Response of the private sector

The private sector, especially the BPO companies, except for some, has the slackest response. On the morning of March 16, they still stubbornly refused to allow their employees to work-from-home or at least proposed an arrangement that would not compromise their employees' health. The only option they entertained was to let employees go to work and just offered to provide additional transportation allowance as if the equivalent of a person's life is just a spit of an amount.

See, how selfish and unsympathetic these decision makers and leaders of BPO are. Their minds are trapped on the client's data protection policy thing and not really on the welfare of their wagers.

In this time of crisis, true colors of leaders emerge. We will really know who are those who cared for their resources, who are compassionate in the real sense of the word and who are those selfish and obstinate managers who lacked empathy. Most of them are just treating us like some pieces of a computer, worthy to be thrown out when no longer in use. These kind of leaders make me lose my faith in humanity. This means that in crisis like this, they are bum. They have not anticipated event such as this to happen. No logical solution laid on the table in case of a worst scenario.

Enhanced Community Quarantine

Close to dusk on March 16, 2020, the government changed its plan. They announced that the island of Luzon will be placed under enhanced community quarantine which would severely restrict the movement of the people and would stop the operations of the mass public transport.

This revised plan perhaps came after evaluating the initial result of the community quarantine which was ineffective with people still exposing themselves to possible transmission of the virus.

Under enhanced community quarantine, mass public transport will be suspended and except for health workers and front liners, movement of the people will be limited to buying commodities and taking a trip to the clinic for those with pre-existing conditions.

As the night fell over the Metro Manila's skyline on March 16, people were racing with time to go home before the public transport will cease its operations. I was lucky to leave work early at 9:00 in the evening.

When I reached EDSA to wait for the bus, I saw only few vehicles in operation. The once chaotic EDSA, normally filled with commuters, private vehicles and public transport,  on a daily basis and covered with smog and dust day and night, now seemed slowing down.

I arrived in Novaliches at 10:00 in the evening. And when I disembarked from the bus and crossed the street to catch a jeepney ride for Caloocan, three uniformed men approached me and asked my identification card with a barrage of questions. Where I came from, why I was still in the street at 10 in the evening, where I worked. Etcetera.

Tense! I pulled my wallet with a trembling hand as one of the men seemed in a hurry to get my I.D haha! After checking stuff in my I.D, name, address, picture, they let me walk.

I ran toward the jeepney terminal and found it already filled. But the dispatcher still allowed me to catch the trip with three others. At 10:30 we crunched on the road dense in traffic and stopped at the first checkpoint with heavily armed police personnel. And the trouble came in.

The jeep I was on was in full capacity, you know, stubborn drivers who refused to abide with the rules. So the police did not let us leave unless some will disembark. Arguments, heated explanations and hesitations soon followed before annoyed male passengers agreed to disembark.

Such a tense night! I arrived home with a heavy baggage-feel for the day. Then I read on the news that tons of commuters were stranded in the street due to the effect of the enhanced community quarantine.

Public transport was effectively suspended and none was allowed to cross the junction. This caused hysteria to employees who regularly came home late due to work schedule, especially in BPO. With no way to catch a ride, some were forced to walk for miles.

The Full Effect

Shopping malls were closed early on March 16. Restaurants including cafe and fast food, only catered take out orders. However at the stroke of midnight on March 17, food establishments shut off its operation.

Since movement of the people is only limited to accessing necessities like grocery and medicines, all establishments not related to grocery and pharmacy must be closed. Unnecessary travels are strongly prohibited. Only a trip to the hospital is allowed but needed to coordinate with local officials to arrange for a transport if no private vehicle.

Photo credit: GMA Network

However, as obstinate and as unyielding as they are, some BPO companies still digging their heels to the ground to find a way not to cease the operations. Though some of its decision makers were forced to make a last resort to salvage the damage by allowing few to work-from-home, it was still sounded unsympathetic to the situation.

Their minds still occupied with clients' welfare not their employees' cause. That data protection policy thing is ravaging their heads like tempest to never mess with contracts, but at the expense of their employees' health. Talking about catastrophe, figuratively.

Once chaotic road, EDSA now empty. Photo credit: GMA Network

Now, home quarantine is in full effect for everyone in the metro, but not sure in the entire Luzon. I stopped checking news. I feel tired reading the effect of this health crisis to the world. Tired hearing the debacles of the people and the fanatics' defense to the administration, even if not substantial.

