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A pandemic, a pregnancy, and perseverance

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There are rare moments when all of a sudden, I find myself in quiet contemplation and feel an unfamiliar sense of melancholy in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. What difference can two months make in the course of a life?

Never in my wildest thoughts and in my 30 years of existence did I imagine that I would one day wake up and live in a world far from the one I have been accustomed to. Not only was the transition difficult because of several restrictions and the fear of a deadly virus lurking outside one’s home; the gradual shift from the monotonous routine I have been used to, into a new normal that I will have to adapt from here onward, is also incredibly difficult.

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At first I refused to believe that a global pandemic was happening. I, in wistful thinking, convinced myself that a renowned pharmaceutical company will immediately develop a vaccine and COVID-19 will no longer pose a threat to humanity. But high expectations lead to bitter disappointments because that did not happen as soon as I hoped it would.

For the most part of the anticipated summer in the Philippines, children had to stay at home while others were forced to take their exams and end their classes earlier than scheduled. Employed workers fell under the category of displaced workers since their companies, labeled non-essentials, had to cease operations. Only government offices and select private businesses involving necessities were permitted to function, but under the conditions of a skeletal workforce, minimum working hours, strict curfew, and with compliance by employees to wear face masks, to bring their quarantine passes, and to observe social distancing.

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Being employed as a technical adviser on tourism and cultural affairs, promotions and development at the local government unit of Kalibo, and married to a neophyte councilor of the same municipality, life went on like the usual for both of us. My husband had to take care of his constituents and we involved ourselves with as many relief operations as possible, ranging from distributing face masks, disinfectants, food and bottled water to frontliners assigned in border control areas, BHERTS facilities, barangay halls, and hospitals among others. We also initiated projects involving milk and hygiene kit distributions to kids, PWDs, children with disabilities and senior citizens; we distributed food packs to sidewalk vendors, garbage collectors, street sweepers, auxiliary police, public market personnel, scavengers, personnel of religious sectors, local media, tricycle drivers, and workers who have been temporarily laid off as well as individuals from poor rural communities.

It was extremely hard because while we wanted to help everybody, we can only do so much with the limited means and resources we have. It got to a point where my husband and I both became frustrated that even after all our efforts combined, and those of our family and friends who helped sponsor our projects, there were still a lot of individuals we were unable to reach. And since the ECQ was extended, though eventually lowered down to GCQ, the same daily scenes of poverty and hardship persisted in our lives as Filipinos.

It is antagonizing to hear stories of individuals who were not included in the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) and were not qualified in DOLE and DSWD grants, among others; more so those who did not receive any relief goods, even for once. I cannot fathom how they survive every day, having to worry about where to buy food for their families, especially those with children and elderly who need maintenance medicine. It occurred to me that though they may not get infected with COVID-19, they might still be hospitalized for deteriorating health and recurring health complications. In fact, those who have been tested positive for COVID-19 in the province of Aklan all recovered but quite a few died, mostly old people or those with persisting medical complications.

Although I too have my fair share of difficulties and struggles in this time of COVID-19, having to take care of our two children and keeping myself safe and healthy for the sake of the baby inside my womb, I continue to direct my focus on helping others in ways I am permitted to do so. I believe that by doing my part in providing the needs of the less fortunate around me, I am also ensuring a better and safer future for my kids.

It dawned on me as well that money is the least that can save us, but helping one another will; that this is a fight we must win together and not win against each other. I also came to the conclusion that we often complain about the monotony of life and obliviously seek thrill in the ordinary. But now, when we are forced to stay home and are limited in our movements, we yearn to go back to the way things were. Maybe boring comfort is better than terrifying uncertainty. But then, ironic as it is, I have to accept that life as it was is already gone, and nothing in the context of what used to be normal remains. This new normal is something that we all must get used to because we have seen the best and worst in the people around us, and we must continue to move forward along with our anecdotes of pain, despair, hope and love.

I can see that too many lives have been lost and too many people have been devastated for losing loved ones without even the chance to say goodbye. But no matter how painful and horrifying it has been for us, I am still grateful for each day that we are alive, because as everything else is ephemeral and uncertain, I believe even this pain will go away. With faith, we can rebuild our lives.

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Maria Solita Zaldivar-Guzman serves as technical adviser on Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Promotions, and Development (LGU Kalibo) in Aklan. Em-Em to her loved ones, she likes reading and writing, and stays busy by organizing events and outreach programs. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, she also enjoyed traveling. She prays for everyone to be safe and healthy.

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Image: INQUIRER.net/Marie Faro

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Posted by INQUIRER.net on Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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