Looking onward to 2021 after a year of challenges, social distancing

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

2020 not only brought the world to a standstill, but also changed our way of living.

COVID-19’s global sweep prompted countries to close borders, and with it, came the safety measures that we have taken into the new year — face masks, hand sanitizers, and social distancing. Concerts, festivals, and even traveling took a backseat in favor of home quarantines, while digital technologies rose to the occasion in battling pandemic fatigue.

Still, the impact of COVID- 19 has been egregious. By the end of 2020, over 82 million people have contracted the virus, and a staggering 1.8 million have died because of it. To make matters worse, natural disasters, systemic racism, and political tensions between countries ran rampant alongside the pandemic, bringing horror after horror, grief upon grief, throughout the entire year.

2020 was, no doubt, a year of profound loss. We mourned for human lives, the ‘normalcy’ we were once used to, and the opportunities that would have catapulted us to a better future. But in the midst of all the dark tragedies and adversities we had to deal with, we also found little pockets of light that guided us in navigating a rocky year plagued by the pandemic.

Yana Gilbuena | Photo by Mogli

An opportunity for self-reflection

Being in isolation gave people the time to grapple with the lull that the pandemic presented, and the effect on their careers and long-term life goals. For Yana Gilbuena, chef of Salo Series, it meant looking at her life’s work in a new light.

“[2020] was a retreat that had me reflecting on what’s important in the face of uncertainty and calamity. A big realization I had was I was not an essential business, and my model is not pivotable because the main thing I’m providing is community, culture and connection over food,” she told the Asian Journal.

“I had to remind myself that as much as my identity has been tied to Salo Series for the past seven years, it was not all that I am. I knew that food was just a vehicle for the main driver of what I do, which is to have an impact in people’s lives, and that I can still do that in other ways,” added Gilbuena. “This pandemic provided me with an opportunity to reconnect with the other facets of Yana and discern what ways I can still create and impact even if it’s not through food.”

Familial comfort

Having your family’s support certainly softened the blow that came with the pandemic upending your plans. In 2020’s trying time, family members lent strength, and gave us the reassurance that, even in a seemingly endless period of isolation, we weren’t alone.

Lally Reyes from Dublin, California underscored the importance of her family while working from home.

“I am so grateful for a great and loving family life at home. To be together 24/7 for nine months now would have been difficult if we didn’t have a loving and understanding relationship at home,” she said.

Ginger Lim-Dimapasok | Photo by Noel Ty

Meanwhile, Ginger Lim-Dimapasok, chef and co-founder of Cafe 86, shared that the pandemic gave her the opportunity to spend more time with her family.

“The news of the pandemic hit us like a pile of bricks. On a personal level, it meant being separated from family, especially the ones living in the Philippines. On a business level, it meant closing up shop. It was a truly scary and uncertain time, but we tried our best to focus on the health and well-being of not just our family, but our staff,” she said.

“Amidst all the uncertainties of the situation, I found joy in being given time to be at home with my family. As a business owner, time at home is something we rarely get, and all of a sudden, I was able to cook three meals, I was able to have conversations with the kids, and I got to take care of things I rarely had time for while working,” she added.

Nikki Guevara Perez de Tagle | Instagram photo by/ @miss_guevara

Nikki Guevara Perez de Tagle, on the other hand, reflected on the “bittersweet” year — from giving birth after years of trying to struggling with business downturn.

“2020 was bittersweet for me. It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. It was sweet because, after four years of trying to get pregnant, my husband and I finally conceived through IVF (In vitro fertilization) and delivered our sweet baby girl in November,” she said. “It was bitter because my businesses suffered due to the pandemic. My salons had to close for a few months leaving my employees jobless for a while. Thankfully my husband still had his job. It would’ve been hard not having income while I was pregnant.”

“Another reason why 2020 is bitter is because I get no help taking care of my little one. So I’m very hands-on with my baby. My whole family was supposed to fly here in November and December to be with me for the birth of Shiloh and for the holidays. But yet again, it was cancelled because of COVID,” De Tagle added.

She continued, “The worst part of it all is that my husband caught the virus. Thankfully, his symptoms were mild but he still had to be isolated…However, I wouldn’t change a thing about everything that happened. Not only did my family overcome this obstacle, we became stronger. I became stronger because I had to take care of my family all by myself. I learned how to suck it up and be strong for my family. Through all of this, I became resilient.”

Appreciating the little things

As the pandemic continued to hang over 2020 like a dark cloud, we learned to tone down our profligacy. Being deprived of the most basic things also led to us appreciating the mundane.

“Living during these times taught me how to live with just the bare necessities; buying what’s needed and seeing a limited amount of people. It teaches you that it’s okay to just have enough and not live in excess,” said Lim-Dimapasok.

Deo Jaravata, a teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District, likewise told the Asian Journal that 2020 taught him to be content with the simple things.

“My beginning of the year was excellent. I went on some trips and finished five marathons. I even celebrated my birthday with family and friends on the first Saturday of March. After that, my year went downhill. All races were canceled. My annual summer trip to the Philippines was canceled, too. My trip to Tokyo to watch the Summer Olympics was canceled as well,” he said, adding that he resorted to hiking local LA trails and mountains.
As a teacher, he taught summer school for the first time with the LAUSD but virtually.

“From these cancellations, I realized that I can easily be contented and I can accept what life gives me. I’m very fortunate that I have my teaching job and am still physically fit,” he added.

Vivian Cruz had the same sentiment. She said, “In 2020…we realized that we could live with less; that a simple life is actually good for us. We did more as a family confined in our homes and together we prayed, and played, cooked, and did a lot of things with joy. Family relationships, friendships flourished thanks also to the technology of Messenger, Viber, and Zoom.”

Truly, the pandemic has taught us it doesn’t take much to make a day feel special. Even the act of coming home is considered a moment to celebrate.

“My wife works as a nurse responsible for taking care of COVID patients and helping manage resources. Every time she comes home from a long day of work is a nervous time for me so they are big moments,” Norbert Piega from Chino Hills, California told the Asian Journal.

“She brought heart-breaking news of suffering and death and her efforts to keep things afloat amidst challenges are nothing less than heroic to me,” he added.

What’s next?

The end of the year generally has people feeling hopeful that the next one would be better. A new year means a new chapter, a new page unblemished by mistakes or regrets. Looking back at 2020 may have unearthed various feelings, but looking ahead at 2021 only elicited one: hope.

“What I am looking forward to this coming year, 2021 is a new beginning. I am hopeful that the COVID-19 vaccine will help eradicate this pandemic,” said Christienne Silverio from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jaravata expressed hope for the promise of the vaccines. “Hopefully, the vaccine will help us with this virus. I know it won’t be 100% back to normal but hopefully I can still run marathons, travel, mingle with family and friends, and be back to see my students face-to-face.”
“I am most hopeful that we will get through this; that more lives will be saved, and that we will take the lessons of 2020 and slay 2021,” Gilbuena added.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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