Lockdown-not-lockdown, week one

13 March, Friday

I saw my cousin's ex-girlfriend at the supermarket. Now, I often saw her dressed somewhat to the nines during family reunions, so it was a bit surprising for me to see her dressed in a loose shirt. Also surprising: that we're talking, since I usually don't talk to anyone during reunions.

She lives nearby, but this isn't her nearest supermarket. There's one just a walk away from her place, but that's an S&R, which means it's crowded, and you'll have no choice but to buy in bulk. But then again, it is the first day of this lockdown - I mean, community quarantine. People will take the time to stock up on everything that they need, because this lockdown - community quarantine - will last for a month, and heaven knows what will happen then.

That's why we're both in the supermarket. She took the day off from work to shop. I, well, I don't have day offs, having worked at home for the past four years, but my phone is pinging like crazy.

As expected, the tissue paper aisle is virtually empty. I got myself some hand towels - we have tissue rolls in the flat.

It's interesting to see what people have chosen to buy in times like these. There's no corned beef left, but lots of other canned goods are. There's no instant pancit canton left, but lots of instant noodle soup are. There's no spaghetti left, but lots of macaroni are. Well, there is spaghetti, but it's the supermarket's own brand, and it seemed nobody wanted to pick that up. But then, this was a Marketplace, which tends to be more upscale. I assume it's different in other supermarkets.

There was already a sort of shortage of meat. I say "sort of" because, the butchers tell me, there were no deliveries that morning. "Hino-hold na nila para mahal ang benta bukas," one told me. It made sense, even if I disagreed with it.

I really wasn't going to buy much. My freezer's all right. Just half a kilo of mince - which I'll have to wait for, because they're still grinding it up - and maybe some pork cubes. But they looked a little more frozen than I'd expect. Yesterday's stock?

I'll admit this is the first time my grocery bill hit three thousand bucks. Sure, I was expecting to shop for two weeks, maybe longer. I usually shop for a week. I know the government said all cargo should not be blocked, especially food items, but who fully trusts the government anyway? If one has the best of intentions, another has a different interpretation. And it seemed many of us thought that way. It was just ten in the morning - the mall has yet to open - but the lines were really, really long. I was in one queue, and my cousin's ex was in another. I thought she left already? Turns out we're both stuck.

14 March, Saturday

If I'm going to be stuck here for a while, I might as well be accompanied by a radio station that won't annoy me.

Well, me and Shalla. You know her thing about how some songs - and radio stations, in this instance - make her feel warmer than it really is. So, as much as I want a station based in an English-speaking country, I only had two options: FIP, from France, or Option Musique, from the French-speaking side of Switzerland.

Both have an interesting mix of music: the former's really varied, while the latter dives into a lot of French-language pop. The former can be too spicy, though, and the latter has news updates every hour, and even if I will never speak the language, at least I'll know what time it is. So, Option Musique it is, then.

15 March, Sunday

Shalla and I decided to have pizza delivered. They're still around, after all.

I could've walked to the pizza place, but it is too hot out, so I decided for delivery. Online delivery. For half past eleven in the morning.

And then, nothing.

So I called. Turns out I had a typo on my phone number. They tried to call me, but to no avail, because they did not have the right phone number. And then I realized I had the wrong address - same building, same condominium complex, but wrong unit number. I had my office's address in mind, for some reason.

They delivered my order anyway. The guy was waiting for fifteen minutes at the lobby. He must be thinking I'm a flake and would leave him with a whole pizza and nothing to speak of it. The transaction, at least, went smoothly, except for the fact that he did not have change for a thousand bucks, despite me specifying to have change for a thousand bucks. I ended up leaving the change to him, which is roughly a hundred bucks. Save him the trouble for waiting, I justified to myself. Still, flimsy.

16 March, Monday

All of a sudden, things are different. The president decided that the implementation of the community quarantine was so botched - everybody must practice "social distancing", but you have to go squeeze yourself into these buses and jeepneys anyway - so, to save face, he decided to take things further. Enhanced community quarantine. Everybody stay home, essentially.

That's made my work a little more frantic. I spent the weekend talking to - let me adopt work-speak here - other stakeholders and partners in the public and private sector just to get the new rules down. You said all movement of cargo will be unhampered, but how exactly? You said all supermarkets should remain open, but if the cashiers can't go to work, well, how exactly? I was a bit disappointed because we spent the weekend clarifying the new parameters, and suddenly, because perhaps our dear leader got cranky, we have to set up new parameters all over again.

We then realized I should go to the grocery again, but the one much closer to me was, surprisingly, closed. I ended up getting just a few cans of tuna from the 7-Eleven downstairs. Not ideal, but then, what is ideal?

