What We Learned from One Year of Community Quarantine

We asked seven individuals from different sectors to share their reflections and musings.

On March 12, 2020, the entire Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rose. Fast forward a year later, the country has been placed in several modifications of lockdown from ECQ to GCQ, the latter of which we are still under today.

However, despite our highly militarized lockdown being dubbed as the longest in the world, poor contact tracing efforts and delayed mass testing has brought about serious repercussions — from a rising number of cases to a record number of job losses, among others.

If anything, the pandemic year also brought mental health to the forefront. With a mishandled pandemic response coupled with rapid disruptions of work and regular life, we asked seven professionals from different fields: What are some of the learnings that a year of lockdown has brought them?

The Importance of Remembering

“None of the brutal measures taken by the government worked to keep the outbreak from turning into a full-blown economic, health, political, and social crisis. Along with nearly 475,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,200 deaths by year-end, hunger and poverty among Filipino families as well as the loss of jobs and economic opportunities reached historical highs. A year after the country was placed in lockdown by surprise, we see the Duterte administration making the same mistakes again. To remember is to learn from our mistakes. Otherwise, we are only setting ourselves up for more agony as many Filipinos are once again left on their own to recover from the debilitating effects of the pandemic.”

— Cleve Arguelles, Political Scientist

Bring Good Governance Back

“Under a governance that is incompetent and violent, we are all victims. Yes, it affects us in very different ways, but as with an incurable virus, this kind of leadership ties us together into a citizenry that lives in constant fear and anxiety, enveloped in anger and exhaustion. All of these are important if we consider that this pandemic was used by Duterte as an opportunity to further clamp down on our rights, and keep us divided and distracted, an exercise that served only him and his people who are already working on winning 2022. At the very least, we should see the unifying experience of the pandemic as an important moment that should get us on the same page about the coming elections, and the urgency of winning it.”

— Katrina Stuart Santiago, PAGASA

Uniting in Social Solidarity

“One key learning I had is that there is no better nor more critical time to speak out than now. We cannot learn to accept things as they are, when “as they are” equates to hunger, neglect, violence, and abuse. A pandemic is no excuse to fall silent. We are physically distanced, but now, more than ever, we must be united with social solidarity.

There is no better nor more critical time to speak out than now. We cannot learn to accept things as they are, when ‘as they are’ equates to hunger, neglect, violence, and abuse. A pandemic is no excuse to fall silent. “

— Rey Valmores Salinas, trans woman activist and spokesperson of Bahaghari

Set Proper Boundaries

“We need to set better work and relationship boundaries, and give ourselves permission to not be accessible all the time, especially when people know that we are always just at home or reachable online.”

— Jen Horn, MUNI

Celebrate Small Changes

“We had no choice but to adapt, resulting in constant changes everyday, whether it be in routine, or in the self, or in the way we work. We don’t mean things that garnered big results, we mean the simple things that changed the way people viewed life. Over the lockdown, there were newfound hobbies, passion projects, small businesses, and organizations. People were becoming more mindful and supportive, or finally coming to terms with themselves — everyone was slowly taking their time to reevaluate and evolve with the times in their own ways. Whether it be checking up on a friend, learning new things, finding their passions, being involved in more movements, or even mustering up the courage to get up in the morning — everyone contributed to their own change. And when we combine all these significant moments over the year, this results in hope for the new year of finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, slowly but surely, our small changes can make a difference in this world.

— Bella and Tasha, Tanjutco, Kids for Kids

A Sense of Urgency

“We lack a sense of urgency, vision, and enlistment of other stakeholders to contribute to the solutions. We should be more transparent , open and candid in our communications. We should start analyzing the problem with a clean slate sans politics and business interests, and begin re imagining a new better world. We have great talents in our country but we have not been able to maximize them.

As Albus Dumbledore said, ‘It is not our abilities that show who we truly are. It is our choices.’”

— Dr. Tony Leachon, Public Health Expert

Realizing That We are Living Out History For Future Historians to Write On

“The changes we have had to go through, saying goodbye to the old normal and entering a new chapter, amidst the backdrop of impunity and death amidst the pandemic, is a traumatic experience that will be written in history books in a distant future. And that is why, even when this was and still is an ongoing terrible experience, most especially to the poor among us, there is a pressing need to step back, and think about things that have transpired.

As Charles Dickens would say, this is the best of times, this is the worst of times. It is both terrible and extraordinary to live through this moment. Would the next generation be proud of what we have stood for as they read through what we did, or would they find insights for their own path if they stumbled upon our journal on which we write our deepest aches and dreams? Would they be proud and say, like Rizal, ‘Not all were asleep during the night?’”

— Kristoffer Pasion, Historian

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