Laid off in the middle of a pandemic | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

Laid off in the middle of a pandemic

Wake up at 7:15 in the morning. Do my morning skincare routine. Drink a glass of water. Open my work laptop. Go out for some sunlight. Head back to my “work station” before shift starts at 8.

That was my typical morning schedule. Since the government implemented the enhanced community quarantine last March, I have been working from home all week (I used to work from home every Thursday and Friday).

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My situation was nonetheless favorable: I didn’t have to wake up early to avoid the rush hour, food was already provided, and you could even start working without taking a shower. While I missed my officemates, the cheap food court meals, and the joy of having a night out after a tiring work week, I didn’t mind working from home. I thought that I could get used to it for as long as quarantine was imposed.

Then one day at around 10 in the morning, my boss quickly messaged me to check my email. She came from a meeting with the managers and executives. Apparently, we had been laid off. I work (or rather, worked) for an international travel and leisure company, and the board of directors decided that the global offices would be closed, including the Manila office.

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The pandemic had affected all industries, especially nonessential industries, and we were one of the unfortunate ones to be hit. It’s understandable since who in their right mind would want to travel given the uncertainty of the situation? Even I had to cancel some of my flights scheduled from June to August.

I had to read the email announcement again and again, making sure that what I understood was correct. Then, the messages started popping in from my colleagues, and all of us had the same reaction.

Are we jobless? Yes, we are.

What’s happening? They’re closing the Manila office for good.

I don’t know how to process this. Same.

What about our office-issued laptops? Same, but I would like to keep my laptop, to be honest.

Did the managers know about this beforehand? That, we’re not sure of.

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How do we look for a job in the middle of a pandemic? God, just thinking about this makes me weak.

What followed that afternoon was a pretty emotional meeting with our senior manager who had worked for the company for more than a decade. He was sad, like all of us, and he reminded us to take care of our mental health first.

Working in the middle of a pandemic was already stressful, but losing our jobs in the middle of it felt like a punch in the gut. All of us have bills to pay, some of us have mouths to feed. There’s no definite date when the quarantine would be lifted, or when it would be okay to return to Makati and start applying for a new job.

It was all too overwhelming, and that day, I had to quietly sob in my little office space as my family ate their lunch. I wasn’t prepared for this.

This is also the situation of many of our fellow countrymen who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. There’s no guarantee when the situation will get better, or if it will get worse, so we don’t know when we can start applying for a new job. The severance pay along with personal savings can only last up to a few months (in some cases, just weeks or even days).

As I write this, I feel grateful for the roof above my head and the food thanks to my parents, and I can only wish I can give more to those who need it the most. I feel helpless, but at the same time I know I shouldn’t give up just yet. As long as our frontliners are working hard and not giving up, so should we remain steadfast. It’s okay to feel sad and angry over the loss of one’s employment, and indeed it can be difficult to see the good in this situation. But we don’t have to go through it alone. A minor setback for a major comeback, like what they say. And so my day goes.

Wake up at 7:15 in the morning. Do my morning skincare routine. Drink a glass of water. Go out for some sunlight. Head back to my “work station.” Open my laptop, keep in touch with colleagues, and make sure no one feels alone.

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Rina Bernardo, 25, most recently worked for an international travel company based in Makati. She lives in Batangas City.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines COVID-19, laid off, Rina Bernardo, Young Blood
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