2020 Yearender (Last of two parts)
By Marivir R. Montebon
Thankfully, my uncle and two aunts survived covid19 during spring. Witnessing their experiences remotely confirmed everything that the legitimate news organizations reported. We have an invisible enemy in our midst. The virus and all germs for that matter made me paranoid.
Since the March 17 lockdown, I became more introspective. All thoughts come to you while in isolation. Will we run out of food? What will happen to farm workers if they all get covid19? Is the backend sector protected enough?
The frontliners meanwhile, many of whom are my cousins and friends, were in the fore of the pandemic, living in fear while taking care of staggering emergency cases at the hospitals. One in every four nurses is a Filipino. I can only say to them to take care and keep safe. My heart truly went out to all of them. Every night at 7PM, we would peep out our windows and chant to thank the frontliners.
Earlier during the outbreak, there was a crises in protective gears and ventilators. Up in the debate too was whether we should wear masks or not. In the beginning, only those who were sick and the frontliners should wear masks, we were told. There was a period of confusion but the virus was catching all of us fast. It took weeks to unify the mandatory mask protocol.
The nurses and health workers bravely pushed for adequate supply of personal protective equipment which actually became a national outcry. Ideally, nurses should only use one gown and mask every time they attend to one patient. Each PPE then had to be discarded. But because of low supply, they reused their N95s up to five working days. Weeks later, Pres. Trump finally ordered for the mandatory production of PPE.
To survive this mandatory seclusion, I learned to entertain myself with movies and popcorn. I’ve never watched as many movies in my entire life, and gobbled as much popcorn as well.
But my reportage had been rather busy too. Information sources were more accessible with everyone just at home, typing and chatting away. I remember the first story I wrote about coronavirus was on small businesses seeking relief from rent at the time when businesses were reduced to pickup and delivery services. (Click here for the story http://justcliqit.com/ny-resto-owner-laments-how-about-lowering-our-rent-too/)
I have made follow-up stories since then, as Gov. Cuomo had ordered for a moratorium on evictions. I can see the efforts of the state and city governments to respond to the needs and issues at hand. It took a steady willfulness of the government to constantly remind people in New York to wear masks and to avoid congregating. In the summer, we have flattened the curve of death in the city.
Because of social distancing, I suddenly became part of various chatrooms on Facebook. I had a chat room to connect with my colleagues at the FilAm Press Club of New York, and separate ones for girlfriends, college friends, high school friends, my family, and clan. No time for boredom with all these chatrooms.
But it was an ordeal missing my family and genuine friends. We could not share a meal together, have coffee, and laugh some hours away.
I had always thought that to shake my grief away for missing Nikki, this year I would be traveling. The coronavirus just spoiled that. Home bound we all were. The pandemic had been sympathetic to my grief. I thought that if the world was the same, my grief would be stinging because I’d be moving about without my dearest daughter with me.
In May, I graduated from my MA in Religious Studies in my bedroom. I wore my old white blazer and a pajama which wasn’t seen on zoom. It felt odd to remember to unmute ourselves before we clapped our hands. It was a pleasant surprise and a great honor to be given the “Public Leadership Award for making the greatest impact in representing UTS outside the seminary.” It was enough to be honored to be part of the Theta Alpha Kappa honor society.
However strange, I felt it was better that I graduated in my bedroom rather than in the spacious hall of UTS. In the absence of Nikki, I would be truly sad during that “normal” graduation rite.
In quiet solitude, I found vigor in creativity. My girlfriends and I actually published a nine-part novel about Eloisa, a nurse who battled the pandemic in Elmhurst Hospital. It was a truly fun and collaborative effort that we published in OSM! Online Magazine and The FilAm. We called ourselves story weavers. (Click on the story here http://justcliqit.com/lockdown-novel-eloisa-filipina-rn-epilogue/)
During this pandemic, I received a media fellowship with the Cooperative Media of the Montclair State University, making me write two in-depth articles of how the FilAm communities are dealing with the pandemic. (Click here for story http://justcliqit.com/i-felt-so-alone-daughter-shares-pain-and-joy-of-taking-care-of-her-parents-who-contracted-covid-19%EF%BB%BF/)
In July, the Women’s Immigration and Communications Cafe was registered as a nonprofit with the Department of State of New York! A milestone indeed and a great result of my MA.
More importantly at this time, I found a new love in the time of covid19 – video editing! It has been my new joy. I could do short videos.
My great friend twin Merly Barlaan and I mounted a project together, a talk show called Women’s World and finished 24 episodes together with Dr. Arceli Hernando. Women’s World talked of innovation and inspiration in the time of pandemic. Despite the lockdown, we have reconnected with women leaders all over the world to be inspired from each other and to respond to the challenging times.
It was fun learning the tedious technical side of social media. Women’s World was a silver lining in our seclusion.
This year 2020, we have seen so much fabricated news and information. It’s the campaign and election season, and I’ve never heard so much lies in my life – from the time I wake up until I go to be in the night and from the highest office of the land. It’s hard to believe that I had to be dealing with this in my professional and personal life.
I had fear of covid19 and anguish over a narcissistic president enabled by a sizable number of people. What a test of courage you are, 2020!
But the people who have decided to vote President Trump out were inspiring, and those who stood truth to power as well. I made sure I voted early. I remember it was pouring really hard on the day I voted. That was a little sacrifice which made a great impact, as all early voters did.
There was one digital event that I wrote about that assured me that we all could surmount the pandemic if we took the lessons of countries like New Zealand and Taiwan. Having listened to the Director general of the CDC of Taiwan was comforting. (Click for story here http://justcliqit.com/taiwans-success-vs-covid-single-policy-to-wear-masks-wash-hands-be-socially-distanced-test-quarantine/)
November saw the birth of a new digital show – Issues & Inspiration – which I co-produced with good friend Grace Labaguis of Synergy Production and Marketing. This time, I decided to use streamyard as the platform and learned the art of switching while co-hosting. It could be tension filled but I love it.
With the support of great friends, I believe that I&I will go a long way as a platform for the FilAm communities to discuss issues and be inspired with each other’s achievements.
Finally, 2020, you saw me at this time pursuing my doctoral. The lockdown prompted that, for what else am I going to do while in seclusion? Better perhaps to do some educational advancement. Online schooling had been rigorous but it provided for great time for soul searching. I love my classes in diplomacy, models for teaching, and systematic theology.
In December, I joined and co-hosted our zoom-driven high school reunion. That’s 37 years after we graduated from high school – it felt nostalgic and dramatic.
I am blessed to have survived you, 2020. The pandemic is looming deeper as we bid you goodbye. But we have learned good lessons to be able to surmount the challenges of the coming year.
I am still in awe and gratitude in the midst of the chaos. I have learned to be simple. Life only means to take care of yourself, love others, be creative and be kind and be clean, physically and figuratively. I will forever love and improve on my digital editing.
Thank you and goodbye, 2020. There will be so much work to do in 2021 and I hope for unity and clarity of vision to be able to surmount the horrific challenges. Earnestly, I say God bless us all.