THE ONSLAUGHT of Covid-19 pandemic has taught me a lot of things. It made me reassess how I lived my life and has completely changed the way that I see things. In my perspective, the coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for change, transforming everything right before my very eyes.
Working in the business outsourcing industry (BPO), I was always in a hurry. You need to be in the office early so that you can prepare your tools and be ready for the nine-hour shift. Since the government has implemented the enhanced community quarantine (they do not want to use the term lockdown, because of the negative connotation) last March, our company has been forced to implement the work-from-home set-up.
At first, it was very difficult. You need to adjust with the new set-up. With very limited support, you need to work — almost entirely — on your own. If you encountered some technical problems, you need to figure out how to make the equipment work again. And whenever you have problems with your emails, you need to decide on your own. This was the first thing that this pandemic has taught me: To trust myself and believe that I can do things on my own; and that, I have this capacity to understand — and figure out things with a little help from others.
I have to confess, I have a lot of self-doubt and trust issues. This may be the result of the trauma that I have had in my childhood. I grew up with my aunt, who has also a lot of issues. While I have the intelligence (I graduated valedictorian in elementary and fourth honourable mention in high school, and I also fared well during college), my auntie always sees me as a person who is “walang binatbat,” — a good for nothing, since I have not achieved what my friends I have achieved — a high paying job as an IT professional in a multinational company, having my own car, and living in a big house.
I cannot blame her though. She has also some childhood traumas to heal. Moreover, I have my shortcomings, too.
One of them is when I changed my course during college. From 1999–2000, I was in an IT Course but shifted to studying the Filipino language and journalism, because I wanted to write, and to express myself more. I want to see my byline in newspapers and magazines, and to write my novel and produce a collection of poems and short stories. This decision hurt her, for creative writing in the Philippines, unless you are accustomed to writing marketing and advertorial pieces, you will just earn a little money, or no money at all. But this is my passion, so I still pursued it.
Now, I am an email support for a US-based makeup discovery company, answering customers’ queries, helping them about their orders and other account-related stuff. Because of the work-from-home set-up, no need to travel back-and-forth to the office, just to get to work. For me, this is a sort of a blessing. I can still work while keeping myself and my family safe from the virus.
This is the other thing that the pandemic and the lockdown have taught me: to appreciate the small things in life like the small garden that we have at home; the chirping of the birds every morning that I finished working (I am in a graveyard shift); the meowing of our neighbour’s cats; and the smell of the flowers and tall grass every time that I go outside to run some errands, just to name a few.
Another thing that the coronavirus has taught me is to see the little miracles and blessings that surround me.
Life, indeed, is wonderful and mysterious. It makes you wonder and think. It makes you cry and howl in pain, but it can also make you also cry because of too much happiness and joy. The pandemic has made more curious of what else life and living can offer.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
The pandemic has also taught me that life indeed is short, and that death in itself is both a curse and a miracle. Because life is short, you need to enjoy every second of it. Do the things that make you truly happy. Be in love with life itself.
When it comes to death — yes, it brings pains and mourning, yet it also brings rest to those who are afflicted with severe pain and illness.
Mysteriously, death, sometimes, can also bring unity, forgiveness, and healing to the members of the family. I have witnessed this, so many times that the midst of mourning and weeping, the strained relationships among family members and friends are being healed and restored.
As of this writing, there are almost one million deaths recorded during the onslaught of the pandemic. This brought the world too much pain, but it also made realize that we need to do something to prevent this from happening in the future. This is the other lesson that we have learned during this pandemic: there is a need to reassess our current healthcare system and the way that social services are being delivered to the people.
Here in the Philippines, the onslaught of Covid-19 pandemic spelled a healthcare disaster. In an opinion piece written by medical doctor Ronnie E. Baticulon, the country is not ready for this kind of health crisis. But prior to the Covid-19, the healthcare system here is already in its dismal state.
Mr. Paul Quintos, senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance said, “…the Philippine’s pandemic response has been fundamentally constrained by the sorry state of the public health system in the country.” He also explained that this dismal state of the public healthcare system is “the result of deliberate policy choices, fiscal priorities and institutional design made over many years up to the present.”
Here comes another lesson that this global pandemic has taught many of us: The current form of capitalism doesn’t really work.
For the longest time, we see everything and anything as commodities that we can sell for a profit. We have overly exploited our natural resources, to the extent that most of species of our flora and fauna have been pushed to the brink of extinction. In an interesting paper penned by Adam Lampert, he said that “exploitation of ecosystems by humans has long-lasting consequences for the future provision of natural resources and ecosystem services.” He also added: “This may negatively affect the provision of food, increase health hazards and risks of natural disasters, and more.”
This having said, I think that there’s a need for us to re-assess the current economic system, and to shift into a more sustainable and people-centred economic system. I am not saying that socialism and communism are better options, but it seems that we need to create a system that will not only preserve the environment, but will also restore human dignity and our own humanity.
Another lesson that this global pandemic has taught me is to trust the power of love and compassion.
As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in his speech:
“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives… This is, above all, a human crisis that calls for solidarity.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has bring into the fore the importance of love and compassion in dealing with the virus and its long-term effect to the human race. It is only by being truly human that we are able to survive this crisis.
“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter.”
Moreover, this plague, in my opinion, has become an opportunity to encounter our own souls and our being as a human being. Through this encounter, at least for me, that we are able to see a clearer future of our world and our race, after this pandemic.
Lastly, the pandemic also taught me that even during the time of crisis, there will always be an opportunity for us to grow and to further evolve as a human being. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for radical — and deep — changes on personal, social, and spiritual levels.
On personal level, the pandemic has taught us to take good care of ourselves. It has reintroduced to us the importance of taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional health.
Meanwhile, on the social level, it has bring to the fore the importance of healthy social relations. No man is an island, and we need one another for us to survive as a species, we need to take care of one another, be kind and gentle to each other, and to show genuine concern with each other.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone — if possible — Jew, Gentile — black man — white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
“Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…”
In the spiritual level, on the other hand, the coronavirus has bring into the fore the importance of faith and having deep connection to the Divine. Call it God, the Cosmos, the Great One, the Creator, or whatever name that you can think of, personally, I believe that there’s a power, greater than us, that keeps everything alive, and in order. This power is present in all beings, in nature.
“To get to the root of our ills, and also to their remedy, we need a new spiritual cosmology, that is, a reflection that sees the planet as a great sacrament of God, as the temple of the Spirit, the space of creativity responsible for human being, the dwelling place of all beings created in Love, etymologically, ecology has to do with dwelling place. Taking care of it, repairing it and adapting it to possible new threats, expanding it to house new cultural and natural beings is its task and its mission.”
As I write this piece, I am thinking of the world will look like, 5–10 years after this pandemic. I hope that these lessons will linger in our hearts and minds, and will continue to practice what we have learned during this time of crisis.