My COVID Stories*: The Past Five Months

(*Stories of what happened to me during the COVID-19 pandemic)

I have not posted anything in this blog for 5 months now. Just like the past posts, this is a life update so that my future self has something to look back.

The COVID-19 delta variant has now become the dominant variant in the Philippines. I used to be alarmed whenever the COVID-19 cases in my city reach 500. As of September 18, there are 1,524 active cases in my city. Now I live in fear. If can delay going out and doing the grocery, I delay them. I try do all my errands for the week in one day. I stay home the rest of the week. This is one of the many privileges I have as a freelancer. Not everyone is as lucky as I am so I try my best not to get the virus. I have that advantage of staying at home.

Glad I was able to meet up with friends and family before the COVID cases increased.

I met friends for dinner when many of them came home to visit family.

I was able to spend time at the beach even in the middle of a typhoon! hahaha Talk about bad timing but we had fun anyway.

We spent some time in the “mountains” even if I was on the look out on those amphibians that I feared most.

I was able to attend the wedding of a good friend.

There were quick meetups just to catch up a bit.

I spent time with family.

I have been vaccinated for the 1st dose only because I got the rarest vaccine of them all- Sputnik V. Ha! There was difficulty in the production and delivery of the second dose. I try to see the positive side of the situation. Not having the 2nd dose yet made me a lot more careful. I take comfort at the reports that more antibodies are produced at longer vaccine intervals.

Then cases started rising so I stayed at home.

I made my stay-at-home time as pleasant as possible.

I spent time with my furry friends.

I joined my high school alumni online games. I placed 5th against these super smart people. Wohoo!

I continued to be a plantita. Nah, I just took photos with the plants of my tita. hahaha

I did more art. ( I will write about these more in the separate blog posts)

I watched more K-dramas, listened to podcasts and chatted with friends and family to constantly keep in touch.

Oh, I spent another pandemic birthday at home. Actually, I like spending birthdays quietly. The best birthdays are the ones where I do not have to fuss about preparing and hosting well-wishers. I wanted the chill kind of birthday so I just ordered Jollibee for breakfast and Mang Inasal for lunch and ate leftovers for dinner.

My very thoughtful friend, Gail, all the way from Pasay, made an effort to search for Butuan cake supplier on Facebook and ordered this awesome cake. She contacted Maxim and had this cake delivered to my house. Since I have been wanting to go to the beach, she brought the beach to my cake! The Katriona name was an inside joke (now made public hahaha). A few years ago, I made a Tiktok dub with Catriona’s winning answer in Miss Universe.

My friends, Mitzi and Erns, dropped by to give me their gifts. I am blessed with thoughtful friends.

I got videocalls, Facebook posts and greetings that day. I feel loved especially that they remembered my birthday even when I deactivated birthday notifications on Facebook.

This is my 44-year-old self. I need lighting to blur out the fine lines. hahahaha

Till the next life update!

My COVID Stories: My 2020 So Far

Prelude to Quarantine

For three years, I have kept this kind of journal. These contain pictures of the highlights of my year.

I have allocated the same type for this year but it is currently empty. I hope to find time to fill them with pictures.

This year, I upped the ante by writing more. I finally used the journal a friend gave me after I hoarded 2 more from a trip. So I am probably good for 2 more years of journal pages. I wrote this in December 31, 2019 to welcome 2020:

For 2020, I hope to fill my days with art, conversations, laughter and ideas. May I have moments of peace where I can listen to my heart, listen to God and just be. I hope to stay healthy and be a friend and family to the people around me. Life may not have given me longer time with my own family but I do get to spend time with the ones I have left. (Something wrong with the sentence but that’s what I wrote. I need an editor. hahaha) It is amazing how people form (become) part of my life through the years and I am glad with the ones I met along the way. I am looking forward to more fulfilling and purposeful life. May I live with intent and love. Goodbye 2019 and hello 2020!

I still have bad penmanship.

Funny how I never mentioned travel, how I wrote about moments of peace, being healthy and living with intent. And I now realize that the intention was just to stay alive.

This is what nine months of writing looks like. Yeah, not only do I write for a living, I also made it a hobby.  Grammar, be damned.  As if I don’t have enough hobbies to begin with. Full-time hobbyist, part-time worker.

As much as I enjoyed being at home, I looked through my photos before the pandemic and there were many things I did early this year that I surely missed. These are something I look forward to doing again when this COVID-19 pandemic is over.

I almost forgot it was only this year that I went to a fiesta with friends, had a Chinese New Year’s party , singles’ valentine’s party with cousins and met up with friends.

I got to hug these kids. I can’t now.

I miss my nephew, Adi. I browsed through my phone. I did not get to see him this year.

