4/17/2020
Lockdown-not-lockdown, week five

10 April, Friday

I think the first reminder I got that Holy Week was coming up was last Sunday. One of my colleagues constantly posts those religious messages on our group chats, and that day he was all, "may you all have a blessed Palm Sunday!" I spared a thought for those who usually creates the palaspas, and then I continued queuing for the supermarket.

This is the fifth week of the quarantine period across pretty much everywhere, and as much as I've managed to still have a semblance of weekdays and weekends, everything still feels like a blur, more so today, because what used to be a different day than most is just the same as every other day. As a kid I used to look forward to the special television schedules, but now all networks have had different schedules to accommodate postponed productions. (That, and we don't really have TV here in the flat.) I almost forgot that I don't have to work, but then, it didn't stop someone from sending me an unsolicited appointment request - on my personal email address, even - and following up as if this quarantine meant we have also lost every definition of "holiday".

Yesterday my mother sent me a slightly despair-tinged message. You see, for the past few years we had this family tradition of sorts, where we would go to Yellow Cab on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday for dinner. That's gone on long enough that, last year, we had the extended family - meaning the five of us, plus Shalla and Tin, my brother's girlfriend - sharing pizza and pasta. But not this year, because the stores are closed, and you can't really go out and about, or at least in theory.

Thing is, Yellow Cab had reopened just a handful of branches this week, and one of them happens to be a walking distance from the flat.

"Gawin namin bukas," I replied to my mother.

There were limited options, and the stores were open for just nine hours rather than twenty-four, and they were only open for delivery orders. So that meant Shalla and I only had a pepperoni pizza and a large chicken alfredo - the same thing we ordered on the first weekend of the quarantine, but with less sauce, for some reason - and it was for lunch. And since we really can't finish a whole pizza in one go, it had to go to the fridge, where we would, I imagine, eat it for the next week or so, in between all the other leftovers I had made. But it felt like I was taking one for everyone. I was continuing the tradition when the rest of my family couldn't. And that's not for lack of trying. I think they tried to look for any pizza restaurant that was open and did delivery to where they are. Unsurprisingly, no luck.


11 April, Saturday

Today marks a year since I closed the so-called music blog I used to run.

"Don't you want to resurrect it now?" Camille asked me a few days ago.

"It will stay dead," I answered. "If I return, it'll be low key, [under a] different name, and maybe not as tied to the news cycle."

"This makes sense. New life."

"Yeah. I actually don't miss it."


12 April, Sunday

Train to Busan made me realize that I will never, ever enjoy horror films.

Shalla and I watched it in the cinemas a few years back. I was already apprehensive, but she liked horror films, and I thought I should give the genre another shot. Nope. A third of the way through the film I got so scared my heart started palpitating. I had to leave my seat and sit on the floor just near the entrances.

"Ser, bawal po umupo diyan," a security guard told me.

"Teka, masakit dibdib ko," I told him.

"Ah... gusto ba ninyong pumunta sa clinic?"

"Hindi na, hindi na."

I did go back to my seat after twenty minutes, but put my earphones on and slept my way through the film. Shalla was pretty annoyed, if I recall correctly. We shouldn't have watched it if I was just going to do what I did, she said.

Today we watched Midsommar on television. It's more unsettling than jumpy, so I watched it a bit, barely managing to follow the plot and just marveling at the production design. It's the way Scandinavian horror does things, Shalla told me; the oddly arresting yet ultimately creepy image.

And then I realized that, at some point, I was able to be mesmerized by those things. I watched all three seasons of Hannibal. For a network television series it managed to get away with a lot of things. There was this scene on the second season which revealed the murder of a recurring cast member, and it was presented to us in this fascinating yet morbid manner. It was that rare show where all the elements worked together: the vision of Bryan Fuller, the music of Brian Reitzell, the tension between Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy. I should rewatch it again.

But should I? Midsommar had an early scene that did the same thing, revealing the suicide of the lead character's sister and her parents from carbon monoxide poisoning. She turned on two cars in the garage and tubed the fumes directly to her face. It was the sort of imagery that makes me want to kill myself. I hate being hopeless. I hate being reminded of my hopelessness. But perhaps it's because this felt much more real, unlike Hannibal, where you knew it was definitely stylized and bent reality just a little bit.

What I'm saying is, you do not make me watch a horror film.


13 April, Monday

As the debate rages on about how long we should essentially hit pause on our economy to stop the coronavirus from wreaking havoc further, we tend to not really think of the emotional impact this lockdown-not-lockdown is causing. I'm bent on calling it an emotional pause: it's like, as much as our world and our lives has stopped, the way we process things also has to stop. Anything that has to do with you and your well-being has to stop, because otherwise you're being selfish. I'm not sure I articulated that well, but there you go.

If you're a glass-half-full person, the past few weeks has proven, over and over again, that there is hope in humanity and that people will come together for a common cause, one that benefits everyone, given the chance. Me, I'm cynical. I'm pretty sure they're just trying to find a silver lining in all this despair. It may feel good to have been able to get all these masks and PPEs to those who need it, but then there's always someone who's looking to fuck it all up, to redirect, to obfuscate, to complicate.

If you're a glass-half-empty person, like me, then it's likely people want us to die from this pandemic so they can live their happy lives. But then, people will be more selfish now than ever before. You're stuck at home, unable to go out, and so suddenly the only thing that's important to you is what you believe, what you want, what you think you deserve. (But then you'll have to do lip service to caring about others because that makes you look good.) I guess it's because you haven't seen most of everybody else in a long time. You talk to your friends via chat apps and video calls. You tolerate your family's presence. Everybody else is just a hypothetical. Pictures or they never happened.

So this is why I don't have any friends.


