‘As if we were dead‘

By Sophia Kathleen Millan Dumaguing

TAGUM CITY (MindaNews / 22 September) — It is easy to think about the necessary measures to take when we know that our life is about to end.

Some might choose to pray and ask for forgiveness, some might decide to reconcile with the people they have lost connections with, and some will probably simply say “F#ck it” and live their best life, until their very last breath. But what about when life – as we know it – is put to a halt, and we have to continue to live? There is no measure to take because no one ever prepared us for that.

Earlier in the pandemic, we have witnessed the world’s creativity – while our movement had been restricted – even inside the bounds of our homes. We learned to bake, we tried to cook, we fell deeply in love with plants and gardening, we stayed connected with friends, and we engaged in recreational activities that made us feel alive. Anything to keep us moving.

While everyone was busy making use of their time alone, trying to be the best versions of 
themselves, not much has been said about what happened to the people who simply disappeared. Somehow, in the middle of everything that has been going on, detaching from the world has been normalized that when people disappear with no traces, no one wonders, no one looks for them, and no one cares.

Transitioning from face-to-face interactions to the limited system that the pandemic allows is a 
collective experience for everyone. It is indeed safe to say that we all went through it at the same time, we had someone to talk to, and we had people who shared the burden. It was not as heavy as transitioning from the limited ways of connecting with people, to none at all. It is after all, a different subject to discuss.

That’s what happens when life is put to a halt, and you have to continue to live. You disappear. 
This is for the people behind the façade that social media has presented us, for the people whose voices were not strong enough to be heard, and for the people who never even dared speak of what they have been going through.

It is somehow ironic, to think that because life is about to cease, we had more time to manifest growth upon ourselves. But for people like me, for the people whose lives were jeopardized by the isolation and detachment, we learned to live life day by day. We learned to wake up, do the things we were meant to do, and late at night, allow our thoughts to eat us up until it is time to wake up again.

All of a sudden, at some point, what used to be endless conversations of how life was going such as “I learned to bake today!” became a ghost town for little progress reports such as “I just woke up, what do we have today?” What used to be a night filled with online games with friends, became nights spent alone with a book that we knew we were never going to finish. What used to be families gathered in the dining room, became families mourning for the loved one they would never see again.

The thing is, when we stop hoping and looking forward for the good things in life – or for anything at all – and only live one day at a time, we notice how much we do not grow, and no one is ever prepared  for that. No one is ever prepared to see themselves stuck and stagnant. But what can we do? We disappeared, and no one knew, we had no one to talk to. This then makes me wonder, when we disappear and no one cares about where we ran off to, are we ever even really gone, or did we simply just stop existing?

It actually scares me, how much we normalized detachment. That when we are gone, no one looks for us, because somehow, the thought is that this is just how things are, and that this is just what happens now. People never wonder about where we go, what we go through when we vanish, why we vanished, and who we kept in touch with. No one will ever know about the demons we fight every day just so we could survive till the next, because again, we simply just stopped existing.

I speak of this because I fear that this hasn’t been discussed enough, and because of that, people think that they are alone in this experience, so I am here to prove them otherwise. Even when you are alone, stuck in a hollow place with nowhere else to go, know that somewhere in this world, someone is stuck in the same room as you. I won’t be giving you any false hopes and say that someday it will all be alright, and that you will once more see the light of day when the time comes. Because I do not know that, right now I do not even think if I too, believe in that like others do.

But someday, or maybe in another life, things will fall into place. This doesn’t necessarily mean 
that things will all be okay, only that they will fall in their right places, and I hope that is enough to give you one more reason to live life, even if you only do it day-by-day.

It is easy to think of measures to take when we know that our life is about to end. Some will pray and ask for forgiveness, some will reconcile with people they have lost connections with, and some will probably simply say “F#ck it” and live their best life, until their very last breath.

But when life is put to a halt, and one has to continue to live, what happens to the people who don’t? This is the story that lies behind the people who disappeared, the people who stopped existing. This is what the pandemic has caused us, our lives – and to live as if we were dead.

(Sophia Kathleen Millan Dumaguing, 20, is a graduating AB Psychology Major from the Ateneo de Davao University. From Tagum City, she comes from a family of artists and dreams of becoming an art therapist someday.)