After three long weeks of slow-moving days that seemed to bleed into each other, our last few days in the Philippines were hectic as we scrambled to tie up loose ends and set our affairs in order. Finding someone to keep an eye on the apartment and serve as our proxy was easy, but we also had a few errands to run, which proved no easy feat in light of Manila’s enhanced community quarantine.
Posts tagged ‘security’
From decision to departure we had a little less than five days – a little more than 100 hours to set our affairs in order, find a place to stay in the States, complete the bureaucratic steps to enable our evacuation, and pack. Although we reduced our work hours, we also continued performing our jobs, which for S included assisting other Americans stranded in the Philippines by the pandemic.
We made it most of the way through the initial thirty days of Manila’s coronavirus lockdown. By the time the authorities announced a two-week extension a couple of days ago, we had already made up our minds to leave the Philippines while we still could. It was not a decision we took lightly. On the contrary, trying to read the tealeaves in the country’s pandemic response to gauge whether we should stay or go was pretty much our only topic of conversation after the State Department announced a worldwide authorized departure, allowing employees to evacuate to the United States.
A couple of weeks ago, when Manila’s quarantine was in its infancy and authorities were still fine-tuning measures to effectively corral the population, we came across a post from an Italian blogger. At the time, Italy had already been on lockdown for several weeks while most of the rest of the world was just beginning to come to grips with the need for social distancing and stay-at-home directives. With the benefit of three weeks of hindsight, the author advised readers not to look for silver linings. They will come, she wrote, but not right away; trying to find a way to spin one’s confinement in a positive direction right at the outset is bound to drive one insane.
With March nearly behind us, we can’t remember the last time we had looked forward to turning the calendar page with this much eagerness. Perhaps it was when we were approaching S’s due date before Munchkin was born. In April we’ll begin the two-week countdown to the end of the 30-day Manila quarantine decreed what seems like many moons ago. We’re not so naïve as to think that the city’s lockdown will come to an abrupt end on April 14; much more likely than not it will be extended. Still, we’ve now made it through 16 days, and the arrival of a new month is a milestone worth celebrating.
As Americans under coronavirus lockdown in the Philippines, we feel like we are living two alternate realities. On the one hand, we are mortified by the news back home. With testing delays and half-measures contributing to the United States now leading the world in the number of confirmed cases, the American response seems critically inadequate. On the other hand, we are now two weeks into an increasingly restrictive “enhanced” community quarantine in Manila and feeling the acute pressure of draconian measures imposed on us. If the response in the United States has not gone far enough, the reality we are living suggests that it is also quite easy to go overboard in the other direction.
On the upside, we have made it through 10 days and are now one-third of the way through Manila’s 30-day lockdown with our sanity still mostly intact. On the downside, things are likely to get a lot worse before they get any better, and it seems rather unlikely that the quarantine will be lifted – or even relaxed – after only 30 days. We are continuing to live day-to-day, not so much because we want to but because it seems that every day brings with it a new set of restrictive measures that make us revisit our decision to remain in the Philippines.
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown
This town is coming like a ghost town.
— The Specials, “Ghost Town”
A few days into our quarantine, we wrote about how it felt like the other shoe had just dropped: what had started out as a partial lockdown of Metro Manila had quickly escalated, with a curfew, the closure of most businesses and public places and, finally, the suspension of international travel. This beast, it turns out, has more than two feet, because the shoes keep on dropping. The latest restriction, imposed by our condominium board this evening, is a near total prohibition on exiting our residence compound. Read more
Saturday marks the one-week anniversary of our final pre-quarantine date night, which feels like a lifetime ago. It was a week of constant flux and uncertainty, as the Philippine government tightened its lockdown, the Embassy endeavored to keep up with the rapidly changing regulatory framework, and the State Department issued its now-or-never travel advisory. Some of our colleagues and friends from the international community departed before the lockdown went into effect; many others were on the fence and scrambled to make a decision while air travel from Manila was still possible.
“Chunk it!” Munchkin’s favorite reading tool – trying to decipher an unfamiliar word by “chunking” it into smaller, easier-to-read portions – seems like an apt strategy for navigating these uncertain times. With the global pandemic still on the upswing, our 30-day quarantine may well be the beginning of a much longer period of imposed isolation. China is just now beginning to emerge from its two-months-long lockdown. Looking ahead to potentially many months of this new status quo is a depressing thought indeed. Focusing on the now and taking things one day at a time, on the other hand, is helping maintain our sanity and nurture the hope that things will turn okay on the other side of these dark, troubled times.