I just want to enjoy this moment of solitude, this silence of the environment. For introverts like me, home quarantine feels like a paradise. I can be alone, I can avoid a noisy crowd, I would not be compelled to go to work.

I love this moment of peace. I love the idea that mother earth is finally taking a break from the noise and pollution brought by modernity. The environment has the opportunity now to heal itself from destruction.

Mother Earth Taking A Break

This enhanced home quarantine and lockdown scheme of the nations are beneficial to the environment. For so long, environmentalists and nature advocates are calling for cooperation from all sectors to mitigate climate change.

The world is already dense and polluted, and each year, global warming is getting worst. Highly industrialized nations are guilty of releasing tons of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases to the air, worsening the condition of the earth.

Ortigas is so cool without cars. Photo credit: ABS-CBN News

Carbon footprints of individuals and companies are getting higher everyday. This is due to lifestyle, air travel, land travel, improper disposal of waste, consumption of electricity of big industries, the tech companies are primary emitter of energy.

Due to these uncontrolled activities in the environment where governments, including the Philippines are hesitant, if not, refused to take actions, climate change is getting worst and mother earth seems bleeding to death.

Photo credit: ABS CBN News

But in 2020, the world got its hardest lesson on the abuse of the environment and nature. When coronavirus erupted worldwide, nations scrambled to their feet to prevent its deadly transmission. Seeing as the only measure to stop the widespread, several countries implemented a lockdown and quarantine policies.

This measure gave way to the environment to breath from waste and air pollution. Travel has stopped and movement of the people has been limited. Roads became empty and surroundings are enjoying silence and stillness for the first time since the Ice Age.

Tranquility at its finest!

Now, we know what will happen to us if we continue abusing nature and things in the wilderness. When mother earth hits back at us, we are always at the losing end. Coronavirus is believed to have started in the seafood market in Wuhan and the disease has been transmitted to human by consuming a bat or a wild snake.

What a wonderful world!

Now, it runs havoc to six continents with thousands infected globally. As health experts  scrambled to come up with a cure, everyone is racing with time before the unseen enemy could catch. And world plunges into uncertainty.

Mother Earth is healing

When this crisis would be offer? When this enhanced commumity quarantine would be lifted. Hope soon. Hope one of these days the disease would stop thriving. And we could get back to normal. This is a hard lesson that we should be taken seriously.

Praying to God for protection. And for everyone's safety. May we surpass this ordeal the soonest with intact spirit and mental health. Let us cooperate and stay indoor. Always maintain good hygiene.

Inside the quarantined metropolis is a plenty of stories to tell. But one thing is certain, it brings good to the environment.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Why Most of Us Love Happy Endings?

March 02, 2020 0 Comments

We love happy endings.  That's the fact.

In movies and TV series, we hate the idea of watching lead characters die in the end or lovers end up with another person instead of the love interest we rooted for. We feel cheated when the male or female lead choose to fall in love with another. 

We prefer the happily-ever-after format. We always do.

We hate miserable endings. We don't like love teams to separate at the end of the story or lead characters to break ties in the end. We want to see them end up together, walk into the sunset holding hands and build a happy home.

It gets us affected when we hear stars go on separate ways or celebrity couples end up in separation. And we always feel elated when we hear two lovable celebrities tying the knot or lead stars in the movies or soap operas we followed going into a relationship. Fairy tale sort of thing.

I like happy endings too. 

I belonged to a generation literally poisoned by fairy tales. I always thought life has always a perfect moment to celebrate love and sweetness, togetherness and cuteness. I love romantic books, I read them with hope that one day I could find my own prince charming. I thought life was like that. When I was still in college, one of my favorite hobbies was to rewrite brutal stories I saw in movies into a plot that retells peace, undying love and happiness.

I grew up with the idea that our lives are designed for happy endings. And there's no room for misery and sadness and loneliness. That we will end up with someone we love, with someone we choose to be with. That we can always have the life we dreamed of. That we can always pick the one we like without complications. That the luxury of choosing the one we wanted is always possible, always real.

When I started working, the magic of my innocence slowly drifted away. Eventually, I realized that problems are everywhere and not all humans are accorded with happy endings. Finally, the life I had imagined when I was still very young never really come into full circle. Until I recognized that the concept of "and they lived happily ever after", can only be found in fairy tale books. 

