January 21, 2022
I am in a more stable condition now. My apologies that it took a longer time. Though I also wish that we did not have to always have to apologize for the duration of time that it takes to write back, and that we had more freedom to dictate the timing for the development of this correspondence. But then this is also sort of an experiment that I agreed to, that we both agreed to, and so I submit and I still apologize.
Now the reason why I was not able to write back is because of an unexpected move. I am now living in Iligan City in Northern Mindanao with my mother and three year old toddler. What was supposed to be only a brief new year’s eve respite from the travail of a very long lockdown in the capital of Manila, has become longer and indefinite.
Our lives and our work, and our things, have always been in Manila especially in the last 6 years. When we came here we shared 20Kg of luggage between the three of us because our plan was to return. I still plan to return the moment the surge in Manila is under control, but we are preparing to leave my child and my mother to stay here on a longer term.
When we left Manila at the end of December, the daily COVID-19 infection rate was just over a hundred, after just a week it has ballooned to 37,000 compelling the health authorities to declare a surge and return the quarantine restrictions that were lifted only last November. It triggered a wave of panic. There was a shortage of Paracetamol and other cough and flu medicines.
I have to admit that from the beginning I have never felt threatened by the virus, given an adult (and now fully vaccinated with a booster) and I have never really lost my liberty of movement. But I have a 75 year old mother and a 3 year old son who are vulnerable. The day care closed, and stay-out nannies could no longer work. I gave up having my own apartment/studio and decided to live with them 24/7 when the pandemic struck. I’ve lost a lot of my freedom when I did this, since then all my decisions and my movement always had to take them into consideration. I also gained so much too, a perspective on the complexity and weight of domestic needs (and parenting) that I experienced with even more intensity because of the lockdown. We spent 18 months together (minus only a month when I was able to travel to EU), and we built the home as the literal physical center of our universe in that full 18 months. We could not look and move far, for a long time this was depressing, but then we also found this as the route to something that we have taken for granted. We got to know our neighbors in the city more, and our neighborhood became closer to becoming a true community. We began to talk, albeit behind masks and face shields, with neighbors we have seen and passed but never found the necessity to even make small talk with. We shared food and made plans on how to extend support for more neighbors outside of our compound who were suffering even more during the lockdown.
If there is one thing that I miss in Manila, it was that spirit that we discovered and sustained in the midst of that difficult time.
I am happy that we are here, the space around us is larger and greener, we surrounded by wind, light and trees. From my window alone, I see three mango trees (two healthy, one shedding leaves), three coconut trees, two acacia trees, one balimbing tree (with fruits!), and bamboo. In the early morning, like right now, if I make a call with audio, you will hear an chorus of birds, roosters, along with goats bleating. At night, it will be mainly a symphony of frogs and the howling of dogs. But like I said, the circumstances in Manila always comes to mind. And sooner and later, I also understand, the reality of cost of living will catch up. There are more opportunities to earn a living in Manila, precisely the reason why people flock to live there. Precisely the reason why my mother and father also moved there.
I am sorry to hear about your friend getting infected, and that you were exposed, preventing you from travelling to Cadiz to join your family. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs and stories about your childhood and your mother.
I should return to the woman in the photograph and tell you more about it as I promised. The context, where it came from, the reason why I created lines across her body. The photographs are now in Köln, Germany in an exhibit called Counter Images that will open tomorrow.