THE VIEW FROM RIZAL

(Part 1)

“These days, it seems difficult to be happy.”

That was a remark followed by a deep sigh coming from a fellow Antipoleño. He had given me a quick call and I managed to squeeze in an honest “How are you?”. These days, people hardly mask what they feel. I believe I got an honest answer to my honest question.

“Why?” was my response to his sigh-marred remark.

“It feels like everyone’s sporting a forced smile, that there is a Sword of Damocles hanging over everybody’s head,” he continued. “It feels like every minute of the day, we are reminded that there is something wrong going on in the world today,” he added.

My fellow Antipoleño appears to have a strong, valid point.

There are a lot of things that tell us right away that life today is not what it was just a few months ago. Many of the things that used to make us “happy” are no longer here.

Consider these. Bars are closed. Restaurants are only partially open for dine-in. Local television stations are playing mostly reruns of telenovelas. The resumption of professional basketball leagues – both the local and international – is still in limbo. Collegiate basketball leagues have been scrapped this year.

On cable television, live programs show hosts and anchors wearing face masks. International news coverage is nearly a hundred percent about the pandemic.

Here’s more. We doubt if there would be a Metro Manila Film Festival this year. That means we will miss the comedy, action films, and masterfully-done dramatic movies that we line up to watch during the Christmas season.

Despite their reopening when GCQ was declared in most areas, there are not too many people in malls. Those who do visit do not hang out. No one’s planning to go on an out-of-town vacation – which means resorts and other tourist destinations might remain empty for an extended period of time.

I guess no one would want to visit places where people would look at them more as asymptomatic virus carriers than valued guests.

That brings to mind one more thing that makes it seem hard for us to be “happy.” It is the fact that we see one another as “suspect.” Prudence and protocol dictate that we presume that each of us are carriers of the virus and that physical contact with each other – even just proximity – could be fatal to one… or both… of us. It will be a while before we could, at least, shake each other’s hand.

Then, there is this “reselling” trend in social media.

While this is an interesting showcase of Filipino ingenuity and creativity, it is a reminder to all of us that many of our fellowmen have lost their steady sources of income.

 It has been both sad and edifying to see celebrities including star athletes join the ranks of online entrepreneurs in order to survive and make ends meet. Their efforts to build new enterprises is laudable and there is definitely nothing wrong with online selling. In fact, in times like these, this is an honorable thing to do.  However, their posts indicate that the revenues from these enterprises are nowhere close to what they need to survive and to the salaries they received before the pandemic hit.

Can we find joy in the news that we read, hear, and catch on television and social media?

The single big news item that we are all hoping to hear – the discovery of a vaccine and cure – does not seem to be forthcoming yet. News today consist mostly of the count of the ever-growing number of people getting infected by and dying from the deadly COVID-19 virus in the country and in the rest of the world.

Local news does not present enough items to stoke hope. What local news sources dish out depict the lonely and difficult struggle of our local communities to cope with an unknown New Normal that has no precedent and which has never been experienced by the generations alive today.

Can we rediscover the kind of joy we had in our get-togethers of the past?

Today, we cannot even hang out with each other face-to-face long enough to exchange jokes and stories.

Come to think of it, it has been a long time since we did a belly-laugh, the kind that fills the room and makes us roll on the floor with glee.

We used to be known as a people that laugh through everything. We would come up with jokes and memes amid tribulation. We would laugh at these symbols of our untiring and invincible humor. We were at our best in those moments when we use Filipino humor to battle life’s adversities.

That humor does not seem to be visible today – at least not at the level of intensity at which we dished it out in the past.

We have to admit it: the atmosphere has been somber.

So, where do we find joy in times like these?

Or, better, how do we find joy in the face of this current adversity?

In next Sunday’s column – in Part 2 of this particular piece – we will share our insight and experience on “finding joy”. We will share, too, how our friends and colleagues are finding theirs.

In the meantime, email us and tell us how you are finding yours today.

A blessed Sunday, everyone.

*For feedback, please email it to antipolocitygov@gmail.com or send it to #4 Horse Shoe Drive, Beverly Hills Subdivision, Bgy. Beverly Hills, Antipolo City, Rizal.