Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
We’re still here in the Philippines. We were supposed to leave Feb. 3. But I’m not complaining; back in November, our original plan was to live in Rome, Italy, for 3 months.
For a while it seemed like we would keep being one step ahead of the coronavirus: We left Metro Manila for Tagatay, a resort town located on a ridge close to Taal Volcano Island (yes, most of the ash has been cleaned up), less than 2 weeks before the city was put on lockdown. In Tagaytay, all the restaurants and malls were still open and bustling with customers, hardly a face mask to be seen.
But then March 16 happened.
Bjorn tells me Tagaytay is under community quarantine. It’s around 2 p.m. Although I still haven’t eaten lunch, I make us all go to the grocery store and indulge in everyone’s favorite past-time: panic buying. But it still hasn’t really hit me; I just have a faint sense of dread and unease. However, as I stand in the “adult milk” aisle watching more and more people stream in during a normally non-busy time, grabbing carts and throwing food supplies in, real fear and panic begin to well up inside. Surprisingly, so does anger: anger at myself for letting the fear goad me into panic buying, anger that this is actually happening to us.
So I burst into tears.
Bjorn, correctly assessing the situation, immediately takes us to a pizza place after the panic groceries are bought. Soon after we enter, about 20 other people also join us in the restaurant (though we all manage to maintain social distancing, natch).
Apparently, a community quarantine also means community panic eating.
The pizza place that we were at yesterday is now closed. This is a pattern that continues throughout the week; one by one all the restaurants and convenience stores we visit seem to shut down the next day. Grocery stores are still open though, and shelves are full—though curiously, pancake mix is in more demand than toilet paper here.
- On our daily walkabout we witness the streets being hosed down with chlorinated water.
- Journie is banned from entering Super Metro, aka Filipino Target. Daddy immediately wants to buy her all the toys she wants in compensation. Mommy gives a hard NO, and limits sympathy presents to one Barbie Mermaid—but deems a mini inflatable pool, new markers, drawing paper, cute pink child-friendly scissors and rainbow popsicle sticks as necessary supplies.
The malls are a ghost town. With less people around, the wild, stray dogs seem braver and wander the grounds freely. As we eat our takeout-lunch at one mall’s outdoor tables, one such dog walks by. He stops and doubles back, standing very still about 5 ft. from our table, staring. I can see his ribs standing out. If any eye contact is made, he takes a step closer. Bjorn finally takes some of our leftover food and leads the dog away from our table.
- Journie tells me that a strange lady sang to her and followed her as she went on her daily morning walk with Daddy. (Daddy later tells me the lady was at least 100 ft. away.) With everyone self-quarantining, the homeless population is also more obvious.
- During our daily grocery store run, we are told only 1 bottle of hand sanitizer may be sold to a family.
- Grocery stores are now limiting the number of people let inside; people have to wait in line on tape marks that are 1 meter apart, of course.
- It feels like a crime to cough, so of course, every time I am in public, I want to do so.
- Journie is having a great time; I don’t think she realizes that we are under quarantine. What does she care about playing with other kids when she gets to watch more Netflix?
- Walking around so much emptiness at first creeped me out, but I have decided to reframe the situation as, “It’s like we own the entire place!”
We live in such strange times.