It would have been good to stay at home. It would have been better just watching Netflix or listening to music while having my comfort food. After all, one can think of the past year as just a long break from those tiring working days we have been used to. But, this is not my case. This is not what I experienced during the lockdown. The lockdown has inscribed in me that walking outside the comforts of our home is a privilege.

The lockdown came unprecedented. I remember people stormed to grocery stores to secure supplies during the lockdown. I remember reading some posts on social media that panic buying is only for those who could afford, and for those who cannot buy, then it’s just panic left for them to settle (“walang buying, panic lang”). It sounds funny yet true. And this does not come as a surprise. Social Weather Stations’s survey on self-rated poverty (just before the pandemic hit) figured around 13.1 million families were considering themselves poor (Tantuco, July 7, 2020). 

For me as someone who lives in  Zamboanga City, I was able to purchase with what little savings I had. Unfortunately, this means I had to walk two kilometers from my Barangay to City Proper and another two kilometers from City Proper to my Barangay while carrying six to ten kilos of food supplies for the impending lockdown last year. I know it really sounds unfortunate, but I cannot help to think what more for my fellow Mindanaoans who don’t have savings when the lockdowns were announced. I can’t help but also think that this lockdown was even harder for those who lived in the farther Barangays. People walking for long distances to buy food in grocery stores was a common sight in the empty streets simply because there were no available means of public transportation to cater those who are tasked to buy food for the family. Adding to the drama of the difficult walk were times when we needed to walk in the rain while having to pass military checkpoints. The anxiety of being an angry activist in the pouring rain with arms both left to carry food items was just too memorable to forget. 

As the days went by and came the end of May, I decided to look for another job as I cannot keep up with the work-from-home-scheme. Our internet connection was one big problem, but also an optimal device for work and a conducive environment are conditions I have to struggle for everyday. Sometimes, I am forced to walk to look for a stable and conducive spot just to finish my work. A lot of walking indeed until I succumbed to job loss. I could not imagine that I would have to quit work and be unemployed in the middle of a pandemic.

Then some of my friends were telling me that it was not as bad as they experienced. There was one friend of mine who was forced to move out from his boarding house as he was not able to pay for the many months accumulated rental fee, while there was also a little chance for him to go back to work since he was not a regular worker. Another friend was telling me he was not qualified to receive the support from the Social Amelioration Program as he is single and lives alone, but had also no work to support his everyday needs. This all sounds too dramatic but this is the reality that we face. And perhaps a reality for the other 4 million Filipinos who were left jobless in January. 4 million stories of walking away from your shelter, or from your work. It’s too much of a walk not to remember.

And while this remains as a memory for me, some of us are still treading this uncertain path of a future life after the pandemic. It would have been good to stay at home, but I see there is a need to walk away from the comforts of accepting a haphazard response especially for the poor in this pandemic. The future will belong to those who walked, and to those who remember how difficult life is in the world’s longest lockdown.

Saudia Danih

Saudia Danih

Saudia Danih is one of the founders of Center for Youth Development Initiatives Inc., an organization that focuses on Youth Empowerment. Prior to that, she also served as an Advocacy Program Officer in Ateneo De Zamboanga University.