Maritess, a doctor at Navotas City Hospital, hasn’t been home since the Covid-19 outbreak started. “As long as I’m seeing patients, I can’t go home. My parents are senior citizens. I don’t want to risk exposing them,” she said.
Her parents are concerned about her. They call her every day, wanting to make sure she’s staying healthy. They have reason to worry—she had already become a PUM once and was placed under quarantine. Now she’s back at the front lines. She misses her dogs, she said. She misses her bed. But she’s willing to sacrifice her comfort to keep the people she loves safe. It’s a sacrifice she hopes other Filipinos would continue to make too. “Stay at home,” she said. “Let’s follow the guidelines.”
Social distancing goes against everything we’ve gotten used to as humans. Those of us who live in busy cities are used to standing in crowds and weaving through throngs of people as we live our lives each day. We take a fellow passenger’s money so we can hand it to the jeepney driver. We squeeze ourselves onto packed train cars to make it to work. We shake hands with strangers we just met. We high five and put our arms around friends. We show our love with hugs and kisses.
Chrissie, a dentist, hasn’t seen her girlfriend Anna, a makeup artist, in over a month. The miles between their homes—one in Parañaque and the other in Pampanga—had never stopped them from being together before. They gladly made the journey regularly to spend time together. But once the lockdown started, like many couples, it was like they were suddenly in a long distance-relationship. They still talk, they still see each other, but only on FaceTime.
They both live with their moms who are senior citizens and have chosen to stay at home during the quarantine. “We both have responsibilities to our families. Unahin muna yun,” Chrissie said.
“We have a long life ahead of us,” she added. “We can plan to be together more after all of this.”
The past month or so has been a learning experience for everyone. How to stay put, stay home, keep your distance, not just for your own safety but everyone else’s.
Cat, an entrepreneur who lives in California, returned to the Philippines in December to spend time with her family. They’re a big brood—she has five siblings. She was supposed to fly back to the States in March but she’s been stuck in Manila because of travel bans. She’s not at home with her youngest siblings and parents though. “My parents are senior citizens and my siblings are very strict about not letting people in and out of the house to protect them,” Cat said.
She’s staying alone in her own place so she can fulfill her role as the family’s shopper. She’s the one who buys groceries and medicines for everyone, including the dogs. She drops off her purchases at their gate, not entering the home every time she does a supermarket run. “I’m the family’s Katniss. I’m the tribute,” she joked. “But I like that I’m able to be of service to my parents.” She stays in touch with them through their family’s chat group.
One of the biggest lessons of the quarantine is realizing that isolation doesn’t have to equal loneliness. Thanks to technology, we are equipped with so many tools to be able to connect with the people we care about. We can catch up with friends we haven’t heard from in a while. Chat with relatives in different parts of the world. Socialize while social distancing. Collaborate with colleagues through screens. Send donations with a few taps on our phones. Make our present felt without stepping out the door.
No hugs or kisses
Abegail is a nurse and a front-liner at Sta. Ana Hospital. She only gets to see her children twice a week for quick visits. But she makes sure to maintain social distancing—no hugs or kisses from mama. Between visits, they do regular video calls. They understand why she can’t come home, she said, and why she can’t touch them. And it’s missing them that gives her the strength to keep fighting the battle against the coronavirus. On the back of her PPE, there are words written in bold black ink: “Please stay at home! Magpapakasal pa po ako!”
Her fellow front-liners bear similar messages on their backs. One of them, Pearl, has written: “Please stay home!!! Mag-aanak pa po kami ulit ng asawa ko!”
Everyone affected by the pandemic, front-liner or not, is looking forward to the future. Everyone wants the outbreak to be over. We cling to the day things will go back to normal, hopeful for whatever that new normal will be. We will get there. But to get there, for now, we would have to be apart… together. Tiis muna. Sakripisyo muna.
Being apart makes us stronger, together, #SafeAtHome. Globe stands with you in this challenging time. Learn more at globe.com.ph.