The exquisite bliss of solitude according to Cherie Gil
Cherie in the countryside. At home with Mother Nature.
The exquisite bliss of solitude according to Cherie Gil
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Cherie Gil spent a quiet New Year alone in Manila but when Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, she decided to head back to New York to see her family.

She planned to stay for a week but extended it to a couple of weeks. “I haven’t seen them for almost seven months and I realized that life is so fleeting. It was time well spent with them and much needed.”

Before the prolonged quarantine, she was supposed to start taping for a soap with GMA and a role in a new Mike de Leon project. Then she flew back to Manila just in time when the threat of COVID-19 became too real to be ignored. Her maid had to go back to her family.

Cherie as the retired diva in the Peque Gallaga-Lore Reyes film, Sonata

Then she found herself alone. She had to keep the house, do the cooking herself, and found more time to reflect. Going through the past chapters of her life, she thought it was like rewinding a movie in her mind.

“I think I went as far as my childhood! The memories just flashed through differently on a daily basis.”

Then it dawned on her that this crisis was one good way of going back to ourselves. “This is what this is all about and what it’s meant to be — to reassess ourselves, our values, our actions, our connections and our behaviors in life and to others. A time to reflect on all that matters and what doesn’t. Sometimes, I wonder if the past is more important than the future and then realizing, that now is the only thing that we can control.”

Before the enhanced quarantine, she headed to a Batangas town by the sea and renewed her ties with Mother Earth by doing some gardening with her friend. “I was at the beach and I can’t tell you how fortunate I was to be there with two of my good lady friends. We decided to be proactive. We built a veggie garden at the back of the house. We were starting a new project that kept me hopeful each morning, something that mattered, and watch grow. A symbol of hope. I believe strongly that this may very well be the ‘new normal’ — going back to basics and being food secure and self-sufficient.”

Then, the bad news filtered back to her about friends and colleagues hit by the virus. The death of playwright Terrence McNally due to COVID-19 hit her hard. MacNally was the author of the acclaimed play, Master Class, where she played Maria Callas in two memorable Manila revivals in 2008 and 2010.

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Some years back, she personally saw the playwright in the commemoration ceremony in a New York university where her daughter, Bianca, (also into theater) graduated. “He was almost 90 by then and on a wheelchair with an oxygen tank attached. The man, the artist, the creator of amazing stories and complex characters has lived a fulfilled, amazing life. I would imagine that he probably didn’t mind moving on this way, as dramatic as his plays. It made his passing away even more poignant and connected to one of the most terrifying and uncertain periods in our history. He has given us so much in his long full life. And now, with all due respect, he deserves to rest in peace.”

The exquisite bliss of solitude also dawned on her. “I am cherishing it all. I finally hear the birds chirping on my eight-floor balcony in this concrete jungle called Metro Manila. I never even took the time to listen till now. The lessons? It’s clearly knowing that life is just so fleeting. That we can be sucked out from this earth anytime and for whatever reason. To seize every moment is what I have learned. Not to think things too much. To be in the moment of what our true human natures are called for.”

But alone in a house and doing the daily chores by herself was also another source of self-awakening. “I have been tending to myself. I do daily chores my helper used to do. I do it now for myself. That is a part of self-care, too. I do it to honor the hard work she has given me for 10 years, but now she had to be with her family. Now I appreciate her more than ever. I lived away for 12 years and I had to do it for my family and children. Why not for myself, too? I’ve begun to learn to cook different recipes. One of these days when things go back to normal, I can expertly cook for my children and a few very good friends. I am actually enjoying it. More than ever, I have become more connected to my truth than to my ego which used to take center stage in my daily grind as an actress and being a public persona. Finally, I don’t care what clothes I wear. I look at my closet and tell myself, ‘What the hell am I gonna do with all these shoes and clothes now?’ They don’t matter at all anymore. I can only cherish moments, memories, pictures and writings and books that are closest to my heart. And the fact that I and my family are well, healthy and breathing.”

True, she has started to cherish and value the peace and solitude of not being watched, judged and trying to be more than herself. Many times in her solitude, she has listened to a video of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as played by members of the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

Getting the message of hope of the music, she can hardly wait to take the first plane to New York to be with her children.

CHERIE GIL COVID-19
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