By CHARISSE VILCHEZ
It was March 12 when community quarantine was announced for Metro Manila. Our office put a skeleton workforce in place; the company was to be split into two teams on rotation to practice social distancing. The day after the announcement, I cleaned up the apartment I was renting in Makati and packed overnight clothes to go home to Cainta to spend time with Mom, which I usually do on weekends. My dad was in Subic, where he is currently based, while my brother stayed in the south. The plan was to be in the city by Monday — but then enhanced community quarantine was enforced.
My mom and I were lucky to have enough supplies in the beginning, but by the second week of ECQ, we started running out of food. I ordered enough take-out the next couple of days until my brother or dad could return home (Thank goodness for Grab Food!). I was going on with my day and attending more con calls for work when the driver messaged saying that they’re not allowed to enter the village. I had to go all the way to the gate to pick up our food. I completely forgot about this small detail: let’s just say it took me 30 to 40 minutes to get to the gate on foot. We didn’t have a spare car that I could use, so I had no choice.
When I got to the gate, I thanked Kuya Frontliner for waiting (and being so patient!) but, I am not going to lie, I really felt like crying afterwards. A lot of emotions just started kicking in — frustration, anxiety, worry, and the whole idea of uncertainty. I’ve reached my breaking point, not just because I had to go all the way out to get an item, or because I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this Grab driver who didn’t even utter a single complaint, but because of this entire ordeal we’re all in.
I messaged a friend about it because I knew it wouldn’t be healthy to keep it all inside. I also had to calm myself down because I know there are a lot of people who are going through a lot, too. We all have different problems and definitely different ways of coping. I just had to fix my mindset and accept the fact that major adjustments needed to be made for everyone.
The next day, my friend who lent me her ear when I was feeling dismayed, decide to lend me her bike. She said that it was the least she could do, so I could get errands done while my mom stays at home. Since we’re from the same area, she can have it delivered. The catch? I will have to walk all the way to the gate again to meet her because of our village protocols. But this time, I was excited. Finally, something to look forward to. The walk the next day didn’t seem too long. It felt like Christmas at the start of summer!
The sight of my friend’s parked car made me smile from ear to ear, and before I knew it, I was in tears. I was deeply moved by her kindness and it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve seen a kabarkada. She told me she had to look for a gas station that would pump the tires of the bike (while she gave a huge tip to the personnel!) and how she enjoyed the drive going to our area. Bonus: she gave me a care package of Korean goodies. No words could express how grateful I felt that afternoon. I got a bike, a bag with dim sums and snacks to share with my mom (the soju is all mine), and a brief but sweet heart-to-heart talk with one of my best buddies. Hugs were the only thing missing, of course. This situation is teaching us to be more compassionate and to have empathy. I do believe that one random act of kindness can go a long way. I experienced this through a friend and I do want to pay it forward in some way.
I’ve had one of my most productive afternoons since the lockdown on this bike. I stopped at a fruit stand — bought bananas, oranges, and star apples for my mom. I was able to go to a small sari-sari store and buy melon juice. Chatted with the manager for a bit. Went to the laundry shop to drop off some items; asked the owner how her business was doing. I could feel that the people I encountered at each stop also felt happy to see someone. I sensed their appreciation for a quick interaction and the thought of a stranger being concerned about their small business. This also helped me become less anxious, because I am able to contribute more at home especially for my mom. My friend’s bike, an extension of her kindness to me, has become an enabler of kindness in myself.
Having a bike lent to me at this time is something I will never forget. Why? There’s that feeling of helplessness that I personally had to face almost every day. The bike, since I will return it eventually, is a reminder that all this is temporary. When I use it, there’s motion and action, and it reminds me that just because the entire world has halted because of this pandemic, there’s no reason to stop moving. Exercise. Send that email. Turn that page. The most beautiful part is that we can do these things at our own pace. This time, no one is chasing us. The wheels of the bike go round and round, reminding us to embrace this fact of life: sometimes we’re up, sometimes we’re down.
We’ll get by with a little help from our friends — with the kindness we receive and the kindness we give. The kindness I see in others, and the kindness I find in myself, inspire me to just keep on pedaling.