Home, but not alone
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2020 - 12:00am

The word quarantine comes from a 17th-century Venetian version of the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning “40 days.” According to historical accounts, this was the period when all ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death plague.

It is the 21st century, the new millennium, and history is repeating itself around the world due to the coronavirus disease that is humbling rich and poor alike, the powerful and the helpless, the young and the old. Despite the fact that man has turned metal into airplanes, conquered the moon, created artificial intelligence and GPS, it is grappling with a powerful foe not visible to the naked eye and scrambling for a vaccine to annihilate it.

Unprecedented in Philippine history, the entire island of Luzon is now under a declared state of “enhanced community quarantine.”  In short, everyone is required to stay home — with a few exceptions. I haven’t seen a traffic light in a week. But I have seen how a lockdown can be so liberating.

Without prejudice to those who have lost a loved one or a friend, or a job, or even something that now seems seemingly trivial like a planned holiday; without prejudice to those who cannot work from home like our heroic medical workers, bank tellers, law enforcers and drugstore and grocery workers, among others, staying home can be regarded as a gift. A blessing. A timely bonus.

Having no choice but to stay home is actually giving you the gift of  many choices. Many of us often complain we lack time to be with family, to clean up our closets, to read, to cook, to garden, to pray, to reboot, to heal or simply just lounge around in the couch watching Crash Landing on You for the nth time.

Now, we have that time. It isn’t forever (hopefully), so make the most of every new day, and every new choice. To choose to do nothing is also a choice. Why not, if it will declutter your brain and enable you to make better decisions once the quarantine is over?

Maybe in the wider scheme of things, this is the “seventh day” that God intended for us to rest, man and machine alike.

***

I’ve always believed that I open two presents every day that I wake up — my eyes. So these past few days, I have had more time to flutter my presents instead of jumping out of bed.

As I write this, I can hear the water from the old artesian well pump that my husband has converted into a water feature flowing in our pocket garden. It gurgles, tinkles, seemingly part of an orchestra that includes the chirping of birds and the rustling of the tree leaves. It is mid March, and somehow, just like in the province when fresh air is bountiful, it doesn’t feel so hot and humid. The windows are wide open, letting the sunshine in. To have this temporary choice  — to work from home as the birds chirp in the background — is a blessing.

With less people and vehicles on the road, the pollution in Metro Manila will clear up. The skies will be bluer, just like they are after a storm. We can breathe in air as if we were in the bukid — just make sure you’re home, that is.

We are ironing less clothes, as I’ve told our helper that there is no need to iron the pambahay as no one is going to the office for the time being. Hopefully, we’re conserving energy and making power interruptions in the height of summer less likely.

People are more conscious of hand hygiene and the safe way to cough and sneeze, and this will serve us well in the future.

We are eating more home-cooked meals now, and that is healthy. We are having meals together with our loved ones even if it is not a Sunday, and that is also healthy. Because of this lockdown, every day is family day.

***

Which brings me to a very important point, shared with me by Fr. Dave Concepcion of the Maria Goretti parish in Manila, who was the spiritual director of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land I embarked on last year, “The inconvenience of not being able to go out of their houses has invited many to examine if they really have a home. Home is about caring relationships.”

With this home lockdown, says Father Dave, the elderly have more listening ears around them. 

Mothers now have more time to answer their children’s questions, instead of waving them off because they’re late for work. Fathers have more time to throw their children high up in the air or play piggy back with them.

Now, we have more time to pray, and need not struggle to find time to pray.

Father Dave adds, “I learned that people valued the Eucharist more and saw its importance when there were no Masses. Washing our hands is good but we also realized that folding our hands in prayer is also that important.” Amen to that.

***

We are worried about our jobs, while good-intentioned employers and managers of small and medium enterprises worry about the bottom line because the bottom line enables them to sustain the jobs of their staff.

But Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Ben Diokno says what is important is to first make the community quarantine succeed. “If it succeeds,” he said in a text message to MVP media bureau head Mike Toledo, “the adverse impact will be minimal and we can expect a V-shaped recovery; if it fails, the adverse impact  can be large and protracted and the recovery can be an elongated U.”

Beyond the numbers and the worries, let us not lose sight of the best gift this lockdown has given families.

“Time of being together is the greatest gift this quarantine has given. Hopefully those who have realized how blessed they are, move to share with those who have none.”

Enjoy family time and be like family to those who have no one. And most of all, it is not too late to make your house, a home.

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