Our Life During the Lockdown Part 1; The Beginning
It was Monday, around 7pm. We were at the office when the president declared that Metro Manila would be on total lockdown, or Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which means;
- no public transportation (bicycles are okay, motorcycles aren’t allowed to carry a passenger, private vehicles need a quarantine pass and only available for frontliners)
- incoming and outgoing Metro Manila transport won’t be allowed except for essential goods
- curfew from 8PM to 5AM
- only employees will be allowed but need a valid identification
- senior citizens and below 20 years old are not allowed to go out
- only essential businesses are allowed to operate such as food and medical manufacturers;
The catch was, the ECQ would be effective at 12midnight on the same day which only gave less than 5 hours for people to go home!
I and my colleague share an apartment. Soon after we heard the news, we notified the management and asked permission to go back home. We still had work to do so we decided that it’s better to stay in the office until the lockdown would be lifted. We went and got essential things. It’s a good thing we can do pretty much anything in the office: cook, take a shower, work and sleep.
It would only be for a month they say. During the first few days, it wasn’t much of a problem for us.We had supplies that could last for maybe two weeks or so. Our colleagues were able to set up for work-from-home setting. Operation was quite normal despite the rush.But the outside world was in chaos!
For precaution, provinces and municipalities outside the Metro declared restrictions on travels, too, After few days, the government finally declared the whole country to be on State of Calamity. Movements were limited within zones.
Our early days went as smoothly as we could hope. We could eat, work and sleep as usual. There were five of us in total although one lives nearby so she could come and go after work. She also had a quarantine pass and so she was assigned to get our groceries and supplies when we ran out.
Lines at supermarkets, wet markets and groceries were long. Grocery shopping seemed like a day-long task. You have to go early, they’ll provide a number, you have to wait outside for your turn while maintaining about 1 meter distance, get your groceries then go. You’ll be lucky if you finish in 3 to 4 hours. Alcohol, disinfectants and masks ran out of supplies. The government has to regulate the sales. Liquor ban was imposed.
Banks remained open but only for few branches and shortened time. Other remittance services remained open but queues are long. It was in the middle of summer so waiting was terribly difficult. Sending and receiving money was laborious. Men had long hairs and beards and mustaches because hair salons and barbershops were closed. Family members have to cut each other’s hair. But the most difficult thing was, a lot of frontliners, especially nurses had to walk several hours to work. The local government had to find ways to help them.Some provided bicycles while others provided shuttle buses.
People found ways to entertain themselves. Tiktok, a very popular mobile application became immensely popular. Common people, celebrities and entertainers alike got hooked to it. A lot of tutorial videos about almost anything were uploaded by the dozens, vlogs and youtube channels became alive! As for the younger generation, they played online games, particularly Mobile Legends nonstop.
The first few days were just ordinary days except, we didn’t need to commute daily. I had time to watch anything I like. I have several books to read. It was actually better for me. But after a week or so, I started to be bored. I started to look at the clock more often. After few more days, I started to count the passing cars by the window. Whats wrong with me? I missed my family more than ever. I needed to interact with people. I miss the noise from the outside. Other companies also switched to home-based set up so we rarely saw other people in the building except for the security guards who couldn’t go home to their families, too. So what’s happening outside?
Various government agencies provided subsidies to the poor and people who were forced to stop working.
The Department of Labor and Employment provided employees some amelioration to help them during the trying times. We were not qualified for it, until a local official called out the government to help those middle classes who lost their jobs temporarily, too. The president agreed and so Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) was rolled out. We were qualified and received Php8,000, approximately 17000yen,. Not much but it helped pay some bills.
Around 2 days left before the lockdown would be lifted, we were ready to go! But, the president declared an extension of the ECQ for another two weeks! What?! We were left with no choice but to stay.
The population complained. The poor had nothing more to eat. Those who saved up a little bit has ran out of budget, too. People called out the government on the distribution of relief and amelioration. This time, the population was getting hungry and angry. The government coffers were being drained. The economy is dying. Either die from the virus or from hunger. People are scared. The number of infected cases rise steadily, from over 50 to over two hundred new cases daily. Even medical workers were infected. Several doctors and nurses succumbed to the virus. It was feared that the health system might collapse. Hospitals stopped accommodating COVID patients due to lack of facilities. The center of the epidemic remained in Metro Manila until such time that it moved to the South, in Metro Cebu. Mass testing were being demanded by the people.
While on quarantine, my lifestyle changed a bit. During the early days of staying in the office, I had cough.It scared me to death as cough is one symptom of the virus. I forced myself to drink a lot of water. I usually just drank coffee and rarely had water but this time, I had to take care of myself. I had a lot of lemon and calamansi juice. I ate more vegetables and fruits. I washed my hands vigorously and disinfected regularly. I took some cough medicine and antihistamine for fear that it might just be my allergy. After around two weeks, the cough was gone.
By the end of April, 6th week on quarantine, we waited for our fate. Could we go out finally, or still continue to be on lockdown? Yes, the ECQ was extended for another two weeks, making it a 2-month total lockdown. Other areas in the country that recorded very low or no infection were put into General Community Lockdown or GCQ. But Metro Manila and other high risk cities remained on ECQ. So what happened next? I’ll share on part 2.