“Advantage nanaman ng COVID” (or Cobin as the man would often mispronounce) is my dad’s new catchphrase under the quarantine and it’s been driving me nuts for more than a month now. Despite the lack of a source of income, my parents consider this time to be a blessing. And no, they’re not rich like the gullible mom from “Parasite” so there’s no need to ask us if my sister needs a tutor because you’d be barking up the wrong tree. If the community quarantine ends up getting another extension, we’d probably start facing financial troubles. So, why would they think that?
I consider my family lower-middle-class, meaning we have enough to get by but sometimes we’re behind on bills and have to go penny-pinching after a nice meal out. Both my parents started working when they were just kids (before they even hit puberty) and they pretty much paid their own way through school. They’re pushing 50, so that’s a long time to be part of the workforce. Because of that, I understand where they’re coming from. I’m still in my early 20s and I’ve already felt burned-out more than once. The years ahead of me are intimidating and the expectations that I feel I have to meet are high. Life is like a marathon that I forgot to train for.
When you need to run to catch up with the rest of the world, a personal hiatus is a luxury. There’s a touching scene in underdog K-drama “Fight for My Way“” where one of the characters was trying to patch things up with his longtime partner. Kim Joo-man tearfully said, “Even if I can’t give you luxury, I wanted to at least give you the average. It hurt my pride so much, to say something this pathetic. But I just wanted to have a small lease to start with. But, even though I worked for six years, that average, that average is too hard to reach.” Time is said to be expensive but the cost of it differs across the class divide. So the lower your wages, the more impact unemployment will have for you. Because my family is living from paycheck to paycheck, my parents wouldn’t willingly take more than a week-long break in normal circumstances. That takes its toll.
I’ve asked my dad to stop using his frankly insensitive catchphrase multiple times but he’s become extra stubborn with age. He’s not blind to the casualties of COVID-19 and he’s not politically unaware. I bet he’s just a little overwhelmed with the limbo that he and my mom are in while my work-from-home salary is keeping us afloat. I’m happy that they’re both in a headspace that lets them cultivate peace of mind, but I guess we could work on being more connected to society at large as a family.
This quarantine is difficult for various reasons and we all want to win the fight against COVID-19 soon. Here’s to hoping that we’ll last long enough to see it.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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