By ACC Delen
A huge downside to maintaining a column from overseas I realized is that there could be a disconnect between those who read and the one who writes mainly because each is on a different page in the story. In fact, they might even be in totally different stories! This I was reminded of, after having a short conversation with an Indonesian co-worker during a lull at work. He, was able to get back to China before the borders were closed in March while I just got back in last month.
Just like the Philippines, Indonesia is still battling with rising cases of CoVid-19. We are both aware that our countries still have a long way to go and a lot of things to do in order to flatten the curve…if ever. Yet here we are, living in a country where we feel safe going out without wearing a face mask.
Granted, I still feel weird walking among people without the protection of a mask. Why not? Barely a month ago, I was refused entry to a mall in EDSA because I did not have a quarantine pass but here I am now, able to access malls and restaurants without it. The only time one is required to wear a mask is when using public transportation which could get pretty crowded pretty quick. There is a big difference in realities depending on which location one currently finds himself or herself in.
Speaking of stories…
Maria and her husband work for the same school. Like many Filipinos who live and work abroad, they too have invited siblings and relatives to seek better opportunities outside of the Philippines. It is therefore no surprise that several members of their family are also in China, working in different work places. Prior to the pandemic, the family had several sources of income as everyone was gainfully employed. However, when the country closed down establishments to control the movement of people, members of Maria’s family stopped earning since almost all of them worked for the food and beverage industry (restaurants, cafes, bars etc.) It was only Maria and her husband who had money coming in as they were fortunate enough to be doing Distance Learning despite the closure of schools. But with members of the family not gainfully employed, they now had 7 mouths to feed aside from themselves not including family they support back in the home country.
It was definitely an unenviable situation. “It is like starting all over again.” Maria said smiling wryly. With everyone living in the same flat, cooped up and the added stress of money being tight, tension was bound to happen. Some wanted to go back home but the thought of not being able to come back kept them from making that rash decision. Her sister who used to sing professionally began baking pastries and making “longganisa” and selling these online. This way, she was able to help with the family finances.
The situation persisted for two full months with no one knowing when it will end. Maria recalls how they would go to Costco which is several miles away from their flat to buy several rotisserie chicken because it is the cheapest in the city. These would then last them for a week. Left overs were “repurposed” into different dishes. In the middle of this battle to keep body and soul together, they tried to keep their sanity intact by doing Zumba at home or walking around the block in the frigid weather and under the baleful eyes of the compound guards whose duty it was to make sure everyone followed the city’s quarantine rules.
Looking back now, she finds humor in the petty squabbles and marvels at how they were able to weather the storm. She credits it to their tight family connection and the Filipino trait of being able to make do and find humor in even the hardest of situations.
This was just five months ago. Everyone had gone back to work. Life has gotten back to what can be considered normal in the Middle Kingdom…which for many OFWs meant working as many hours as possible…for themselves and everyone else they happen to be supporting.
The lesson of the story? I’m not going to tell you. If you don’t know it yet, then you need to reread the whole thing. **