There are days like these when the brain feels catatonic — you feel as immobilized as the entire city.
Thoughts are burning in your mind. Your deadlines are playing drums in your heart. Your feet feel heavy, your shoulders burdened. A little ache throbs at your temple as deep inside boils a cauldron of worries and fears.
And the place is too quiet. You realize just how much you miss that buzz in the air that you never noticed before.
It’s the same bewilderment some of us may have felt in other cities where the staccato beat of sounds we are used to — of daily Filipino life — is missing.
Looking out a window in Oregon, you wonder where the people are. It’s so clean and fresh, the trees are fat and green. But standing in the middle of Times Square in New York City, you breathe in the pulsing energy around and relax. People rush by, snippets of conversations pepper the air. And you smile. This is more like it. A little bit of home.
Are we weird as a people? Why do we hanker for the chaos and noise when the ideal kind of scene is now staring us in the face?
There is no traffic, no barkers and jeepneys coloring our language for the day. No one to curse for breaking road rules, no hordes waiting for a ride along busy roads, no smog and blaring horns or the endless sound of moving vehicles.
Mother Earth is far from being healed, but at least she is breathing better now. We are seeing a city uncloaked — the kind where a leas frenetic living is possible.
Families have been together for weeks now, yet amid the rediscovered simple joys run a thread of worry. How long will the quarantine last? What will life be like post-ECQ (enhanced community quarantine)?
And here’s the kicker: do we want to go back to the pre-COVID-19 life?
Nearly two months into the lockdown or ECQ, the Philippines tallied 8,488 confirmed COVID-19 infections, including 568 deaths and 1,043 recoveries.
The Department of Health had failed to bring the total daily tests to 8,000 as more cities in the national capital region started mass testing drives.
But as days pass, the reality is hitting government in the face just as it has been hitting business owners and corporations lately.
Funding the fight and the effects of this virus pandemic has cost the Philippine government an arm and a leg. Lately, the country had been able to sustain its coffers by selling global bonds “at the lowest interests on record,” reports say.
The economic outlook does not look too bright as acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said last week that “economic losses have run up to P700 billion and could swell to P1.1 trillion.”
In short, government has no choice but to allow the gradual return of regular business activity through the general community quarantine or GCQ after 15 May.
The guidelines have been laid out, clarifying which types of business may resume operations, as well as rules for those traveling through places still under the ECQ.
Many are itching to go out and go back to the things they were doing before, and feel the assurance of health and livelihood.
At the same time, the worries remain. Is the GCQ advisable with mass testing yet to roll out on a national scale? The President himself has laid out the possibility of three waves of infection that we should be prepared for.
A friend’s relative who is based in Shanghai said life there has pretty much gone back to normal. What government did there was execute the lockdown plans quickly and efficiently and people cooperated. Public places were immediately closed, food supplies supplemented and prices controlled and wearing masks strictly enforced.
In the new normal — a future we both dread and look forward to — wearing masks will continue indefinitely. Many businesses will die and new ones will be born, and people will find a way to bring back the chaos and noise. The buzzing sounds will return, as life goes from ECQ to GCQ to who knows what new terms will come next.
I suppose this catatonia should end.
It’s a little hard to breathe.