Published December 12, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Heard It Through the GripeVine: Our New Abnormal

Could it really be? That as we edge past the one year and three-quarters mark of living under the shadow of COVID, and we finally seem to be basking in the light at the end of the tunnel; we could actually go nostalgic for all that has transpired over the last 22 months? Okay, fine, I overstate my case, as we’re not going to be missing COVID or wishing the ECQ days/daze would return; but that can’t stop us from taking a lighter look at what we’ve all undergone since March 2020.

In fact, that’s part of our Filipino resilience – that in spite of our misfortunes, and often criticized COVID-response, we’ve rolled with the punches, have witnessed the situation improve drastically, and God willing, stand at the ‘shoreline’ of normalcy. So many of our LGU’s have been great first responders, and we can only pray that their good work stay rewarded. So it’s our resilience, coupled with our innate sense of humor, that have helped make the last 22 months tolerable.

Like who will ever forget how creative the Filipinos were during the first months of ECQ, improvising with plastic gallon bottles as we were required to don face masks and shields? And who will forget our astonishment at finding out that some residents in our subdivisions had ostriches as pets. For one Sunday last year, nothing was funnier than the video of a runaway ostrich traversing the street of said subdivision, and turning around when the big bird encountered the lowered drawbar at the village entrance. Jokes proliferated back then about how smart the ostrich was, realizing it had forgotten it’s quarantine pass at home.

In the arena of naming restaurants and eating places, we all enjoyed the sidewalk food vendor who called his makeshift stall Swab Taste, with a signage that promised ‘Positive sa Sarap, Negative sa Dumi’. That was pure genius, and that was seconded by such establishments as Emily In Pares, and Our Tea Mo! These all cropped up during this pandemic era, and they brought some much-needed hilarity to our lives. 

And it was reassuring to find that even in first World countries like the USA, people were also improvising like fools, their fear and paranoia driving them to great lengths, in the hope that they could venture out in safety. The two photos today come from a post that was similarly reminiscing about how ridiculous it got when pandemic-paranoid people would go out to do things like essential supermarket and grocery runs. The only real difference between them and us would be budgetary considerations, and what they could avail of by ordering online, and/or dig up in their homes. 

A look back to how essential runs to supermarkets were handled by some Americans at the height of COVID (sourced from Facebook posts, and no copyright infringement intended).

Now that the situation seems to be slowly improving, I wonder what ‘ideal’ Christmas gifts will make the stockings and gift lists of December 2021. From what I read and observe, the trend still seems to center on Health & Wellness. I recall last year, and how one crazy, popular purchase was that portable air purifier/ionizer that one would wear like a necklace, and that cost a pretty penny. Personally, I always wondered how we would know if it was even working? That some COVID-free zone was really being created around you. Seemed more like one of those a ‘sucker is born every minute’ products; but I’d be amazed by how many, and who, would be wearing them – all on the principle of better to be safe than sorry. But given that it cost so much, would smirk about who would be sorry in the end. 

For this year, I’ve seen consumer product specialists rave about a Self-Sanitizing ‘Smart’ Water Bottle, that reminds you periodically to take a sip and stay hydrated. It even won some design award. Now excuse me for raining on their parade, but I now need a fancy thermos/flask to light up, and tell me I’m thirsty or should take a sip? Seems like so many of the so-called ‘smart’ products work on the premise that we’re plain stupid. And don’t roll your eyes, I know that several of them really work, and are helpful – but I’m just saying that the ‘smart’ tagging is abused and misused by manufacturers of personal products to enhance its ‘retail aura’ – when quite often, the smart enhancement is just so much smoke and mirrors. 

There’s a ‘smart’ body weighing scale that reads out biometric indexes; which I would surmise is a democratized, more affordable version of the machines we’d regularly see at slimming salons and medical diagnostic centers. If priced keenly, I can see this one enjoying popularity as so many of us would be ready to keep regular tabs on theses indexes such as ratio of muscle to body fat, and so on. To be able to monitor this regularly, from the comfort of your home is an attractive proposition. 

With Christmas just two weeks away, it’s funny to note how despite the pandemic, and our initial impressions about how it seemed that it would never end, and the months would creep by; this 2021 seems to have come and gone in a flash. It’s December already – and believe me, our 2022 election year will be upon us in a heartbeat. Good luck to us all!