In the real world, we are bound to suffer, to experience pain, to undergo distress and emptiness, we will eventually end up rejected, unwanted, abandoned. There will be painful days thinking why we were not the one being chosen.  

There will be doors that will be shut off. Windows that will be sealed. Failures that will shock us. There will be more suffering, more defeats. There will be moments of agony and loneliness. Moments that we feel we are truly alone and empty. With no one to reach out.

But there will be time also that we will realize life is not always like that. There will be tomorrows. So we should never get tired of tomorrows because it tells a different story. A story that might change our life for the best.

We will eventually realize that nothing is permanent in this world. There's always a good balance between sadness and happiness, success and failures. When we attain the fullness of being human, and the lessons of the generations, we will understand that there are always two sides of life, to find our balance.

So why most of us love happy endings?

Maybe because we are already tired hearing all the ugly news in the surroundings, traffic congestion, murders, street crimes, wars, diseases, even the barking of dogs in the neighborhood. We are so exasperated with life that we want to escape into a state where there’s an everlasting peace and happiness and love, where people can be with the one they love and can laugh all day. Can experience that beautiful, perfect moment.

The thought about happy endings provided us with a great relief and a temporary seclusion from everyday clutters of life. We feel elated and inspired to hear celebrities fall in love because they are our idea of pleasure and happiness, they are our source of enjoyment and entertainment. We frame them in a happy world filled with delight and brilliance. 

We love films and TV series that speak about love and romance and togetherness because they are our escape from the brutal reality of life and inconveniences in the environment and disappointment in ourselves. With it, we found a place to explore our fantasy of a better and beautiful life. We are not really obsessed with the plot, we are obsessed with the idea that we can escape from reality.

Why we behave something like this? 

Maybe because we are raised in a society that abhors sufferings. We don’t like the idea of taking so many sacrifices, of experiencing so much pain and distress and misery. All we want is comfort and delights and affection.  We always associate loneliness and sufferings to misfortune and curse. 

We always have this concept of a beautiful life fulfilled by romantic films that's why we love happy endings. It brings a feel good factor in us. It makes us believe that everything works well in the world and something deep inside is being fulfilled.

While sad endings will always leave us in shock and bring us back to the real world. It makes us face the sad reality in life we are trying to escape. It will force us to face our own demons. It digs frustration from the deeper sense that it leaves us troubled and sad. It makes us see our own failures and disappointments.

But life is no joke. As what I've realized, pain and misery are part of being human, part of our life's cycle, part of our struggle to be a better person. It is inevitable and will eventually happen. Happy endings can actually be achieved in reality but it does not mean we don’t experience tribulations along the way. We need to pass all those afflictions to appreciate life in a deeper sense.

We need to grow. We need to change our perspective in life. We need to embrace our faults and rough side. We need to accept the other side of happiness, the other side of relating that not all people we meet will like us or will stick with us. 

When I thought about the sad ending of the movie, Titanic, my sentiments had changed. I no longer complained why James Cameron killed Jack Dawson in the end, and why the story did not have a happy ending. Because I understand, it speaks about reality, about the truth we need to undergo in this world.

Not everyone of us would anyway have happy endings. It’s only a juvenile concept of life that everyone would end up happily-ever after. But we can make our life happy, everyday is a struggle but we can choose to be happy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What Terrifies Me?

February 26, 2020 0 Comments

It’s not about drug addicts or earthquakes or deadly virus that haunted me now. It’s all about life’s double-edged sword.

Or so I thought.

In reality somehow, everyone has to face a double-edged sword circumstance at a certain point, to sort out things and to know what lies ahead to find balance. It is a good test also to see who will stick around. 

Roadblock is inevitable but it is through a state of tribulation that everyone can see the value of taking risks and identify which battle is worth fighting for.

Been through a lot of things lately.

Nothing serious, just thoughts of what’s coming ahead. And things that I have lost along the way. Lost in the sense that, life sometimes takes its own course and flow to where it wants to drift. And no matter how I wanted to hold on, it eventually slipped away and gushed to a different direction. Life is always like that. Sometimes smooth, at times bumpy.