I never thought last February was the last time that, in maybe a long while, I get to fly for leisure…

… and travel for work.

The Quarantine Life

Things changed in March. Supposedly, I had a full schedule. I made a fuss about it in one of my projects. Then the pandemic happened and, boom, I was cooped up at home. While art and gardening helped me manage my anxiety, adjusting to life in quarantine has it ups and downs. I take it one day at the time.

I was supposed to spend the onset of summer in Dinagat with friends. I did not even get to meet them anymore but they sure know how to make me happy. They made sure I get my pasalubong nevertheless.

Then, there was the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Just outside my gate, there was a barricade. No one can pass this side of the street. Well, except me, since they placed it before my gate. But if you know me, I do not go out unless it is my schedule to do essential stuff.

I wore mask and sunglasses whenever I go out. The streets then were almost empty (unlike today). I usually go to the grocery to buy food.

I try to keep my small pantry stocked. I am not really a hoarder. Maybe because I live in the middle of the city surrounded with food supplies. I can always take a quick trip to buy essentials twice a week.

This is my quarantine pass. I can do my errands twice a week. However, it is really such a hassle to go out.

I do not like wearing masks. It is suffocating for me. It is much more difficult now that we are required to wear a face shield.

I do my errands as quickly as I can. Prolonged wearing of face masks makes me tired. I usually just rest after an errand because it is so tiring. My middle-aged body calls for a rest. Just two hours of errand and I would be in my bed the rest of the day. So many wasted time. But didn’t I wish for moments of peace in 2020? This is the universe granting my wish. Ha! I know someday when we are back to the daily grind, I would look back at these days where I could just rest as I please.

Yes, staying at home is a way better option for me. I acknowledge that I may belong to the privileged few that can manage to stay at home. I am thankful for that. I pray for those who uncomfortably work full-time with mask and shield on.

I am thankful that I can work from home. My work entailed documenting seminars and other capacity building activities and these had shifted online via different web conferencing platforms. I used my parents’ old room as work area. I get the privacy I needed and this room has air-conditioning.

Not a fancy setup.

I have chosen this space so as not to cause mishaps like somebody passing behind my back while on videocall. I made sure there was a wall behind me.

I also made sure not to set it up in my own room where I get dressed. I read too many stories about those who did not turn off their cameras and ended up in a viral video in a bad way.

I have set aside my lounge pants for online meetings. No mishaps from me! But crazy old me still exists. I have enough lounge-y pants in my closet that I have not worn denims since the start of the quarantine. I should try to wear jeans again just to check if they still fit.

I stopped wearing makeup because no matter how fresh I feel. I looked like I am fresh out of bed on the screen. Let’s blame my 7-year-old laptop, shall we?

One of the things that kept me sane in this pandemic is that I have to walk these two twice a day. That is my exercise. I read we need Vitamin D every day so I get mine by walking and by gardening. Since I avoid hugging people, I am happy I have these two to hug.

I have refused to attend gatherings even if my relatives said there are only “a few of us”. In my head, I counted the possible few. I felt that (if my math was right) the number of people and area of their house defy social distancing rules.-not to mention being in an enclosed air-conditioned space with masks off, sharing of meals, laughter and chitchatting. I can imagine the saliva flying in the air and how easy it is to spread some deadly disease. No thanks. This is how I put my mathematics degree to practice. Hahaha I try to calculate things in my head and roll my eyes. I say no to gatherings and spare everyone of my anxiety.

I do understand how some people may be tired of following the protocols and just want to live their life the way the want to save their sanity. I am tired, too, but I still want to live so I wear my mask, wash my hands, practice social distancing and go out only for essentials. We have different ways to cope. I always follow the “Better be safe than sorry” route. And if for some reason, I catch the disease after doing all the possible precautions, I will try my best to live to tell the tale.

Even if I missed all the gatherings, I always keep in touch online. I enjoy the videocalls to family, high school classmates, friends and college roommates. I’ll just blur their faces because I am too lazy to message each one of them that I am posting their photos.

I also have my daily updates from friends through group chat. I get to keep in touch more with friends whether near or far and in various communication channels. I really do not miss much of the outside world. (Well, except when my friends post beach photos in areas where COVID-19 cases are low, I get jealous. That is when I feel I am missing a lot. )

I was able to go out to dine only once so far. It was in this not-so-accessible area in the city. My cousin was driving me around while our dog was being groomed. Aside from us, there was a couple in a table behind this divider.

The cafe was practically empty which soothed my anxious heart. The people in the photo were waiting for their take out.

Social distancing guides are in place.

I can’t reach my cousin from across the table so good job, Roadtrip Cafe.

