One year Zooming with the hood
It has been a year since the lockdown in Metro Manila, when life as we knew it changed to the life we know now. God had pushed the pause button and forced us to stop the busyness of our days. We had time to reflect on what was important to us. Family tops the list.
Our family, despite having 12 siblings, has always been very close. During this pandemic, we have continued to stay in touch through our old Viber thread (called the Bautista hood) and beginning April 1 last year, through regular one-hour Zoom calls.
Beginning January 2020, our Viber exchanges were already full of news about the coronavirus. Doctors getting infected and dying. Famous personalities like Tom Hanks and his wife and Boris Johnson testing positive. We exchanged information on precautionary measures, online shopping, disinfecting groceries, symptoms, how to wear masks correctly, etc. We shared recommendations on shows to watch on Netflix, videos of Cirque de Soleil, links to online Masses, summaries of the midnight press conferences by the President.
On March 31, our youngest sister Gina suggested, why don’t we have a Zoom call? And thus was born our regular Zoom calls. Our first one was held at 9 a.m. of April 1, Manila time, with nine parties joining, including from Halifax, from Toronto, and from a cruise ship sailing to Florida.
As with our old emails, we talk about anything and everything on these calls. The daily one-hour Zoom sessions were our way of assuring ourselves that we were all fine, even as the world was not. Life went on.
In these calls where we almost always have perfect attendance from 12 locations, we talk about friends who got infected, how, why, what, who else. We track the progress of research and development on vaccines. We exchange tips on how to shop online for groceries and medicines. We recommend restaurants and canteens that deliver food. We talk about the latest figures on cases, the positivity rate, the latest scary spike. We talk about US politics, bitcoins, favorite recipes, the Instant Pot, the wonders of GCash, internet problems, cholesterol levels. Kdramas, old movies, TV series—these are fodder for our chats. Our Zoom calls established a routine that helped us keep sane.
Eventually, we moved from daily calls to scheduled calls only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Along the way, we discovered new features of Zoom, like using virtual backgrounds and studio effects. The girls had Zoom paint their eyebrows and their lips, and the Bautista men who could never for the life of them grow a decent moustache finally could have one if they wanted (they didn’t).
We had special Zoom calls, such as the one we held for the golden wedding anniversary of Kuya Pet and Ate Winda on July 25. All of us used a favorite photo of the couple as our virtual background. We had a Zoom rosary call on Daddy’s birthday and again on his death anniversary, when Kuya Ton and Ate Nina brought Mommy and Ate Tish to visit at the cemetery. They called in from his graveside, while we stayed home. We had a very special Zoom call on Mommy’s birthday, with the entire tropa of Felix and Nena Bautista participating, everyone wearing red. We also had an online Mass with extended family joining in.
While our topics change, the ending of our Zoom calls stays constant. We always end with a prayer for the day, followed by the Oratio Imperata against COVID-19, a mention of special intentions, and finally a blessing from Mommy.
I found a quotation from child education expert Marge Kennedy that resonates loudly. She said: “In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.”
Our Zoom calls have become a ritual, but the other ingredients to a strong family have always been there. Our family is blessed.
Perhaps someday, hopefully soon, we will look back on this period in our family’s thankfully not-so-storied history with fondness and nostalgia, as a period when our family felt closer than ever before. In the meantime, I need to have breakfast and prepare for our hood Zoom call.
Gigi B. Rapadas is a 62-year-old retired IT executive. She is the eighth of 12 children of Felix and Nena Bautista.