I moved to Benguet when the Luzon-wide COVID-19 lockdown started on March 15th last year. I thought the lockdown would last for a month at most, so I thought that my northern escapade would be a welcome break from all of Manila’s toxicity. But what’s supposed to be a month-long vacation turned into a year-long retreat in the Cordillera mountains.
In a few days, we shall all be reminded of how all our lives changed because of the virus and I, myself, have changed. For one, I am not as cranky as I was once was, and even my social media followers notice. The fresh mountain air and the relative solitude may have done wonders to me.
But more than that, I think it’s because my mountain hideout allowed me to reflect deeply not only on this pandemic, but also on life in general.
First, life is simple.
Retreating from city life made me realize that I have been on the hamster wheel since I can remember. Just like most working-age Filipinos, I worked and played like tomorrow’s the end of the world. Up to the pandemic, I never really questioned why I was that way.
Life is simple. Food on the table. Roof over my head. Clothes to wrap myself with. That’s it. All the other stuff, I can live without.
Oh, and WiFi! I cannot live without WiFi.
Second, life is short.
Many of us know someone who lost or almost lost their lives because of this pandemic. We know we’re just as vulnerable as they are: we just got lucky enough to dodge the bug, so far. While I’m happy to still be alive, I know that one wrong move and it’s over.
Nobody knows how long we still got. Some may have decades, some weeks, some hours.
Should we still get easily riled up all the time? Yes, there are some things that are bigger than us, but should we focus all our time and energy at them and them alone?
I don’t know how long I’ll last, so I’ll fight only those battles that I can win. Borrowing Niebuhr’s words, I try my best to find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
We can fight for social justice and whatnot. We can pour our hearts and souls into those crusades. But we should do that with the understanding that the world won’t stop spinning just because things didn’t turn out as hoped.
Third, life is about friends and family.
If there’s one thing that I am truly thankful for, it’s my realization that, at the end of the day, the quality of our personal relationships is the litmus test of happiness. Happiness is knowing which ones to keep and knowing which ones to let go.
I am lucky enough to have figured that out during the lockdown. I guess we all had too much time in our hands. But I’m even luckier because I gained family.
I know that this is totally unlike the Thinking Pinoy that you used to know. But just like what I’ve been telling my friends through the years, “We are the sum total of our life experiences.” Maybe my experiences since the pandemic began are enough to significantly change the me that you used to know.
Sure, I still snap once in a while. I still get cranky. But not as easily.
Don’t worry: I’ll see an exorcist so he can check what’s wrong with me. Or maybe an electrician.
Kidding aside, just like you, I am scared of what the future has in store for me. But after thinking long and hard about what life is all about, I can say that, if that fateful day comes, I will move on with no regrets.
I have figured out how I should live my life, and I am living that life accordingly.
I finally understand why Thanos, after decimating the Avengers and half of sentient life in the universe, decided to become a farmer.
I am growing potatoes. And I enjoy it.
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