Life on Lockdown: The Year That Was

Jello de los Reyes

March 15, 2021

Trigger Warning: The following content might trigger flashbacks of sad experiences and memories during the lockdown. If you need prayers or someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to message us. We’re here for you!

Exactly a year ago today, the government placed the National Capital Region (NCR) on lockdown. I am writing this article right now in a coffee shop, face mask on, alcohol within reach.

From where I’m sitting, I have a clear view of people wearing face masks and face shields as they enter the mall. The guards diligently check their temperature and implement strict safety protocols.

This wasn’t the case this time last year, but when the entire country was placed under quarantine, our lives were forever changed.

Sudden Ending

MARCH 9, 2020. Just like any other Monday, we woke up to start another week and carried on with the humdrum of our individual lives—oblivious to the fact that the world we knew was about to change in a heartbeat.

That morning, thousands of students dragged themselves out of bed, went to school just as usual, and spent their entire day in class. Later that day, the government would announce the week-long suspension of classes due to the COVID situation.

When that was announced, the students broke into celebration. They had no idea that day would be the last time they’ll set foot in school or see their friends face-to-face. Everything changed in an instant. Notch, a graduating student at that time, described it poignantly

“It was all so sudden. There were no warnings at all. Maybe if there were warnings, we would have gone through our last few weeks of high school and college differently. We could have shown our appreciation to our teachers who helped us get through, and to our friends and classmates that we will no longer be seeing every day. We could have spent a little more time in our classrooms to savor our last few days. We could have walked a little slower along the halls that housed us in the last few years. But at this point, all we can do is wonder what might have been.”

To a lot of people, the pandemic had taken so much more. Celebrations were called off. Plans were altered. Flights were cancelled. Many families lost a mom, a dad, or a child. It even took away some people’s chance to properly grieve for the dead as funerals were disallowed.

Yet, in the face of all the things we lost, life revealed to us the things that we’ve gained:

We gained a new perspective about what’s truly valuable in life. We realized the value of the seemingly trivial like the high-fives we shared with friends or the freedom to breathe without obstruction or fear. 

We gained new spiritual muscles that allowed us to weather the insurmountable challenges posed by the pandemic.

We were given precious time with our families and loved ones at home. Life before COVID-19 was like an endless whirlwind for most of us. But this pandemic forced us to take things slow, reevaluate our own lives, and reconnect with our key relationships.

The World in Dystopia

MARCH 12, 2020. The situation quickly escalated and took a turn for the worst. The government’s efforts to ease the tension had been largely unsuccessful as fake news and scary videos circulated online.

Everything felt bizarre that day. Things looked normal on the surface: Malls were open; cars filled the streets; the sun was shining just as usual; and people were going about their day-to-day lives. But beneath the surface, something sinister was looming in the air.

True enough, on the evening of that day, the president announced that NCR will be placed on lockdown. That announcement came as a shock, and the entire nation was jolted as if by a thunderbolt. Anxiety and fear spread like wildfire.

When the president announced the lockdown, our lives took a steep downturn into a world of paranoia and fear and a constant fight for dear life. We woke up to a world that we only used to see in dystopian films: long queues in the groceries; crowds wearing masks; military men guarding borders and checkpoints; and ominous alarms announcing the curfew. Going to the grocery felt like a life-and-death mission to save my family. 

Amid the fear and the chaos, the only thing that gave me comfort was the truth that God is still in control. None of the things that happened took Him by surprise. His invitation was for us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). When the dust has settled, He will be exalted and He will make all things beautiful.

The Fight for Sleep and Sanity

MAY 29, 2020. After two months of being in quarantine, the adrenaline rush to fight for survival had finally subsided and I found myself figuratively gasping for air. Life on lockdown had become suffocating; I longed for freedom and I missed being with people. So, as the summer rain poured down, I opened my Spotify and listened to the songs that I used to listen to when life was still normal. 

Being isolated from our support network was tough, especially when we’re fighting some difficult battles. Technology is great, but it fell short in meeting our need for human connection. Video calls may have allowed us to communicate and see one another despite the distance, but they were nothing compared to the hours-long hangout with our friends in our favorite coffee shop.

COVID-19 did not just rob us of a chance to be with one another. It also robbed us of sleep. I will never forget the frustration I felt after tossing and turning in bed for hours in pursuit of the ever elusive sleep. So many things kept us up all night, such as fear of death, uncertainty of the future, and the bitter taste of loneliness and isolation.

Health officials sounded the alarm on mental health as cases of depression and anxiety increased. I myself reached a point where I didn’t know what to feel anymore. I felt numb and overwhelmed at the same time, leading to emotional burnout.

Nevertheless, the pandemic allowed me to experience God’s power, comfort, and presence in a way that I have never experienced. The past year felt like we were walking on a tightrope atop the valley of the shadow of death. But God was with us, sustaining us and guiding us every step of the way.

As David had written: “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” (Psalm 3:4–5)

In the months that followed, our nation had transitioned to a less strict quarantine classification. Little by little, the economy reopened and people were allowed to go out of their homes even without a quarantine pass. Malls, parks, and businesses reopened.

The number of cases started to decline, and the race for the monumental vaccine has reached its conclusion.

At last, life slowly regained some semblance of normalcy.

On December 31, 2020, as the clock ticked away the last second of the most difficult year of our lifetime, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Thank you, Lord. We made it. 

Waiting for Redemption 

MARCH 15, 2021. Exactly one year into the pandemic, here we are: wounded but slowly recovering, crushed but not destroyed; we were isolated but never abandoned.

The COVID saga continues. Authorities say we’re experiencing a new surge in the number of new cases, and rumors of yet another lockdown are looming on the horizon.

The pandemic is still far from over, but I know that God will carry us through until the end. God is a God of redemption. He is the God who makes all things new; the God who turns sorrow into joy, weakness into strength, and tragedies into testimonies.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

Dark times may be upon us, and evil still lurks in the shadows. But though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil. (Psalm 23:4)

We live in a dark and broken planet, but, thank God there is hope and healing beyond this world. Death may be inevitable in this side of eternity, but there is life beyond the grave. Those who belong to Christ will live forever. (John 11:25)

If fear is a spirit, then let us respond in the opposite spirit. Let our response be driven by a spirit of courage, love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Fight the good fight of the faith. Endure till the end, and live to tell your story to the next generation of how you were able to live through this pandemic by God’s grace. 

In the end, God will redeem everything that we’ve lost. And all the sufferings we’ve endured can never compare to the joy and glory that will soon be revealed to us when Jesus returns. (Romans 8:18)

 

Photo by: Jaime Morados

 

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The Author

Jello de los Reyes

Jello is an introvert who loves to spend time with students. He once dreamed of becoming a journalist to expose evil in government, but God’s destiny for him is to root out evil in the hearts of men as a minister of the gospel. For him, nothing beats the joy of seeing young students surrender their lives to Christ. Jello currently serves as the editor-in-chief of ENC.ph.

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