Social (now physical) distancing. Flatten the curve. Self-quarantine. These are just some of the terms that have become ubiquitous as a result of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Globally, there have been 45,693 deaths and 900,306 cases (as of April 3) recorded in 206 countries or areas due to this pandemic.
Experts say that cases will continue to rise and that the crisis is far from over. The world needs to brace itself for the long battle ahead just to get back to something resembling normalcy.
In the Philippines, 107 have died out of the 2,633 confirmed cases (as of April 3). The community quarantine in our country, now on its third week, has gone from general to enhanced, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Some cannot help but compare the current national psyche to my situation—that while I remain in unjust detention, an involuntary quarantine, for over three years now, Filipinos are essentially placed in lockdown until April 14, or even beyond.
To those who do not mind being likened to a political prisoner in feeling like the isolation is getting to them, I say to them glibly, welcome to the club.
As a person deprived of liberty for 1,137 days now, I had to find ways to remain whole and unbroken, fulfill my mandate as a working senator, and stay updated with the latest developments outside.
I have come to live by certain mantras that others may find helpful during this period of enhanced community quarantine.
1. Adopt a routine. My daily schedule is basically: wake up at around 5 to 5:30 a.m.; pray; walk around my detention quarters as my form of exercise while I also sweep the grounds where my potted plants are; take a bath; have breakfast at around 8 to 8:30 a.m.; feed my adopted stray cats; start my work by reading and writing; read a novel; take a 30-minute power nap; work some more; have lunch at around 1:30 to 2 p.m.; read and write again; and get briefing materials and updates from my designated staff before the cut-off time for visitors at 5 p.m.
To me, the repetitiveness of my routine—whether it is cleaning my dishes or feeding my cats—feels like a meditation, a silent prayer.
2. Stay healthy. In sticking to a routine for the quarantine, make sure to include healthy habits such as practicing good personal hygiene, eating on time, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
3. Practice self-care. By being productive, we can take some of the control back. Let us make ourselves physically fit and mentally strong for the long haul as we try to live our lives one day at a time.
4. Be mindful. In my solitude, I have been thinking more clearly than I ever did. My time in detention is filled with deep prayers and contemplative moments that allow me to carefully consider my actions.
Let us take the time to observe and analyze before judging others too quickly or harshly.
5. Check your privilege. Indeed, staying at home is a collective responsibility. But also keep in mind that doing such is a privilege not everyone can afford. The daily income of many Filipinos, such as public vehicle drivers, and construction and utility workers, sadly, depends on a “no work, no pay” policy.
An important part of being mindful is checking our own privilege and asking ourselves, what can we do with what we have? I hope our answer will always be to help others.
6. Help others. Given the economic slowdown and inevitable recession, let us call on our government to properly implement, extend, and expand its social amelioration program.
I learned of people using online resources to help manage the pandemic. Among them are the doctors who provide free medical consultation, a group of volunteers who lend and give bikes to front-liners, as well as celebrities who facilitate donation drives through digital concerts and the likes.
7. Do what you can. While I do not have access to a laptop or the internet, with a calloused writing hand, I continue to issue my Dispatches from Crame to express my indignation over the human rights abuses, injustice, and corruption; as well as draft bills and resolutions to address the inconsistencies, inefficiencies and incompetence in the government’s handling of the crisis.
8. Never lose hope. My undying hope for my freedom is so that I will be able to do more for the Filipinos, many of whom now fear that they will die of hunger even before the virus could kill them.
9. Remind yourself that this is temporary. Some of you may be feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic, but never despair. This too shall pass.
10. Celebrate the good. Let us be inspired by the extraordinary heroism of our medical professionals, volunteers, garbage collectors, grocery store employees, delivery riders, community workers, and the rest of those at the front lines, to keep looking after one another.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Together, we will get through this. It is an uphill road to recovery, so let us all do what we can.—CONTRIBUTED