by Rosa Maria Juan-Bautista
It’s more than a year of Covid19 and I am grateful that I am still alive. I felt so sad that I could not even attend the wake of my friends, relatives or classmates and be with them in their final moments on earth.
Senior citizens are strictly prohibited to go out. One cannot deny that one is a senior citizen. It shows in one’s hair, face, hands, and the way one walks.
My father died at age 94. My mother died earlier at age 83. I am praying that God will give me a long life. But when recently, I fell from a stairway, I thought that death would take me that moment. Strange that sometimes, we think that death can wait. But we know that anytime our Creator can call us to join Him in heaven anytime, or He may command us to depart farthest from Him.
Lord, No! please! I try to follow all your commandments.
But sometimes I fail to do so. Have mercy, oh Lord. Have mercy! I rely on your unchanging love despite my failures, inadequacies, impatience, clumsiness. You know I pray a lot but for months I could not go to church or receive Holy Communion. The churches were closed. But lately, for several Sundays, lay ministers went to our community and gave us communion.
Day after day and month after month, we could not leave the house. I try to make meaningful use of my time. All classes were online. I wanted to panic because I do not even know how to use all the apps in my cellphone. I grew up without a computer, cellphone, or even a xerox machine. Can I still learn? Can I discard old habits that block my hands, my heart, and my mind? How can I conduct an examination? Should I confess my ignorance to my students? What if they laugh at me? What if they lose their respect for me? What if I become an ineffective teacher?
Many people lost their jobs. What if I lose my job?
I celebrated my birthday during the pandemic. It was so different from my last birthday before the pandemic. In my last birthday I had about 50 guests and the party was organized by my daughters at Gloria Maris, Cubao. My daughters prepared numbers such as singing, dancing by my children and grandchildren. In this birthday celebration during the pandemic, I did not have a single guest. Only members of our immediate family were present. But my firstborn, a doctor, and my youngest daughter prepared pancit palabok, steamed pampano, cake and ice cream. My second daughter, a piano teacher, working in a music academy in Brunei, was locked down in Brunei. She could not even go home for Christmas because no returning foreign resident was allowed.
I tried different hobbies. I adopted a “taong grasa” who was so smelly and so dirty and he just stared blankly at people. I pitied him and I tried to give him lunch for a month. I stopped when he threw back hot soup wrapped in plastic at my neck. I could not understand why. But I stopped giving him meals.
I tried cooking. I cooked adobong manok with egg. I cooked sinigang sa misu na ulo ng pink salmon with mustasa leaves. I cooked ginataang bilo-bilo. Pasado naman. Gustong gusto ng mga apo ko na laging nasa bahay at laging gutom. Inip na inip.
I tried planting fruit trees. I planted seedlings of rambutan. I like to see rambutan trees surrounded with big attractive red fruits. I planted guapple seedlings. I like crunchy guavas. I planted plenty of gumamelas in bright, big yellow, pink, red, and orange colors. They cheer me up and their beauty leaves me speechless.
I have two ponds of hito (cat fish) so called because of whiskers like cat’s whiskers. When someone in the family celebrates a birthday, we catch hito, ( yung buntis na may maraming itlog ). We roast the hito, and eat it with tamarind sauce and bagoong. Ang sarap sarap!
I tried raising chickens. I have three big roosters, five hens, and four newly-hatched chicks. Every morning I wake up to the roosters’ crowing, a delightful experience!
I exercise. I try to do bicycle steps while lying down to the count of seventy, I am breathless. While heating my kettle of salabat and guyabano leaves, I try raising my legs high up to the count of thirty and back.
I took naps, especially after lunch. I thought that must be the secret of my father’s long life.
I miss swimming. But I cannot even go to Laguna for the hot springs.
I cannot even go shopping or even window shopping. Shopping is relaxation for me. I enjoyed being at the mall. Sometimes I would meet my students by chance and I could see how happy they were to see me with my grandchildren. But the pandemic has closed the malls. The pandemic has been cruel, merciless and stayed too long.
Many suffered mental disorders. With boredom comes depression. But when boredom comes with certainty ad creeps its ugly head, I try to think positive and pray.
I tried reading a lot of books, “Ageless face, Ageless Mind” by Nicholas Perricone, M.D. “Only The Real Matters” by Francis J. Kong and sometimes I would just get from the big shelf of books left me and my children by my deceased husband, also a lawyer-law professor.
I watched children play and hear their loud, noisy and bousterous laughter. I bring along my youngest grandchild Claudheen Yzee (one year and six months). I sit her on top of an iron bar and I embrace her to keep her safe. She watches quietly while pulling a small leaf each time which she places on the palm of my hand and she is delighted and her eyes sparkle as she watches me blow it away.
I take care of Claudheen Yzee whenever her mom is away.I follow her wherever she goes. She walks fast and sometimes falls and cries. Taking care of a baby brightens my day. Playing with her makes me feel young.
I try to count the benefits of Covid19. I have more time to reflect, meditate and pray. I realized carving new paths for the future are built on lessons learned from the past and the present. My eldest sister was locked down in our house. We reminisce about our childhood memories, our times with our parents who are long gone, the silly quarrels among siblings, our hard times and our happy remembrances. Reliving the past made us laugh and pray a lot. Laughing and praying are stepping stones to excellent physical well being which in turn make us better human beings.
God has touched my heart deeply. I count my blessings. I realize I have more than enough. I know many suffered hunger because many lost their jobs. For the first time, I witnessed proud jeepney drivers begging for alms in the streets because their families are hungry. I know it is a humbling experience for many of them.
My perspectives broadened. My daughter is a doctor and she is a frontliner.Prayers dispelled my worries and drew me closer to God.
I became aware of the problems of many people. I became more generous and helpful, specially to children. I buy them merienda. They run to me happily and gratefully. I like to see their beautiful, sometimes toothless, smiles.
Every Sunday since I could not go to the Catholic Church, I listen to the homilies of the pastors in the Bread of Life to which my daughter and her husband belong. This opened many doors and windows for valuable lessons, inspirations, and realizations as I walk thru life’s long difficult journey. Now I can look forward to a better, simpler life. Covid19 brought me closer to my family and taught me to save and share. It taught me not to give emphasis to material things like dresses and shoes. It taught me to emphasize on spiritual life and to share my blessings with the less fortunate. Covid19 is a great teacher. But I am hoping it will end soon.
I know we will survive stronger, more patient, and more determined to succeed in our endeavors because God’s unchanging love and His sturdy shoulders will carry our burdens and heal us until one sunny day we will awaken to find that the pandemic is over, and we can shout and jump with joy as we sing new songs of freedom.