Why we still need to talk about Covid-19

Published August 27, 2020, 3:58 AM

by AA Patawaran

Lea Salonga, Berna Romulo-Puyat, Heart Evangelista, Ben Chan, and more in empowering conversations about our life in crisis

In late March, after the shock over Coronavirus had subsided, meaning I had at least come to terms with the idea that it was really happening, I took a mental note that I should stop asking people how they were.

“How are you?” is open-ended enough, but in the pre-Covid rituals of our social life, it was sometimes no more meaningful than a nod of acknowledgment, often answered perfunctorily with “I’m good, thank you!”

But the pandemic has changed all that. I didn’t want people to say “I’m good” when their businesses were in danger, when they were worried about a catch in their throat, when they had a family member in the ICU, or when they were anxious about losing their jobs or laying off a loyal staff member. I didn’t want them to think about all that, only to come up with “I’m good, thank you” because that used to be the polite standard.

I thought about more authentic conversation starters like “How are you holding up?” or “Are you OK, all things considered?” or even “How is the pandemic treating you?” But I nearly always revert to the customary “How are you?”

Luckily, even with people I don’t really see that much of, small talk isn’t a thing in my relationships. I have a Viber group in which we have categorically agreed not to talk about Covid-19, unless it is knocking on our doors or has in fact entered our houses. We talk about it anyway, especially with each shift of quarantine acronyms.

Besides, it is Covid-19 that, having compressed our big, big world into a tiny universe of screens, has got us talking again. Whereas in the past we were content with checking in on friends at surface level through Instagram or Facebook or beso beso, now we are curious about their vulnerabilities, their insights, their survival mechanisms or at least what new hobbies they might have picked up and what new skills they might have learned.

While chit chat is still possible in the Zoom Room, we go in looking for conversation, for connection, for answers, for things we can emulate just so we can navigate the havoc the coronavirus has wrought in our lives.

Some recommend that we try to steer the conversation away from Covid-19, but I’d say just let the conversation flow freely. There are many opportunities to depart from the disease, such as the book you are reading on quarantine or the sushi bake your friend has ventured to make now that she has more time in the kitchen, but to talk about everything under the sun except Covid-19 is like pretending you are warm and dry while neck deep in ice water. Too much effort.

I’m just glad that, in my search for solace on days Covid-19 dominated every conversation, I found friends who spoke openly about their feelings and learnings. I keep these nuggets of wisdom in mind every time I feel defeated by the rising number of Covid cases. And so every time a new letter is added to the complex acronym-led guidelines for our behavior, public or private, I have these empowering conversations going on in my head with some of the people I look up to. Here are some of them.


The pandemic gave life and death more purpose. I realized that time was precious, and my life’s priorities should change so I could be a blessing to family and special friends and even to people I had not met.


Music can be a distraction, or a conduit to our emotions. Some songs tap into things just below the surface and help them come out, or just get us on our feet to dance and make us feel good. It’s become a wonderful way to help people deal with this tragic turn of events in the world. For the listener, it’s great to listen to someone sing however they might be feeling and, for the artist, it’s a great way to release so much pent up anxiety and uncertainty.


There are just some days when an hour of world news can be a draining life experience. I pray we can learn openness to understand each other more, patience because the world will never be perfect, and humility to learn from both the right and wrong so that we can turn protests into better policies and petitions into action plans. I hope every revolution, big and small, personal and global, can, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, turn our winter of despair into a spring of hope.


I try not to allow myself to think too much because I’m prone to having major anxiety and it’s just not going to help. You really have to just live in the moment, one day at a time.


We all somehow adapted to a different rhythm and beat. People were interacting online. People were trying to reach out to others, raising funds and scrambling, finding ways to feed and clothe other people. People needing other people. People turned to cooking and baking to find comfort and peace of mind. Instagram was swamped with images that filled your heart’s yearning for a return to the simple life, to the bare essentials, a reality now that we are under lockdown. At first blush it seemed like the world was going to fall apart. Sadly, there were casualties—a few good men, gone too soon. But we’re surviving, one day at a time. 


This is the perfect pause to reflect on how to begin the next chapter of my life. It has given me the impetus to take mindful action more fearlessly. It is the moment to temper (and taper) everything about myself, letting go of all that didn’t work in the past. I just want to be able to pay it forward and spend less energy on the mundane. But I’m still learning to be better than I was yesterday.


You know there’s going to be a lot of good coming out of this pandemic. A pandemic is one of the most challenging times for the human race that historically creates the greatest shift toward newness and this pandemic is not any different. We just need to realize that we were going way too fast, way too careless, and way too wasteful.


I think after the pandemic, people will focus more on what is essential. They will probably take better care of their health, know how to make better use of their time, and have learned to do things with more mindful awareness.


I’ve learned that it is important to stay strong in any crisis and to learn to adapt to change quickly. This pandemic has challenged the most of us in so many ways and to me, as an entrepreneur, you always have to think on your feet. I’ve also learned that everyone is coping with this crisis differently so showing empathy and compassion goes a long way.


This crisis has shown us that everything can change in an instant. What matters is not the degree of control, but the attitude we take to face the issue at hand, as well as the way we make the best of available resources, not just for ourselves but also for those around us.


The humility that Covid-19 has brought upon us, I believe, as people is so intense because it’s so shocking how much we took for granted. As we move forward into this post-Covid world, I pray we will be able to bring with us some of these lessons in humility, compassion, and camaraderie.


I hope to see many changes in the post-pandemic world. But my top three would be, first, for me to never forget the time spent at home with family and staff, always remembering I am blessed to have everything I ever need at home. Next, I hope to see more and more Filipinos buying local, not just to jumpstart our economy, but really to help with sustainability and to promote who we are as a people. Lastly, I would love to see more Filipinos travel the Philippines.


We’re still learning. We’ve learned that when we take our foot off the pedal, the earth heals. We’ve learned to always be prepared in times of emergency, to save and to recognize what things are truly essential, and to do away with those that are superficial. We’ve also learned that people want to do their part and will make great sacrifices to make others’ lives better. We need to put all these lessons together to create a future that is sustainable, equitable, and much more resilient.