A SPOONFUL OF HALO HALO
With Ronnie Lee
“A mask produces an itchy sensation
and scratching it only makes the itching worse.”
Let me paint you a picture: as you make your way to the supermarket, a face mask around your nose and mouth and a face shield for added protection, you are greeted with long lines of people, and the blaring sound of a megaphone, reminding you to keep your distance from strangers. People fall in line by the entrance and stand on markers on the floor to ensure the 2-meter social distancing rule. You walk to the end of the line, past food stalls that have been permanently closed due to the pandemic and those that remain open looking somber and uninviting. People look nervous, and everything smells of disinfectant. What used to be a thirty-minute errand to the supermarket has become a risky, two-hour trip riddled with worry, uneasiness, and exposure to an enemy you cannot see.
Life has changed drastically ever since the pandemic started ravaging the world. I used to frequent the supermarket with my daughter every Saturday. From time to time, I would visit my friend in his home and enjoy a cup of coffee and some merienda while we exchanged stories.
And without fail, Peewee, the family dog, and I would go on afternoon walks around the neighborhood every day – two oldies getting a bit of exercise. But this routine changed when the nationwide lockdown was imposed during the first quarter of 2020. People found themselves stuck in cities far away from their homes. Everyone, including myself and my daughter, was plunged into sudden home isolation, with nowhere to go – not even around the neighborhood with Peewee. I felt like being marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t even buy a stick of cigarette in the nearby sari-sari store any time I wanted to. My sleep pattern has changed in recent months, and it has entirely disrupted my biological clock. The sudden shift of schedule has turned my nights into days. This is my idea of hell. At my age, I am seeking ways to better meet the challenge of the “new normal”. I have been successful only to a degree that is directly proportional to the quarantine status of the city.
While the promise of vaccines has eased the minds of many and several countries like Greece and America have opened their borders once more, this pandemic is far from over, in the Philippines and elsewhere. Who knows how long before we can all go back to our pre-pandemic routines, to go about our day without a mask over our mouths and noses and face shields blurring our visions, to shake hands and hug people again? How long before we can finally get the breath of fresh air that we so desperately crave and need?
Neither our governments, nor the vaccines, can say. It seems odd therefore, that after God, only the virus knows, and it does not even have a brain.