QUARANTINE DIARIES: Forty Days

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TAGUIG CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) — As the world is going through the battle against COVID-19, we humans are also going through the very unusual situation of locking up in our homes.

The disease has taken over the lives of humans, claiming death, causing fear and uncertainty as well as displaying character and behavior. When the disease started to creep into our metropolis, it was taken lightly until the alarm hit doctors, the individuals who were supposed to heal the sick. National politics roared while rational people scampered for literature that would somehow shed light on the unseen enemy. Suddenly it turned out to be a war, a blind war that resulted to reactive measures by countries that are ill prepared for the battle, including ours.

The day before the quarantine, I went to the mall to buy my maintenance medicines, vitamins and essentials. The lady at the pharmacy counter encouraged me to buy the last box that they had of my anti-hypertensive medicine. I also picked up food supplements from my supplier. I had the strange feeling that opted me to secure two months’ supply of meds and supplements. And then I decided to enjoy fresh salad greens and bread in my favorite restaurant on High Street.

There were very few people that afternoon. As I am a regular diner, a nice lady sanitized my table repeatedly while chatting about the spread of the virus. She was worried that they were soon to lose jobs because there will be a shutdown of establishments. She whispered that somebody got infected and had died in a building nearby. I tried to be calm and suggested that they keep good hygiene to avoid infection but I was also getting worried for them to lose jobs. As I left, I smiled and promised them that I will be back to dine after four weeks of community quarantine.

Having grown up in an armed conflict, I felt confident of surviving any situation. We stocked up on food, vitamins and hygiene essentials. The house is big enough for us together with my niece in law and her children. My nephew had already reported for a job in Jolo, leaving his family with me. There is a small garden in front and a backyard with a malunggay tree. We have a small flea market nearby that provides fish and vegetables. Everything was going fine until media reports became scary.

Doctors died one after the other and then a Muslim prayer hall was infected. Soon the first Muslim casualty to the disease was reported. It opened our eyes to the difficulties we are confronting. Sickness and death are as natural as life but this disease has invaded humanity so much, setting up protocols up to the grave.

On the second week of staying at home; boredom, uncertainty, anxiety and fear crept into every human soul as television news and social media dominated our everyday lives. We all depended on inner strength to stay physically healthy and sane with truths and fakes on news feed. We may have become incapable humans unable to defeat the virus but we are gifted with rationale.

My generalist background and technical training helped me understand what was going on and how to act even as we are grounded in the house. I maintained three chat groups; first with my siblings who are also frontliners, second with my former classmates who provided adequate information on the disease and third with my Fraternity and Sorority circle who gave updates on other parts of the country.

I have tripled the time for daily prayers and had ten days of voluntary fasting amidst cleaning the already cleaned bathroom. The children provided such joy and hope to survive in solitude. I am convinced that we have to win this strange battle especially for them.

The last forty days were very unusual for my warrior skills trying to analyze trends going on around with the hope and commitment to do some more for our people when we are all freed from the pandemic. It is full of hope, especially since I monitored and saw my kith and kin in Sulu doing very well in this crisis. I am so proud of how our leaders in Sulu are serving our people. On the other hand, there is also dismay as we observe other local governments who seem to be negligent or inefficient, hardly coping up with the situation. It is also a fact that some of our public institutions are weak and could not serve purposely.

Our people in general are displaying character and behavior that may be undesirable and to some extent, we condemn such. However, we have to take it as the true realities that we may have overlooked. We are now seeing the pictures of the city slums and the rural frontiers. They are our people and it is only now that we have a sneak into their daily life struggles. This is the opportunity to rethink and calibrate policies and programs for the wholeness of our country.

As we reach the fortieth day of quarantine, it is timely to welcome the much awaited visitor, Ramadan. Rejoice that we have reached this season of the year. Alhamdulillah. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Fatmawati T. Salapuddin is Fatmawati T. Salapuddin is from Sulu but is presently based in Taguig in Metro Manila)

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