I t’s psychologically difficult being away from friends, family and familiarity, especially once you’ve gotten so used to what you’ve been doing for the longest time.
When I started my master’s degree program at Yale University this fall semester, it was online classes no more. Sure, Yale required me to take a COVID-19 test as I arrived on campus—and it also requires us students to be fully vaccinated—but other than that, things have pretty much returned to normal.
Masking isn’t required anymore except in certain and extremely limited circumstances, such as when professors would require them inside the classroom. Also, I doubt if any student—besides, I’d guess, doctors and nurses in training—was ever required to wear a face shield within Yale.
I’ve spent nearly a month back home in the Philippines for winter break. Praising less restrictions in the United States aside—and kinda wishing it were the universal norm—I really did miss my dear home country while I was gone for nearly four months.
For one, I literally arrived home to a family reunion. It was my grandparents’ wedding anniversary, and my immediate family hosted the celebration. So, I arrived home to my mom and siblings, my amma (paternal grandmother in Minnan-Hokkien Chinese), and several other relatives all anticipating my arrival. My dad picked me up from the airport. I was happy to see the loving faces of my family and relatives again, each with their own unique personalities and positive quirks.
Then, a little after Christmas, I met my friend who I’ve known since grade school, in Trinoma. We ate in the food court and I had Pepper Lunch, which I missed so much. (I low-key hoped they’d give more meat in their servings, though. Sigh. I also had Ramen Nagi in UP Town Center the night I arrived!) The days before the New Year were spent mostly at home.
Catching up with friends
On the eve of the New Year, we went to Mass in the Manila Cathedral for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Celebrated every Jan. 1, this highly important feast in the Catholic Church celebrates the fact that Mary is mother of Jesus, who is fully human but also fully divine. Hence, the Church honors her with the glorious title of Mater Dei, Mother of God.
The Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jose Advincula. And since it was still the Christmas season, “O Come All Ye Faithful” in all its pipe organ and trumpet glory was sung to the voices of hundreds filling the historic cathedral. It was such a wonderful celebration. Sadly, this was also the day we lost our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The days after I spent catching up with my friends. I’m not kidding when I say that from Jan. 4 to Jan. 9, I had one or two hangouts and catch-ups a day!
I visited my high school alma mater, Xavier School; I did Blackpink Tiktok dancing with friends in Rob Mag (in that open-air space with fake grass); I had Japanese in Vertis North with another friend. I know it sounds quite packed, but when I’m with people who care for me and whom I care about, everything’s all worth it.
I honestly can’t believe how fast my winter break went. As of writing, I’m less than a week into my long journey back to the United States, back to Yale.
I am absolutely thankful for my winter break back home where friends, family and familiarity have been absolute gifts to me. —CONTRIBUTED INQ