In this pandemic, it seems we seniors, with the age group at the lower extreme—20 and younger—on the pretext of deep concern for our safety and well-being, are singled out for an extended lockdown. By mid-May we will have been locked in for close to two months.
All this time, my husband and I have raised our voices in exasperation at each other only once. The rest of the time we’ve gotten along fabulously well, convinced more than ever that we were each other’s perfect mate in a lockdown—or even in reclusa perpetua.
I often wonder how other seniors are coping and what they are thinking. I have asked a few to share their lockdown stories:
The best thing about this lockdown is we get to hear daily Mass—on TV, said by Fr. Tito Caluag. I love his homilies. Every day we beg God for an end to this pandemic. We especially pray for family and friends and, definitely, the front-liners.
We are a tennis family, and to get to play some, Rene put up a net in our garden—it was good enough for volley practice. It’s me and Rene against our daughter, Pao, who’s just too good for both of us. She’s single and recently relocated back home from the United States. Good timing, too: She does everything for us that requires going out.
Rene also put up a catch net at the other end of the garden so we can practice short golf swings. And there’s always the old ping-pong table. So our brains don’t turn to mush, Pao bought online a Scrabble, a Word Play, and a mahjong set, but we’re still trying to figure out how to play them.
I value life and family more than ever. I miss our other children and our two good-looking grandsons, both six-footers but still huggable. They live only a few kilometers away, but for now we can only be together through Zoom.
Rene and I somehow don’t get bored at all. Married for 58 years and both 83, we find even more things to laugh about. We like doing things together—praying, eating, exercising.
After nearly two months without access to the beauty parlor, my white roots are almost two inches long. I complained to Rene one morning that I must look pretty disgusting. He looked me in the eye, and said, “If you can love me with no hair, I can love you with white hair.”
Editor’s note: Rene and Celia are the parents of Felix Barrientos, one of the best, if not the best, this nation has produced for tennis. Pao herself was once No. 1 among the women. A grandson, Andro, 14, son of Felix and Reggie, herself as natural as they come athletically, is the national No. 1 in his age group—he plays international junior tournaments. Andro’s brother, Diego, 16, is on Manila’s International School (IS) team, the champion among IS competitors in Asia.
This a very sad time. I’ve lost two friends to this virus; another has tested positive and is in the hospital. I miss being with my close friends. I don’t own a cellphone, and the only way I can contact them is on my landline.
This lockdown has made me rediscover the merits of staying home. I’m again using housekeeping skills my grandmother taught me. I am a maniatica again! Nothing escapes my eye. I’m even handwashing delicate clothing myself.
Paco and I have been married 55 years, and he is always the kapural (instigator). In quarantine he decided we would speak only Spanish at home—he loves the language of his forebears and we both love Spanish songs. Also, a daughter of ours is a Spanish citizen.
We’re quite fortunate to have a bachelor son with us at this time. He’s the only one who goes out. He does everything for us. A former seminarian, he’s a disciplinarian in these dangerous times, as his father was toward him and his siblings when they were young. He’s another maniatico, disinfecting himself and the groceries thoroughly upon returning home.
He is to us guardia, pari and pulis!
Compared with all of us, my husband Ric seems to have adjusted faster to the lockdown. He’s managed quickly to make a fun time of it. Twice a week, he, our son-in-law, and our grandson put together a sort of tableau, using the most imaginative props for ridiculous poses, and share it on Facebook. Sometimes I join them, just for laughs.
I’m grateful that my only daughter and her family, except for their oldest son, who’s employed in the United States, have decided to live here for good. They were caught by the pandemic, and that may have been a consideration.
We have all our meals together, after which everybody goes about their own business. At 5 p.m., all 10 of us, including the help, pray the rosary.
Ric and I read and watch a lot of TV and Netflix.
I especially miss our Sunday lunches with all our children and some close relatives. Now we can only be together through Zoom. With other friends and relatives, I get in touch by phone.
During the lockdown, my mom’s youngest sister, who had lived with us after my mom passed away, died peacefully in her sleep, at home. She was 103. It was not easy to make even the simplest arrangements, but, thanks to my sons, something somehow was done. I console myself with the thought that, as simple in life as she was, Tita Naty might have preferred it that way.
