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Summer of 2020 (2)

Last Wednesday, I ended the first part of my Summer of 2020 article talking about online lifelines that connected us to loved ones, and the world outside our cocoons.

Zoom seemed heaven-sent, allowing academics like myself to conduct classes, meetings, and webinars. But I began to notice that after some of the Zoom sessions, I would find myself feeling exhausted and depressed. Then articles began to appear in the Western press warning about Zoom fatigue, because the new form of communication was taxing on our brain and senses, somehow not as alive and dynamic as face-to-face discussions.

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I did find solace, after a Zoom session, calling up the kids, who were out in Laguna. We use Viber more often—cozier, I felt, for stories, complete with sumbong (kuya did this, kuya did that). Zoom is hard to use on a cell phone, but Viber’s perfect, because you can talk while running around for show and tell.

For two-in-one post-Zoom therapy, I’d sometimes Viber the kids while walking the dogs, while pointing to the latest fruit in season: mangoes, star apples, santol, and I hadn’t realized we had sineguelas, too, and bignay. As I write, an avocado tree by the driveway beckons, heavy with fruit not quite ripened yet.

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Late in May, I got a text from a suki Chinese fruit seller announcing they now had small-seeded lychees, which had been my mother’s favorite, and now, mine. I marveled at how international commerce has continued, the fruits of the world coming in with seasons now global.

On one of the walks with the dogs, I noticed a kite that had crash-landed. It made me look up to the sky, searching for more kites. I spotted two in the distance, but was mesmerized by skies clearer in its shades of blue and white and shades in between. It was a summer with fewer cars, cleaner air, cleaner skies.

But there were fewer and fewer kites, a sad reminder that kids were locked in, especially in urban poor areas.

It was a summer of passages, of a stray dog that had wandered into the Balay grounds and delivered a litter of six. Shortly after the pups came, I drove past the old administration building of the College of Science, where they have the ATMs, and noticed someone missing. Their nameless cat, a female alpha who guarded the grounds for over a decade, had moved on.

I wrote once that the lockdown had set panic in slow motion, but maybe this was more apt a description for the middle class, the displacements coming in slow, more inconvenience than crisis. I’ve mentioned the fruits of the world still coming into supermarkets. Fresh vegetables? Easy, delivery service straight from Baguio. Some subdivisions even had daily menus from caterers, including gourmet meals.

I will remember the summer of 2020 as triggering the strangest of cravings for flavors—smells and tastes—of my youth and my mother’s cooking, of ngohiong (five spice) and sibut (four herbs), but there was none to buy during the first month of the lockdown.

Fortunately, by April, not just Chinese but also Japanese and Korean groceries reopened. I found myself careful not to binge, realizing that many people were living on ayuda, meager government doles of money and groceries.

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COVID-19 spun off all kinds of advocacies, mainly for a kinder and more humane battle against the virus. I realized that we had become a nation where brute force was our default mode, the virus making it easier for some in government to intimidate and to control.

There were days that seemed too much like Sept. 21, 1972 being replayed: the growing number of restrictions on the poor especially, the ABS-CBN shutdown, the tank and motorcycle convoys of police rumbling down the streets of a barangay in Tondo to enforce a total lockdown… and mass testing.

And, instead of a presidential proclamation marking the start of martial law, we had instead a new terror bill introduced in the third month of the lockdown.

On the positive side, the summer of 2020 brought out the best in many people—all kinds of donations to help those in need. Being Filipinos, we shared as well with music, coming up with amazing videos stitched together from people singing from their homes. Thanks UP Singing Ambassadors, UP Cherubim and Seraphim, and many more for the summer of 2020, when hope and kindness chased away despair, making this summer our, rather than my, summer.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, COVID-19, lockdown, summer of 2020, Viber, ZOOM, Zoom fatigue, Zoom session
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