Getting by

It’s getting tougher each passing day. As in the photo, it’s like praying for the heavy rainfall to stop and urging the sun to come out because the rusty, leaking roof can’t take it anymore and will break your house anytime. The irony that is life. We’ve been dealing with the pandemic for over a year now. How many times have you heard somebody say “COVID is real!” Perhaps they got sick and hospitalized and lost a loved one, or among those who believed the virus and the vaccines to be a hoax or scam. You’d think you’re lucky you haven’t caught it yet and still alive. Unfortunate that the new variants of the COVID-19 virus are now widespread, causing the health statistics to get broken again and lockdowns becoming the usual, vicious remedy. And our social feeds becoming an online obituary is not exactly helping.

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Respite and repeat

The Nintendo Switch Neon

Every Friday when work’s done, I look forward to a weekend of rest and spending more time with my family. A respite from my somewhat strict daily routine that I stick to since I started working for my new company. On repeat for the past several months now, while I have yet to get used to wearing a face mask the whole day and the occasional face shield when going to public places. I’m not complaining though, I’m thankful that I have work and enjoy what I do. And whenever I’m home and my wife’s busy tending to her plants, that’s my cue to grab my Nintendo Switch and play for an hour or two of my favorite games.

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The daily huddle versus the pandemic

MRT ride during the pandemic by CC Lozano

Grateful to have landed a job last year after months of search in the midst of the global pandemic and I have since been working full time. By that, I mean physically going to and fro my office on weekdays as the work-from-home arrangement is not a viable and practicable option in the new company I’m working with. With prior experience working remotely, albeit a short stint, I thought remote work wasn’t for me having spent most of my career on business operations or “where the action is” and well, I was actually missing the usual face-to-face work routine or what I call the daily huddle.

So yes, while everyone seems to want to work at home, I went versus the new normal and have been braving the daily drive or commute to work while still under the pandemic. All’s well so far but that’s not to say there weren’t any hiccups. And especially now that we’ve been struggling for over a year now and have yet to recover from the recurring quarantines, with the new COVID-19 variants crossing borders, delays in vaccine availability and inoculation, and the soaring numbers in new cases. You’re crazy to want to go outside!

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Being the “alay” or tribute of the family

Queueing during the pandemic lockdown by CC Lozano

It was mid-March of 2020 when the first lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic was announced in Metro Manila. Days prior to the announcement I was nervously busy going out and about to prep up for the stay-at-home restrictions. Aside from ensuring we have enough supply of alcohol, disinfectant, and face masks, which by then were hard to find and with unbelievably high prices, I went out to stock up on food and a mix of things I thought we’ll need while locked down. I bought a new laptop, a printer, paper supplies, four walkie-talkies, a digital blood pressure monitor, extension cords, and sacks of dog food.

Much like in the movie The Hunger Games, being the head of the family, I was the “alay” or tribute. At the time, most barangays were closed or barricaded from outsiders to prevent the alarming spread of the virus. Entry and exit points were guarded and strictly monitored. And there’s only one in each household to be issued an all-day quarantine pass, which will allow you to go out either for work if you’re a frontliner or to get essentials. In my case I was the latter going out to buy my family’s day-to-day needs.

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My job search during the pandemic

Walking in solitude at the mall during the pandemic by CC Lozano

I was on an auto walkway minding my own business when out of the blue my mind sort of went on a throwback of how my job search journey was at the height of the pandemic. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park but it sure was an unforgettable misadventure. February 2020 would have been the usual love month celebration but turned out to be a prelude to the scariest months of quarantine and lockdown. I recall people already wearing face masks that at the time were already becoming scarce and expensive coming from January that saw the Taal Volcano eruption lasting several days, with the ashfall even reaching cities in Metro Manila including Caloocan where we live. I was already rendering my final weeks at my former job of almost 15 years, both excited and apprehensive. Back then I thought I was ready, thankful for the many years of professional experience, curious and hopeful that I was seasoned enough to move to a new and relevant role. Like me and so many others praying for better days, nothing could have prepared us for COVID-19 finally being declared a global pandemic and changing our career prospects forever.

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Out of crisis comes opportunity

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity,” said Albert Einstein. And this was my first thought when I was faced with a very difficult situation at the height of home quarantines and lockdowns due to the pandemic. The timing was as bad as the growing number of people getting the virus. I wanted to move on from my longest career stint to the next, but there seem to be not that many opportunities available back then as more and more companies struggle to keep the business going or just end up quitting the fight and close shop. It sure is no good not to be able to earn a living at a bad time such as this global health crisis.

The crisis that made it even more difficult to get essentials – food, medicine, day-to-day needs, during the first few days of the first lockdown – that extended to weeks and even months. As the head of the family and the one issued with a quarantine pass, I was the one braving the long queues at the nearby supermarket to secure essentials for our household. I dreaded going out every single time, for fear of picking up the virus and putting my family at risk. That’s when I realized I needed to start what my wife and I have been wanting to do but really didn’t have the time. We’ve been planning to turn our garage into a small food park of sorts; no longer a workable and practical idea given the restrictions in the new normal.

So with what’s left of my savings, I instead converted a small space of our house fronting the street into a tindahan or sari-sari store and called it Camia Eats. While the original idea is to make it easy for our community to get access to essentials, we wanted it to be the go-to place for anything needed for home – from combo or paluto meals, tube ice, and purified water to prepaid loads, cash-in to electronic wallets, and printing services. And as if awakening a long lost passion for food (me being an HRM degree holder), I started baking – initially with Ube Cheese Pandesal, then later other flavors and baked goodies. After several recipe trials and oven fails, we sold bags of our flavored pandesal to our very supportive neighbors and friends and relatives from as far as QC and Novaliches.

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