I turned 80 last November, a milestone reached only by a selected few. Months before that, I had bought a relatively expensive golf set. I figured that, if I’m lucky enough to live to 90, I might as well enjoy those 10 remaining years playing with a good set of clubs.
In my more than 40 years at golf, this was, in fact, only the second time I would be playing with clubs I had bought for myself as a complete set. The clubs I myself bought I had bought at promotional prices, in Los Angeles, and my starter set had been a hand-me-down from my father.
I was playing twice a week, on the average, and going to the driving range on some days, and I was happy to see my score improve steadily.
Then, the coronavirus struck! And there was no escaping from it—not even for a round of golf. Without a vaccine or a cure, lockdown was the only way to keep the virus from spreading.
Now, we can only get together by Zoom. Now, we can only go out, if at all allowed, for strict essentials and on emergencies, and have to wear face masks. Now, we must be quick to disinfect ourselves upon reaching home.
Now, I’ll have to live longer to recover what I paid for my new clubs!
As I write this, we are, by my tenuous count, on our 56th day in effective isolation, quarantined within four walls, whether in our homes or in a blend of home and workplace, which an artist like me calls a studio.
I’ve been an artist for 46 years, and it is the first time I’ve been quarantined for so long. Isn’t it ironic that I can utter “art,” a lovely and benign word, in the same breath as “quarantine,” a cruel strategy that goes back to 15th-century Europe to control rampaging epidemics and plagues? For sure, it is a word neither lovely nor benign. But here in our brand-besotted country, this foreign-sounding label has quickly acquired a certain respectability, or even elegance, by giving our ordeal a memorably French name. However, even such a fancy word reeking with history cannot help but describe what is in truth a lonely, fearsome and potentially dangerous reality.
These are indeed abnormal times and, ironically, heaving a sigh of surrender, I have managed to accept and accommodate this straitjacketing of my frenetic life. In exchange for unfettered freedom, I have accepted the comforting anonymity of a face mask and welcomed the eradication of sterile meetings and the muffling of vulgar sounds.
My studio time is now open-ended, because this is where I live and work. I am truly an obedient senior as I was as a child to my parents, following the rule “Stay home!” Lucky for me that rule’s dark cloud hides a silver lining, which one calls art, but which to me also means peace, solitude and salvation.
Except for the company of an energetic, young and affectionate whippet, Ajax, I live and create in solitude. My husband and both my parents died many years ago. My children live good honest lives, and I have smart grandchildren. My life is good. My art evolves and changes, whether for the better only time will tell.
Whatever happens when the quarantine and isolation, uncertainty and despair, are over, and we would have survived the virus and our losses, art, with a miraculous power of its own, will surely emerge triumphant.
No quarantine can ever lock art down.
A healthy baby girl was born in Bacolod on April 13, to John Tupas and Colline Tabesa. They named her Covid Marie.
As the baby’s father explained, “I wanted her name to remind us that Covid did not only bring us suffering. Despite all this, a blessing came to us … She might experience bullying, but I’ll just teach my daughter to be a good person …”
Such words, simple and true, about a joyful birth, wiped the chuckle off my face. A lesson not immediately apparent is imparted: Hold on to grace that is simple and true.
Take, for example, the need to feed the hungry and heal the sick amid today’s epidemic. Though these are needs most urgent, they evade authorities, who continue to be mired in delivery systems, checking lists of cash aid to beneficiaries, always doubting, always feeling the need to verify.
Can local government units (LGUs) no longer be trusted to submit proper lists of deserving beneficiaries? The irony is they channel slush funds for vote-buying each election, yet (who’s to say it isn’t karmic?) they aren’t trusted now to handle cash aid meant for the hungry and the sick in their own barangay.
Actually, some of these LGUs, left to their own devices, have found a sense of social service and managed well. This, however, does not diminish what the epidemic reveals—the need for real, concrete and immediate reform to revive faith in LGUs. They must be redeemed; they must become liberating channels of democratic governance, no longer the corrupt vote-buying machines of entrenched politicians.
Time we abandoned empty old tombs and let the nation’s spirit rise.