Coping, Part 2
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - August 6, 2020 - 12:00am

A reader reacting to my Tuesday column on women’s lives under quarantine writes:

“Reading your article while having breakfast, your opening line struck me...  ‘One of the many agonizing moments of our lives under quarantine is being separated from our circle of dear friends.’

“If I were the one writing the article, it would read this way: ‘One of the many agonizing moments of our lives under quarantine is being separated from the members of my family.’

“My husband is a surgeon and so are my children – my daughter a hepato-pancreatico-biliary fellow and my son a neurosurgical resident. Ever since the pandemic my children have to isolate themselves from us for fear of contaminating us with the virus.

“Lately,  my husband started scheduling operations so we have to sleep in separate rooms. Every time my children are tested for COVID, my heart goes haywire until the result is out!

“True enough, God is the One holding me together! Praying that the Lord will protect them with His Most Precious Blood together with Mama Mary covering them with her mantle of protection!”

*    *    *

The same prayer for divine intervention during these difficult times drew members of the Centro Escolar University Alumni Foundation to do a rosary brigade from June 19 to July 10. Led by the foundation president Dr. Paz Lucido, 17 volunteers consisting of officers, chapter presidents and alumni based in Manila, Sydney and California held a rosary brigade by ZOOM. Every day, a rosary leader was assigned, along with five responders to each of the decades of the rosary, and the participants sang spiritual songs, making the experience “alive and exciting,” Betty Lou says.

The rosary brigade, says Betty Lou Penera, an active alumna and chief publicist for her alma mater’s activities, was held in response to Pope Francis’ plea for prayers, especially for people infected by the coronavirus around the globe. Betty Lou is a former director for planning and communication research of the Philippine Information Agency.

The CEU Ministry of Immaculate Conception of Mary held a Sunday Word with God which featured the reflections of close relatives of CEU founders.

The rosary brigade closed with a memorable event – on July 19, the 14th Sunday of “Ordinary Time” coincided with the birth anniversaries of CEU founders and 5th CEU president Dr. Lourdes Echauz.

“The rosary brigade, says Betty Lou, “gave us a needed respite from our alumni activities and, better still, the much dreaded coronavirus gave us a ‘wake up call’ to go back to prayers, to ask God for His mercy and guidance.”

*    *    *

As if her organizing work on the rosary brigade was not enough, Betty Lou made another “contribution” to making life easier for people affected by the pandemic. “Little did I know that I would be coordinating with an employment agency, the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and the DFA – at this time when I have already retired from government five years ago.”

The beneficiary of her generosity was the daughter of her house help of many years, who needed to be repatriated to the Philippines since she became a COVID survivor in the Middle East. She had contracted the virus from one of the guests at her employer’s house in Riyadh. She was fortunate to have a sympathetic employer who had her tested (she was positive) and isolated. When she was discharged from the hospital, her employer agreed to send her to Manila with her full salary and with extra bonus. Betty Lou called the girl’s employment agency in Manila to work for her repatriation. But since there were no planes flying to Manila, the girl had to wait for a week to get on the first flight heading for “home sweet home.”

Upon her arrival in Manila, the girl called Betty Lou and said she and scores of overseas Filipino workers were booked by the OWWA for accommodation in a 5-star hotel in Makati. Each one had a separate room, without any companion, and made to observe social distancing and other health protocols.

The girl, however, had a big problem with regard to meeting the requirements of the hotel. All the OFWs had to submit documents to the front desk – by email. But she did not have an email account and did not even know how to use the computer.

Betty Lou was upset. Why would the hotel personnel ask the workers to email the documents when they could have just asked a messenger to pick up the documents from their rooms?

Betty Lou gave the front desk personnel a dressing down. Not all OFWs know how to use the computer. “That was an eye opener for them,” Betty Lou said. Then the workers had to check with the Coast Guard about the status of their swab tests. And they had to present the validation to the hotel desk by email again.

“I had to give them a dose of my irritation, that in the future, the hotel must be ready to give IT assistance to their OFW clients as they are our ‘new heroines,’ helping bring in dollars to their families and, in effect, to the country’s coffers.”

The girl is now back in the province, with her family, COVID-19 free, and grateful to Manang Betty Lou for helping her return to her country.

*    *    *

Instead of roaming around Batanes and teaching photography to her students last March, photo journalist/entrepreneur Mandy Navasero stayed home “to stay safe from COVID.”

“I did not report for work but instead studied webinar on entrepreneurship under coach Jon Orana called Internet Business Master Class in his Negosyo university.

“A simple guy who quit his 8-5 job to focus on digital business, now he has thousands of followers all over the globe, mostly Pinoys. And I am one of them,” says Mandy.

Coach Orana, according to Mandy, “shares his knowledge with fellow workers who are interested to learn how to do eBooks and sell them to their target market. It is more like helping people solve their problems, and each of his students to make money. Now they spend more time with their families, working only four hours a week because of their knowledge of webinar.”

Mandy and her son, an industrial design student, built a website from scratch (HAVENSHELF.COM) and sell their eBook products. The first is a collection of sermons titled Inspired Moments, by Fr. Reverend Canon Gabriel Dimanche. The volume contains 49 sermons collected by Clenia Dimanche, whose Reflections in Poetry is the second eBook produced by Mandy and son. Clenia’s haikus, complemented with Mandy’s photographs, talk about grief, hope, new beginnings and praise for the Lord. Chenia made the project after losing her husband, son and daughter in a span of three and a half years.

The other eBook produced by HAVENSHELF.COM is Sampaguita Beloved: Flower of My Race, which has everything you want to know about the national flower. It consists of 78 pages, is edited by Jullie Yap Daza, with facts researched by Dulce Festin Baybay and with a foreword by Charo Santos.

This month of August, says Mandy, her plan for her Dumaguete-Siquijor photo safari and SOCCKSARGEN photo safari has been put on hold because of the pandemic. “Now I fondly remember my travels, miss the refreshing green grass of Marlboro country and the deep blue sea.”

*    *    *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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