So here I am, in the middle of the night wondering and pondering about the things that lost with time. Pondering on wasted connections. Friendships that gone sour. Acquaintances that did not progress to close contacts. Hopes that fell apart. 

For a moment, I thought the problem is skin deep.

Perhaps I am ugly, undesirable, unattractive, could not fit in on someone's fantasy of an ideal girl, that's why no one wants to take me in, no one wants to talk or get associated with me. I am not good at anything. 

I thought my greatest fear is not being able feel appreciated or wanted or loved or have children. But I guess it's someone's deliberate rejection that cut me deep. It's depressing. The feeling of being ignored hurts me more than the words uttered. 

I've always wanted to get attached, form a great bond, and establish a close connection with someone I love to be with, and very comfortable talking with. But I was not given a chance, always, to experience that. Someone is running away. Perhaps, I did not fit in over that person's fantasy.

My eagerness to talk and share things about life to someone makes me look like an eager pony on her first stomp at the carriage. Silly and trying hard and dumb. But eagerness, life taught me, does not always begets enthusiasm, nor any guarantees of compassion. 

It could be unrequited and the consequences can be petrifying. For someone on the first try, like an eager pony, it can be terrifying. It left a deep wound in my self-esteem.

But discernment can be liberating. It frees me from being scared to try again, to hope again. It helps me understand that things happened for a reason. It made me realized that the universe is vast and everyone wants to take its own place and look and find its own choice.

Each moment when I am on the brink of crying due to failed hopes and hurtful rejection, discernment lifts my spirit to feel better, to see things in the right perspective.

So I make it a habit to discern and take things slow. And in deep solitude I always find time to pray. Making things happen with my dreams. Thinking how to re-map my life’s goals. About where I should go, what path to follow, which direction to take, where in the universe I should put myself to thrive to a person I always envisioned to be.

Pretty hard stuff. Or was it?

I guess it's not. I am still not on the borderline of personal troubles. It is just that life is not all about sweet-scented blooms and gorgeous sunrise, it is all about getting things into our hands and take a balance between emotions and logic. And all the crazy things that life is dishing us.

At times, we need to face life's qualms and unfairness as we hit rock bottom, then another moment we are elated, delighted towards something. Because life is an uphill climb. The journey to the top can be a strenuous one but the view from the summit is always beautiful and terrific. So much so that one might end up exclaiming, “it's worth the trek!”

Life is all about striking a good balance between ups and downs, highs and lows, happiness and sadness, emptiness and fullness. In-between is always a grace to live by. It is the reality of adulting. Gotta face everything that life has to offer and sort out things carefully to clear the right path.

I am on some serious discernment process lately. Having to ponder what to do with my life at this stage, how to strike a good balance between dreams and hopes, ambitions and affections, and how to fully accept the circumstances that surround me. 

In life, I am in the middle of my journey, almost reaching the intersection of life, but still tentative with my steps, and out of the field, I have to take frequent stopovers to see where I should be heading. As though there are always two options to choose, which complicate everything.

Terrible thoughts. Always complicated in some aspects. Sometimes I feel very empty and longed to have that one person who could lit up the dark corners where I constantly crept in. Sometimes I feel contented being alone, delighted with the fact that I can handle my life in full blast, full of confidence and wisdom to wind off the roadblocks along the way.

But it's not how things looked right now. Things are scary. Thoughts are hazy. Options are blurry. Choices are scarce. And each of it baffles me. I might end up empty-handed. And it can be more frightening. Leaving without any options terrifies me.

I am between landmarks. And with it, comes potholes.Where should I go? Where should I fit in? Do I need to walk straight ahead, without looking around or stop by, delay my journey once more, peep at the corners, stare at people's faces, smile at everyone, wander around and look at every leaf that falls to the ground.

It is not on waiting for something or looking at options that makes life a little messy and complicated, it's on getting empty-handed and left nothing to choose that spill the real deal. Leaving with no choice but to go ahead is what terrifies me.

At this point, I am still struggling to accept the fact that I am being handed with an unlikely destiny, though not totally empty, but seems blurry. And it is frightening out there. I might be sailing into the sunset of my life alone, I might get old without any children, I might be rocking the chair alone to the old age. It terrifies me to embrace it fully.

But I should not be who I am today if not all about those circumstances that laid upon me. Perhaps, I should not be as well-rounded as today if not all about those roadblocks and rock bottoms that hit my journey. 

