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I left ‘Hope’ in my apartment

I left my small succulent in my apartment in Metro Manila.

In a mad rush to go home to the province as the news of a Luzon-wide lockdown leaked, I only managed to get my bag with personal belongings, my laptop, and a change of clothes for three days. In my head, I was thinking that the lockdown would not last long and that I could come back the next Monday.

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Who was I kidding? I have been stuck at home for the past five months now — and counting. I had practically left all my clothes, some important documents, books to read, and all my shoes (except the one I wore going home) in my Manila apartment.

But among the many things I left there, what I’m most worried about is my succulent plant. The plant, which has been with me for a few months, was a souvenir gift from my godson’s baptism late last year. It is a small variety of snake plant in a small plastic pot draped with decorative paper, all held by a blue lace ornamented by a sparkly thread. Plus, it has a lovely photo of my grandson printed on a small piece of paper and glued to a cardboard, with a toothpick to stick it on the soil. Eventually, I had to remove the photo to prevent it from being damaged. To me, it was an innovative and thoughtful souvenir idea, compared to the usual giveaways. It symbolized the gift of new life ready to sprout in the midst of a chaotic and cruel world.

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For months, I took good care of the succulent. I diligently watered it if needed and exposed it outside to get occasional doses of sunlight and fresh air. It offered a great view on my cluttered desk full of papers and notes. It reminded me not only of being a godfather, but also of my plants in our home in the province. It reminded me of the greenery in our neighborhood. It reminded me of fresh air—something that the city is deprived of. It reminded me of slow Sundays at home. It reminded me of childhood when I would go crazy over having different varieties of plants in our small garden.

The fad recently, with quarantine measures still in place, is to hoard plants of various sizes. Of course our family also jumped on the bandwagon, with new additions to our old collection of a few orchids and leafy plants. We also repotted our decade-old cacti into bigger pots so they can grow better. Yet with more plants beautifying our terrace, I still think of my small succulent sitting on my dusty desk in Manila.

Apart from all the vivid images my succulent plant represents, I think that, above all, it now represents faint hope. This hope, like a little lamp burning in the dead of the night, is what we believe we hold on to in these difficult times. That the pandemic has been a roller-coaster ride is an understatement. I do not want to substitute the real gloom we feel with blinded optimism, which is stopping short of wishing for a miracle. It is okay to be not okay. Still, something in my heart tells me that my succulent is still alive and surviving. It does not mean it is thriving. The thought, at least, that it clings to life despite the abandonment it can never understand is what keeps me believing that it is still alive.

I never give names to plants in our home. But, when I am finally able to go back to my Manila apartment and get a favorable answer to all the questions brewing in my head, I will name my succulent plant “Hope” — for all the hope it embodies, and for everything the word means.

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Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao, 23, is a graduate student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao, stranded, Young Blood
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