It was the first time in eleven months that I wore a formal Filipina dress for the TOYM function. It took me time to find a “tapis” that matched my “patadyong” (Filipina skirt). I couldn’t even remember if I had matching shoes to wear, and was totally surprised to find a pair. All my wristwatches were not working and have run out of batteries. I felt a tinge of sadness when I saw a stack of my pashminas. I had a collection of all colors which I used in my trips to the countryside. I could barely remember the last one we took before that fateful day in March. One of these days, I should dispose many of my dresses and live with less.
But I felt a sense of liberation. I have survived almost a year of fear and anxiety from quarantine and fake news. I decided that it was time to celebrate our life, tenacity and resilience.
The first step was overcoming my fear of getting an antigen test because of all the sordid stories I heard. But I had gone through more frightful experiences, and a swab is just one of those. The test was over in a second and went like a breeze sans pain. It is true that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” So much of our energies and emotions are wasted in becoming afraid.
The TOYM celebration was such a happy gathering. I would have terribly missed a milestone had I succumbed to my fear. Although all the guests tested negative for Covid, we all wore our masks and face shields, and maintained physical distance. True, we lost some of the spontaneity in the speeches and photographs because our faces were all covered, but we learned to listen more intently and see the beauty behind those masks. What was truly invaluable was the gift of friendship that we received. Friendship thrives in the midst of Covid.
I am now more resolved to strengthen my liberation from fear. I also have decided to end sloppiness because of Covid. I will wear dresses, even a dab of perfume for my zoom workshops. I would try to look to look pretty and dignified for my students and partners, just as if I were talking to them in person. I owe it to myself to feel and look good.
I will see persons in my computer screen, instead of just faces. I have started to note who they are, their interests and their questions. I would do my best to do more of listening, asking questions and reactions, instead of talking. As Fr. Johnny Go advised, our goal in zoom workshops is to inspire our students and peers to investigate, contemplate, collaborate and create.
For almost a year, I have put a bubble over my life. Paranoia was a rule and the way to stay safe was to be overly cautious and stay inside my apartment. But I have realized that this goes against a deep human need for physical connection. I am now less afraid and more ready to meet my friends and colleagues with double masks, face shield, and physical distancing. Meeting them outdoors and walking while conversing would contribute to our health.
It is time to let go of our expectations that my life would return to where it was before the pandemic. Every day is an opportunity to learn how to cope and be unafraid.