14 April, Tuesday

I know what I said yesterday, but today I was on the phone with someone for a combined five hours, roughly.

I think the last time I had a phone call that long was with Shalla, in the early years of our relationship. Not an online voice call, but one made through actual cell towers. I remember that there was a three-hour limit, imposed either by the network or by our phones; the call will cut afterwards and we'll have to call again. That ruins the momentum a bit, because suddenly we don't know - or is it just me? - what we'll talk about next.

Apart from that, I don't think I've ever had phone calls that long. Either I was a boring person, or I got bored easily. That, and as time passed by it became absolutely clear to me that most people are not interested in what I have to say.

Today's phone call was an online voice call, so no three-hour limits. As I watched the timer go past that mark, and remembered that it will not cut off, I wondered how I managed to be at this point where this person would choose to talk to me for this long. Okay, the circumstances weren't ideal. But that aside, why me? I often still question myself. I guess I've so often seen the worst in people because they've often just seen the worst in me.


15 April, Wednesday

I'm no gamer, so it's overwhelming for me to discover, from the sidelines, the massive economy that has sprouted around Animal Crossing.

On the sidelines, because I can't be bothered setting up my online capabilities. Yes, you can visit other people's islands, but you'll have to register for a couple of things and, well, I don't want to be that overwhelmed. I've long contented myself with just visiting mystery islands to pillage for resources.

The regular way of doing things is to accumulate enough recipes to craft items with, have enough resources to craft said items, hope the balloons in the sky give you what you want, or pray that the Nook's Cranny in your island has what you need at a given time. I know people can be impatient - my bathroom is barely a bathroom - so they visit other people's islands and swap things. In the game, anything you have in your pockets at some point becomes part of your catalog, which means you can order it once you're in your island. So, say, if your friend has an espresso machine and you don't, they can just allow you to catalog the item and, when you fly back, you can buy the thing and wait for it to arrive the next day, unless you're one of those time-travelling people.

There have long been communities that sprouted around the game; Shalla's part of a couple of those before the game officially dropped. In the past few weeks, though, I've seen her spend her post-work days checking these communities to see if there's something she's interested in, before going to those islands (with their permission, of course) to catalog them. Of course, she's also done things the other way around. She even had a giveaway earlier, of items she's accumulated and doesn't like or need. Wrapped them all up in (virtual) wrapping paper, fenced every other part of the island, and had strangers over.

Of course this means people can be quite outrageous. For the most part players can ask for tips, but some demand ridiculous payments before getting access to their islands. Like, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million bells, for entry. Three Nook Miles Tickets for the chance to speak to Celeste, an owl who will provide you with celestial DIY recipes for items that cost a lot. It can be mindblowing, but apparently this is normal - for what do I know anyway? All I know is, Animal Crossing triggers this ridiculous sense of FOMO, that you will want to have everything as soon as you can so you can show it off. The game's tiring that way.

But you can be a bigger asshole and steal items instead of cataloging them. Shalla lost not one, but two cypress baths that way. One costs 13,000 bells each. Sure, she can easily order them again, but one, it's a chore, and two, that delays the planned outdoor zen bath on an unspecified corner of the island. Eh, I'm happy to not be part of all that.


16 April, Thursday

Now more than ever, I couldn't help but notice how large numbers of people carry narratives around. Perhaps it's boredom. Perhaps it's me pretending to be smarter than I really am. Well, neither's a prerequisite. Just watch. You can see how people tend to have roughly the same thoughts at roughly the same time, and how that influences other people to either embrace those thoughts, or actively push back against it. Just take the list of personalities those with loudspeakers have decided should be cancelled for saying something unsavory.

Last week you notice people were starting to toy with the idea of this quarantine period being extended. There were some quiet rumblings from the public - they can't be other than quiet, because that would be crazy, some might say - but then the experts began to come out in favor, and then some high-ranking people in government, and then, bingo, we have an extension. In this case, it's like people in high places were testing out the idea and gauging the reaction. It also helped that most were inclined to agree, considering how the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is still going up, and how desperately scary that sounds if you just take certain soundbites.

This week's thought feels a little bit different, though. There were some posts about how the markets were getting crowded despite calls for social distancing. Unfortunate, but I guess people wanted a semblance of being normal, especially since Easter was coming. Inevitably, there were people who got angry (as much as you could on a social media post) at these people. Why the fuck are you breaking the rules? Stay at home! Don't fuck it up for the rest of us! An urge to put themselves in a pedestal, surely, never mind that when Starbucks reopened some of their branches last week they also flouted the rules and braved the queues, social distancing be damned, for their cravings, so much so that the branches closed again.

Somehow, that's what the conversation morphed into in this fifth week. People, assuming their roles on a pedestal they themselves made, calling out other people for fucking things up for them. I get that this lockdown-not-lockdown is getting tedious and folks are impatient to have their lives back (or something close to it), but I didn't expect us to start turning on each other like this. Or perhaps I was hoping that wouldn't happen. But then, as I said a few days back, when we're stuck in the same four walls, we tend to just think of ourselves. That, and there were those posts on social media yesterday about the larger-than-expected number of people queuing in checkpoints, fucking things up further for those in their pedestals.

Today, things took a slightly more sinister turn. First, Harry Roque made his oddly-timed comeback as presidential spokesperson by essentially chastising Filipinos for being so undisciplined. Otherwise, he argued, we wouldn't have the most number of cases among all ASEAN countries. And then, the president himself made another televised address, where he pretty much said the same things his defenders on social media have said for years - the "what have you done for the country?" shtick - and then went further, threatening what he describes as a martial law-like lockdown if quarantine violators continued to do as they please. But of course, all this well end up there, right?

And your responses...

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