Perhaps, life is bigger out there and I am destined to be something else. And all these complicated stopovers are ways that will lead me to a great place where I should thrive as a person.

Still, half of my brain refused to accept what is being shown in my journey because I want something else. I want something that has been in my mind for so long. I want something that follows the map of my life I am trying to envision. 

The thought of not fulfilling it gives me a chill in the spine. What life would look like towards the end of the intersection if I would not get it?

The thought is even more terrifying.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Tale of Princess Diana's Most Iconic Engagement Ring

February 25, 2020 0 Comments

Lady Diana Spencer, once dubbed by the British press as the perfect English Rose, was a daughter of a wealthy British nobleman who directly descended from King Charles II of England, Johnny Spencer, the 8th Earl of Althorp. Her mother, Frances, was a daughter of another British nobleman, the 4th Baron Fermoy.

In the late 1970s, the love life of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, became a national fodder. He was by then 31 and has not settled yet. For someone like him whose only responsibility in life is to give the throne a future heir to ensure the line of succession of the House of Windsor, Prince Charles found it difficult to find a wife who could take the role of the Princess of Wales.

But in 1980, he found her. 

Lady Diana was then 19, an innocent kindergarten assistant but whose pedigree was in line with the royal family. In fact, her grandmother, Lady Fermoy, served as the lady in waiting to Prince Charles's grandmother, the Queen Mother. 

Diana found the intrusion of the media draining. But in February 1981, when the Prince of Wales proposed, she did not hesitate to accept. But there was something missing in the would-be fairytale marriage.

Engagement ring.

Left: The couple on their engagement day

Unlike most men caught by the love bug, the future king of England seemed not prepared to pop up the question with a ring to seal his genuine intention to marry. He reportedly apologized to Diana for not having a ring to put on her finger. And promised to give her in the coming days.

The next day, Garrard's, the crown jeweler, came to Buckingham palace with a tray of expensive rings. But it was not Prince Charles who chose which piece, instead, he allowed his future bride to pick up the ring of her liking.

Young as she was, Diana did not think of anything else, doomed love or something. She was excited to be given an opportunity to choose a ring. She reportedly giggled and picked the largest one. The  stunning 12-carat blue Ceylon sapphire ring set in an 18-carat white gold band surrounded with 14 solitaire diamonds. It was valued at 75,000 pounds in 1981.

Many theories have emerged how Diana chose the ring.

Some said because it was Diana's favorite color that matched her sapphire eyes, others claimed, it was Diana's tribute to Queen Victoria who wore a brooch sapphire on her wedding day in 1839. However, some royalists criticized the way Prince Charles's offered the engagement ring, which was through a crown jeweler, 

As most royal engagement rings were custom-made and personalized, he was in bad taste when he let Diana chose the ring from already made collections because it could be available to everybody willing to purchase the piece. However, Diana did not bother, she was excited to wear the gorgeous ring that matched her dress on the day of the official announcement of their engagement.

Prince Charles and Lady Diana on their engagement photo

It went on to become the world's most famous engagement ring. And became one of Diana's most favorite piece of jewelry. She wore it everyday of her life even after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996, a year before her death.

Following her death, Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, asked Prince William and Prince Harry, which Diana's position they wanted to take. Prince William chose the gold Cartier watch, a birthday present of his grandfather, the Earl Spencer, to Diana when she turned 21. Prince William knew it was one of Diana's favorite watches in her collection because it was given to her by her father.

Diana wore it everyday of her life

Prince Harry said, "I want the ring that most loved by mommy where she would often complain being hurt in the finger because it was big". Paul Burrell understood it was Diana's engagement ring he meant so he gave it to Harry. 

But years later Harry and William made an agreement that whoever will set to marry first will have the ring. In 2010, when William planned to propose to Kate Middleton, his girlfriend of eight years, Harry made true of their compact, and gave the ring to his brother.

The ring was readjusted to fit in Kate Middleton's finger. However, due to Middleton's background as a non-aristocratic commoner, the ring has been dismissively called "the commoner's ring". The Duchess of Cambridge has Diana's ring now which she put in her right ring finger with the wedding ring.

Today, the ring has replicas that can be bought anywhere. I bought mine online and it is so amazing to have a piece of Diana's most iconic ring in my finger, even just a replica. 

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