By August, my hardinera heart became a plantita. Hardinera is what I can myself when I grow vegetables while plantita is for what I call myself for taking care of ornamental plants. Between my aunt and I, there was an unwritten delineation of tasks. I take care of my vegetables while she takes care of her plants. For some reason, the algorithm always shows all plants on my social media feed. I love this huge caladiums I saw in my feed that I said I wanted to collect plants with pink and white leaves. (Photo is from @plantqueenloves on IG.)

My aunt gave me my first few plants and now I have a few in my collection given by friends. I hope I can grow the leaves as large as the ones from @plantqueenloves. ( I will write more about the challenges of being a plantita in future posts.)

I also spent my birthday in quarantine.

I celebrated it with my aunts and cousins.

Two people came for lunch and two for dinner. I just ordered food I saw on my feed. I don’t want to spend my birthday cooking. Honestly, this is how I want to celebrate my birthday (pandemic or not)- not stressing about entertaining people and worrying if they enjoyed the food. (I sound like the introvert that I am. I guess the pandemic intensified my aloofness.) Besides, life should be celebrated every day.

So what interests have I caught on this year? Drum roll please. K-drama! I remember watching three K-dramas (which was called Koreanovela then) in the mid 2000s. These were Lovers in Paris, Save the Last Dance for Me and Princess Hours. I also watch Descendants of the Sun a few years ago. I wondered why I never watched more after that. This year I watched Crash Landing on You, Kingdom, Encounter, Goblin and It’s Okay Not to be Okay. I am currently watching Reply 1988.

Let’s see how long I can continue my interest in K-drama.

Oh, I finally got myself a Netflix subscription. Uh-oh. Since I am no longer watching movies in the theater, the subscription is way cheaper than the movie tickets. I hope I am making the most out of the fees I paid. I hope I don’t get sucked into the Netflix blackhole and  hope to learn to opt out someday so that I can explore the world when it is safe.

So far, it is a different and interesting year. I am immensely grateful for the memories and the opportunities that came my way. I hope this pandemic will be over soon and I hope we all survive it.

How’s your 2020 so far?

My COVID Stories: My Art Journey Continues

title page

It has been six years since I started picking up that brush again and thirty one years since I learned how to paint. Yes, I learned how to paint from the womb. Nah, I am a relic. Ha!

At the start of the year, I wrote about getting my hands into digital illustrations. I had plans of getting a cheap graphics tablet just to get some creative juices flowing. We all know that many of our plans for this year did not happen. I only created a single digital illustration this year. There was a toon me challenge on Instagram where you turn into cartoon the half of youf face. This was my take on that challenge.

illustration

On the positive side, I had ample time to do some watercolor artworks.

I have packs of postcard sized watercolor paper. So I started practicing painting dews. It is always a challenge for me to paint any form of water.

dew watercolor

So this is the first artwork for 2020.

leaf dew
And then Taal happened. I saw a video of the plumes of the erupting volcano.

taal volcano

Whenever I have pockets of free time, I paint on the watercolor postcards. A rocky brook, this time around.

I realized that I also made a rocky landscape 5 years before and I think I improved a lot.

I really think that constant practice matters. But then again, my art is also fueled with those intangible things like mood, inspiration and feelings. I think no amount of practice would help improve my art when those things are amiss. Even if I have the time but I do not have the inspiration, I don’t paint. There are no deadlines for me. But that’s just me. Other artists operate differently.

I always try to challenge myself. I have always avoided painting people because they look like caricatures when I paint them. Then I figured I will just paint the back view. Thus, this postcard piece. The reference photo is from unsplash.com.

And I tried to paint something metallic.

My aunt celebrated her 60th birthday last year. I had no gift. Ha! I was supposed to give her a koi painting after she expressed that she wanted one when she saw what I painted for a cousin. She wanted something bigger. I was not able to paint one for her birthday. I think it is never too late to give her one especially that I have a reference photo from the only place in the world with the widest variety of koi- Nishikigoi No Sato!

So after painting non-flowers, I had to go back to botanicals. Flowers are still my favorite subject for paintings.


By March, a friend messaged me if I have a painting that I can donate to a fund drive to help fire victims here in my city. There was a huge fire in a densely populated area. Many of the victims were informal settlers who took refuge in the community covered court. I had paintings in my file but they were unframed so I made one with a subject that has been brewing in my mind for a while.


Then COVID-19 happened. Although it has been on the news since the end of January before we left for Baguio, it was March 15 when community quarantine started and we were supposed to go to Dinagat by March 20 so it was cancelled. I can only dream of the sunrise/sunset by the sea.

My cousin also sent me bunch of beach photos. He had a bright idea to go to Batangas before the community quarantine. I sighed and I just painted.