17 March, Tuesday

I sort of had everything planned out.

The original plan was, from my home in Cavite, I would get some work done at a Starbucks at the Alabang Town Center, before I head to the Data Blitz a couple of floors up to claim my pre-order of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I promised Shalla I'd buy it for her. It was the reason why we have a Switch now. The past three months have been building up to this.

Alas, I'm at the flat instead. It would've meant a longer travel to Alabang, but then the malls are closed. My pre-order will have to wait for a month, and frankly, that is not an ideal scenario - especially for Shalla, who's waited years for this moment.

The night before I called the Data Blitz branch where I placed my pre-order. The girl on the other end of the line seemed flustered, but more because she suddenly doesn't have a job to go to the next day. I bet she'd take phone calls from thirsty Animal Crossing fans over uncertainty for her job.

As for us, we ended up buying a digital copy. I still want to get a cartridge, but Shalla doesn't want me to buy the same game twice. But then, I am stubborn and difficult.

18 March, Wednesday

Now, I've been curious about Animal Crossing, too. I definitely remember reading about it first in the newspaper when it was first released in 2000, and liked the idea of the game so much that I clipped the article - that should still be somewhere at home, gathering dust. Apart from that, no, I have never played the game at all.

What I have been playing this past week - this past month, actually - is Stardew Valley. Shalla introduced it to me, too. She's been playing it for a year or so. It's a farming RPG, if you'd put it that way. Plant crops, raise animals, mine, fish, marry one of the locals - you get the idea - lovingly assembled by one, just one, developer.

They're right. It is a relaxing game, in part because it is repetitive. You wake up in the morning and water your plants. It's not as boring as it sounds. But then again, I'm the guy who played SimCity because I like the idea of building a city (sort of) from scratch. Same principles. I knew I was hooked when, on my first weekend, I spent fifteen hours straight playing it. (Shalla was asleep.)

I guess I need it now more than ever, though, because since most of our immediate events have either been postponed or cancelled, and what's left of my work entails coordinating with (work-speak time) other stakeholders and partners in the public and private sectors (sorry) about whether supermarkets and drugstores are getting stocked, well, I'm left with a bit more free time, and a bit more stress in my body.

But then again, when was I never stressed?

By today I've played the game for a combined... well... six days. That means I've gotten relatively far ahead: I'm now married to a bluehead named Emily, and we have two children who will never progress past the toddler stage. (Shalla would tell me I shouldn't have married so soon because I'd deprive myself of all the cut scenes, but then, why would I court everyone?) More importantly, I finally have the most advanced sprinklers available in the game, which means I don't have to spend half the game day (six minutes roughly) just watering my crops. But what am I left to do, then? Get a horse? Get a fish pond? Make sure I give the right birthday gifts to every single villager in the town? I wish they'd change their dialogue once in a while.

19 March, Thursday

Today I returned to the supermarket, and my, what a difference a week makes.

For one, there are barely any vehicles. There are some cars along EDSA, sure, but the rules dictate that you absolutely must work from home unless you're allowed to work at the office, and that you can only really use your car if you're doing "essential errands" like, say, shopping for groceries. But I don't have a car, so I have to walk for fifteen minutes. I've been doing that for a while, though, so not much of a worry, that one.

If I did have a car with me, though, well, I'd probably panic at the idea of buses driving past their mandated 60 kilometers per hour along EDSA. And then I remembered, ah, right, all public transportation has been suspended.

The shelves aren't empty. Well, some are - the tissues aisle is somehow more stripped of its contents than last week. And as it's later in the day, the vegetable and meat sections are half empty, too. But for the most part, it seems some of the work my colleagues and I have done to make sure the groceries keep functioning have worked. I was honestly expecting empty shelves, particularly as this enhanced lockdown - community quarantine, sorry - led to each city and municipality going their own way and closing their own borders, never mind how things actually work here. What I didn't expect, however, is this somber air in the aisles, of people wearing masks and moving like they're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

I chatted with one of the cashiers. Asked her how things have been.

"Buti nakakapasok pa kayo," I told her.

"'Yung iba, taga-Antipolo, hindi makapasok," she said.

So, right now, we're well-stocked, I think. Enough vegetables for a month? Perhaps not, but enough to not rely on canned goods. I know this reeks of privilege. I have to say it because people have had too much time on their hands and have decided to cancel anyone they disagree with, all because they have to look good.

Maybe we should wish this lockdown - community quarantine - ends sooner than the four weeks originally planned so people can go back to work and be really busy, rather than pretend to be, like me.

Also, maybe, I should've done my laundry before all this happened. Now the laundry downstairs is closed and we have to wash our own underwear. Not that we can't do it, but the washing machine is still down my shopping list.

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