The Learning curve

A few grains of happiness

What a message the uncanny timing of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 was conveying, coming in the midst of a pandemic that has left humanity at its mercy and to an environment that shows obvious signs of human neglect, abuse, and exploitation. Rather than celebrate, the more apt demeanor was to commemorate with an apology.

The jokes that made me smile were no longer so funny. The three apes laughing (to the delight of Jane Goodall?) at our expense: “Those Humans said they are going to step on Mars at (sic) 2020. Look at them now, they can’t even step out from their houses.” Or the comment that with Mother Nature left on its own, undisturbed, and the animals with all the space to themselves, they must have—happily—thought the human race had gone extinct. That explains why we now awake to delightful bird songs.


Many things weigh on our minds these days with the fear and the uncertainty of tomorrow. But those are easily banished and deemed trifling when one empathizes with the painful losses of dear ones and the more immediate and urgent concerns of Filipinos who cannot, even if they want to, practice social distancing in their cramped shelters, and as they worry about the day’s meals. Are lockdowns in their stifling indoors on April summer afternoons realistic?

It is at times like this when I feel much frustration and the great need to turn to books and music and, like a true Benedictine child, to prayer. What a delight that Andrew Lloyd Webber is running a “The Shows Must Go On” series of his musicales. I was enthralled by the 25th anniversary staging of “Phantom of the Opera,” like I was seeing it for the first time. I had seen it before overseas, but I may have been too jet-lagged and with a seat in the rafters for me to fully appreciate all the details.


The British daily The Guardian led me to a Lockdown Culture guide of classical concerts, which momentarily brought me to another world.

There is also much comfort derived from online conversations with friends, especially on their serendipitous discoveries in their current lifestyles, a query inspired by the New York Times’ recent feature, “One Bright Thing,” in these days of doom and gloom. There was joy to be shared.

Justice Adolfo Azcuna, chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy: “My daily serendipity is sunshine. I never had the time to stand in the garden and let the morning sun flood my entire being in a soothing, healing shower of goodness and warmth. I would normally be tied down indoors doing paperwork.”

Jean d’Orival, a gourmet at the Salcedo Market and a longtime resident of Manila: “A silent Manila is amazing and beautiful. Listening to the sound of silence while watching the sunset on Manila Bay with absolutely no one around. Less romantic is the happiness of driving in Manila at the moment… I’m flying! I’m enjoying both without much moderation.”

Pat Jardiniano, a school administrator who lives with her husband Jardie and six grandchildren: “We discovered our family’s crazy, comic side. Each Sunday, the kids proposed themes for family pictorials. We used recycled materials for our Easter egg look, then a Sports day theme to represent family sports we love, and the most hilarious was the cross-dressing Sunday with their 86-year-old Lolo in a flowing floral dress and me in a Navy sailor attire. Right now, the kids are thinking of other themes. Heaven forbid a protracted lockdown!”

We smile but are left with much to think about. What a waste this endless period of quarantine would be if lessons were not learned and the rediscovered life’s essentials were cast aside once again. And how can there not be bright moments, too?

American poet Jane Hirshfield wrote: “So few grains of happiness/ measured against all the dark/and still the scales balance.” May the scales balance soon, someday, for every Filipino.


Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: COVID-19, Earth Day, ECQ, environment, lockdown
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