The quarantine was really getting to my nerves. My stress level was up. My projects for the rest of the month were cancelled so I stayed at home, dreamt of nature and painted.


Somehow I needed to keep my mind off the internet for periods of time in a day. What better way to do that than paint a very detailed subject. Strawberries.


Those little specks in the indentations are actually the seeds. Thinking about it now that I am gardening, we should have saved some seeds! Here’s a backstory: These strawberries are the ones we bought in Baguio. They were huge so we were really enticed to buy even if it was expensive. The vendor told us it would last a week. We just have to leave it in room temperature in its packaging. Fast forward to 5 days after while we were still in Manila, the strawberries had molds. My inner brazen self was telling me that I could eat the parts without molds. Hahaha My cousin who is a nurse insisted that these should be discarded. We should listen to our health workers, right? So we threw away Php 900. Ouch. This painting was my therapy. A friend offered to buy it so that is also my therapy. 😉

strawberries
There were other things that occupied my time while in quarantine. And many of us are familiar with these scenes. *wink wink*


The thing with art is that I always try to challenge myself with something new. This time around I wanted to paint realistic hair. I found a Youtube video detailing how to paint hair and I applied what I learned in this piece.


On the other hand, this piece is not a new concept. However, this is a testament how my art is about how I feel and how I see things. I just wanted to paint peonies. Ha! This is the original piece.


I feel like it was too plain.  So I painted a dark background to make it pop.


Now I kind of miss the old painting. This is the trouble with watercolor. I cannot undo what I did unless I repaint everything. I just have to live with it. Just like life. (Naks! May reflections?)

I was also invited to an online art sale and exhibit, Love in the Time of COVID-19. Thirty percent of the proceeds of the sale was used to support relief operations for micro and small entrepreneurs, artists and designers that are affected by the pandemic. I sold seven paintings for that cause. Some of the paintings were made years ago. I just kept them for my dream art gallery. Yes, in my dreams, I will have my own art gallery. I guess the art gallery of my dreams had to wait. (Wala kang pera, Kat!)

The last two paintings, I did them in May which I also included in the art sale after the other paintings were sold. I am thankful for those who appreciated my art- most of them my friends. When you get such support from the people around you, you realize that not everything is bad in this pandemic. My friends also bought pieces from my artist friends. Thank you so much, friends! I feel the love! I have framed some of the works my friends bought.


My friend in Japan lives Niigata where COVID cases and population density are so low that they can spend their weekends outdoors. During cherry blossoms season, she sent me a lot of dreamy landscapes. They were so beautiful I could cry! So I painted them. I painted two pieces so far and I have at least two more planned when I have the time.


My cousin’s birthday came up and I promised her a painting. She wanted koi after she saw my aunt’s painting. I no longer want to paint koi for a while. I do not have a decent reference photo that I truly love to replicate. I told her I don’t want to repeat the same concept in my painting. Since her name is Cherry, I painted cherry blossoms for her. I even wore my dress that I painted with cherry blossoms.

I was busy with work from May to July so I was only able to find few pockets of time to finish a commissioned piece which almost has the concept of three paintings this year- the back view of a woman. This time, I painted the side view and placed a lot of red roses since the recipient loves red roses.

I shipped this framed painting without glass but it was protected with cold wax – the same way I did with my largest painting to date.


July was world watercolor month and I wish I did a few pieces but I just couldn’t find time to paint. I really do not paint that fast. I take my time. I plan how to execute it. It is a therapeutic process for me. I wish I can be prolific but I am not and it is okay. I still have a number of commissioned pieces on my list and I am thankful for the trust. I’ll take it one rest day at a time since, surprisingly, I still have projects coming in my other job. I thank God for the opportunities because, with this pandemic, my thoughts often wander. Should I find new ways to earn a living? Should I start a full-time creative business with my art? I tread this path carefully. Austin Kleon wrote in his book, ‘Keep Going’: “One of the easiest ways to hate something you love is to turn it into your job: taking the thing that keeps you alive spiritually and turning it into the thing that keeps you alive literally.” Art truly feeds my soul so I try to nurture it well. I try to keep it that way.

But then again he also said something about keeping a daily routine with art which I do not have yet. So far what I do is to challenge myself with a few techniques once in a while and I try to improve on what I already know. Hopefully, in time, I find my own rhythm and continue to produce pieces I really love. Never mind if others do not like it. I paint really for myself and, if others appreciate it, it is already a bonus. Art really helped me ease my anxiety with the pandemic. I get to create scenes I wish to see even if I am stuck in my little corner in this world. I hope I continue to find inspiration in the world around me no matter how bleak things are. I hope everyone struggling in this pandemic is able to figure out how to cope in these trying times.

 

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