The opening lines of “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens might as well have been written during this time, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing life as we know it, not really sure when all this will be over:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… We had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Fear and paranoia
I am speaking for myself, but I know many people can relate to the kind of fear, anxiety, paranoia, and despair that chase each other around my head every now and then.
The anxiety that I might have brought the virus home after a four-hour run going to the drugstore and grocery, my disgust at a (masked) customer who sneezed twice while I was checking out frozen goods, irritation because for more than a month now I still could not find any alcohol, and irrational fear because my throat felt achy and I had runny nose the next day.
I wield a tiny alcohol spray like a weapon—at the metal chair provided for waiting customers, grocery carts, plastic food wrappers. (My mom warned me about spraying people who would come near.) I would spray the gate, even the floor, after going out, then on to the laundry area where I would dump my clothes, take a shower and wash everything I wore (baseball cap included). I wash the mineral water bottle before giving it to my son, the canned goods, the eggs and fruits and vegetables, almost everything I get my hands on.
Outwardly I was okay, but inside there was gnawing fear and simmering anger because my world was getting unhinged, watching the news with growing dread at the rising number of confirmed cases, PUIs, PUMs, and deaths. It is difficult to maintain one’s mental composure once fear and despair get a foothold.
Focusing on positive news
But I knew I had to stop the creeping darkness, so to speak, from overshadowing the “season of Light” that was shining out there.
I needed to find hope in the midst of uncertainty. I began to focus on the positive news: private individuals soliciting donations for alcohol and personal protective equipment for hospitals; restaurants sending food to health workers braving it in the frontlines; little children who made get-well cards for COVID-19 patients; gas stations giving free gasoline to doctors and front liners; local scientists using their expertise to come up with testing kits; and hotels and private establishments offering their facilities as temporary quarters for essential workers stranded during the lockdown.
The pandemic separated the wheat from the chaff as far as local government leaders are concerned. I was—am—especially proud of Marikina City and Mayor Marcy Teodoro who immediately set up sanitation tents, and distributed rice, canned goods, and other relief items to constituents, starting with the tricycle and jeepney drivers who were displaced. And despite repeated frustration, the mayor is relentless in his effort to put up a testing center that would also benefit nearby cities.
Cooperation among corporate rivals
While there were government officials who proved to be big disappointments, it is encouraging to see those who have more in life stepping up to help ease the pain and burden that others who have less are going through during these difficult and trying times.
Companies like San Miguel, the Lucio Tan Group, the Ayalas, the Sys of SM, the Yuchengco Group, the MVP Group, ICTSI, and many others are drawing from their deep pockets to donate hundreds of millions that will go into the purchase of PPEs for front liners, ventilators, ambulances, and food for the marginalized, among others.
It is truly heartwarming to see these big corporate rivals collaborating to fight a deadly, unseen enemy, with workers rapidly deployed to convert sports coliseums and convention centers into COVID-19 emergency quarantine facilities and testing centers, knowing that time is of the essence.
The worst of times, the best of times
Now more than ever, we are realizing the value of human life, appreciating the little things that we used to take for granted. I also did something I have not really done for a long time—went down on my knees and prayed, remembering Psalm 91, my life verse.
And while this may look like the worst of times, this is also the best of times because we are seeing the compassion, kindness, and generosity of Filipinos coming to the surface in no small measure. For we are a resilient race, surviving through tragedies and disasters both natural and man-made, with faith as our strong anchor so that we may stand as a nation against this outbreak and look forward to the day when we heal as one.
About the writer
Bing Parel is the SVP for the Editorial Department of WSP Incorporated, a Filipino-owned communications firm. In her past life, she was a travel magazine writer and associate editor for a glossy, and was also involved in the national campaign of a presidential candidate. She describes herself as a domestic diva on weekends and confesses that one of her frustrations is the inability to solve a Rubik’s Cube despite her teenage son’s patient encouragement and tutorial attempts.
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