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Normalcy nostalgia

What does it mean to get “back to normal”? To the average person, it probably means going back to his/her usual everyday activities as they were before the pandemic. For a Laguna resident like me whose professional involvements are in Metro Manila, my pre-pandemic normal routine had me traveling to the city almost daily for meetings, speaking engagements, or social functions. In that “normal” life, I would also once in a while do personal errands like shopping for home or work necessities.

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For my wife, a passionate community volunteer constantly pursuing ways to help uplift disadvantaged folk around us, a day in her life involved moving around for various meetings in Los Baños or neighboring towns. For my eldest son, an interventional radiologist constantly attending to patients needing hi-tech procedures, it was making the rounds of hospitals for his patients. For another son, it was tending to a small restaurant he and his Korean wife have run for years. For still another son, it was doing hands-on production work with his workers in a woodworking and furniture shop where he designs all their products. And for my school-age apos (three out of eight of them so far), they would have been in school.

All that has changed drastically, of course. Even as my wife and I are fully vaccinated with Sinovac jabs from our municipal government, we remain all but prisoners in our own home, by choice as demanded by the times, especially with the resurging pandemic. Shorts are the most-used items in my wardrobe, which I had to order several of via Shopee or Lazada — now an almost daily fixture in our household — to have a constant supply available. I wear these whether I’m in a formal coat and tie or casual shirt for my almost daily Zoom meetings, speaking engagements, and webinars, which are now more plentiful and more frequent than the face-to-face ones I used to have. The least (and nearly never) used items in my closet are my socks, while my dress shoes gather molds in storage.

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My wife has become restless and more irritable than before, and I could see it’s out of frustration over not being able to move around among various groups of people she used to be in constant meetings with. Our children joke that her favorite pastime is meetings, and she admits to me that she doesn’t find virtual meetings as satisfying, not to mention her constant struggle with the technology. My son’s restaurant lost heavily at the height of the quarantines last year, having been confined to take-out and delivery orders. He and his wife have taken to baking cakes and pastries to expand their product line, but sales have lately plummeted again and they are back in the red with the renewed banning of dine-in services. That was after investing heavily in turning their restaurant into what the municipal health inspectors praised him for having the best safety protocols they’ve seen.

My craftsman son laments that he is reduced to being no more than an employment provider, incurring negative income with his struggling business. He just lost one of his young key workers to leukemia, and his big heart led him to spend much of his own resources to assist the surviving wife and young child with the large expenses they had to bear. But for our eldest frontliner son, work has become heavier and more risky, but he is at least closer to normalcy in his work routine.

Meanwhile, our 2-year-old granddaughter tested positive for COVID-19 on Day 3 of their hotel quarantine after arriving on Aug. 13 from the US with our youngest daughter and her husband, both Pfizer-vaxed. They were promptly “extracted” by the Bureau of Quarantine and moved to a COVID-19 isolation hotel with facilities that leave much to be desired, further aggravating the already stressed family. But we’re counting our blessings, as they all appear to be recovering (after the parents developed symptoms, too), thank God.

We are obviously far better off than many around us, and yes, counting our blessings is what we must do in our current state, with no clear prospect for normalization—whatever that means. And that’s the same thing we can all do as a nation, lest sanity be the next thing we lose.

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TAGS: Cielito F. Habito, COVID-19 pandemic, new normal, No Free Lunch
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