BY FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
THERE is no other way to put it. 2020 has been a horrendous year.
We started the year with the rumblings of Taal Volcano which dislocated families and damaged houses and disrupted livelihood. Our country has been devastated by a number of strong typhoons that cost lives and damaged property. And of course, there is the coronavirus pandemic that has affected the entire world and has caused death, suffering, and economic loss.
But despite a very difficult year, I have always been a person who looks at the silver lining. I have had to go through many rough patches in my life but whether it be poverty, failure, or other crises, I have always believed that with hard work and perseverance, I would see a break in the clouds. Of course, we cannot, and should not underestimate the destruction caused by this pandemic. It has claimed the lives of many and disrupted our lives in so many ways. But, as we await the arrival of the vaccine in our shores, we need to look at some of the positive things that happened because of the pandemic.
When the lockdown was imposed on March 15, forcing all of us to stay at home in order to arrest the spread of COVID-19, people had more time to spend with loved ones. Before, work and school prevented many from spending time with their families but the pandemic changed that. Even those who were away with their families were able to communicate online as the prolonged quarantine made us long for familiar human contact.
At the very least, I think the quarantine gave people the opportunity to slow down and think about what’s really important to them. It showed us how fleeting material gains are. No matter how much you have, it can be taken away in an instant by a pandemic. So people learned to value what they have and that the more important things in life are the ones that last – family, faith, and meaningful relationships.
I also remember that during the first two to three months of the lockdown, people were posting pictures of how clear the Metro’s skyline had become. In a way, the lockdown gave the environment a breathing spell to rejuvenate. The air was indeed much cleaner with cars and public transportation confined to garages and driveways.
Even as the economy suffered losses, the pandemic paved the way for innovations and a heightened understanding of the new needs and priorities of customers in lockdown, which in turn created a boom in e-commerce, gave many a new platform for entrepreneurship, and provided jobs for employees with a new set of capabilities and competencies. I truly believe that the lockdown has created a new cadre of entrepreneurs who will play a big role in our economic recovery. The pandemic has tested our resiliency and we passed with flying colors.
I also think that the work-from-home arrangements which many companies employed allowed workers to become more aware of worklife balance. Since people do not have to spend hours commuting to work, people have more time with families, more time to rest, sleep, and refocus. As a result, many have pursued activities they would always put off in the past – baking, gardening, learning to play an instrument, and the like.
But I believe that the biggest silver lining of all is our ability to rise to the challenge of rebuilding. When the vaccines come and the pandemic is defeated, we need to use all these new skills and realizations to fashion a whole new world that is hopefully better than the pre-pandemic one. My hope is that the things we learned during lockdown can inform the way we build a better world. Of course, it is entirely possible that we go back to the old ways and forget the lessons we learned from this crisis. But as I said, I am an optimist. The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one way le to go and that’s up!