The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 23, Dasma Lockdown, April 5

Week 23, April 5, Dasmariñas Lockdown Week 3

It was another quiet week in Dasma.
And you’d think with all this forced inactivity from Covigeddon I would have nothing to write about. Even before Covid-19 I faced this a latent spectre at the beginning of every week however I have learned to live with the uncertainty, knowing that, in time, something will turn up.
Maybe you didn’t quite believe me when I said that Qubo Qabana felt a bit like a prison. I have described QQR in rather fond terms, and deservedly so. It’s a mini resort, a variety of palm and other trees providing shade and the comfort of rustling palm fronds blowing in the breeze, our balcony with a view of the courtyard, the pool. QQR is surrounded by a 10-ft high concrete fence on two sides and high walls of the hotel on the back, the entry doors are closed most hours of the day and night, a guard guards the entry and a security agent patrols the premises every few hours. Carmen is pleased with the security this provides but when the front doors to the resort are closed, even during the day, well, our fortress is also our prison.

The Wall
Locked Front Doors

The West Wall (the bamboo palisade is probably not that effective even though there is a ‘moat’ (pool) on the other side.

Cell L

I’m sure all of you feel that your home, formerly your castle, has become your prison too.

It’s the end of the month and despite all the slowdown and suspension of normal, some things come due. Like bills. I hesitate to say death and taxes because that is just too dramatic. And in any event, PMJT has even shown that he has some influence on the latter if not the former.
Lucky for me I am not dependent on employment income and consulting fees. And lord knows, if I was dependent on book sales and royalties I would be a starving man.
(However, you might be amused to know that upon the announcement of the release of my latest book a couple of weeks ago, Amitié, A Novel, I have seen three sales through  I can’t know who has decided to fork out 50 bucks for this opus of despair but I hope they find it entertaining. And I thank them. The book will be available on amazon and other sites in another 4 – 6 weeks. Look for reviews on The New York Times Review of Books. Surely then I’ll be able to keep the wolf from the door.)
So my pitiful pensions and investment income sustain me. I refuse to panic even though my investments have dropped by some 30%; the only sensible thing to do is hold. My financial advisor/and banker had constructed my RIFFs and investments to pay out over 20+ years, likely still leaving a small residual for my kids, or my dogs. I wryly remarked at the time that with my hair on fire I wasn’t likely to last much past 82 nevermind 92. And since then she has been wringing her hands and hoping I’m right. Ain’t retirement fun.
But I digress. Month-end and the bank account magically fills up, and just as magically begins to be deleted. But as long as income exceeds expenses, well, just like Wilkins Micawber, result happiness. And so far my income has been sufficient to sustain us at our tropical resort, the modest Qubo Qabana.
Many are not so lucky. I’m sure in Canada there are an increasingly large number of nervous people, people who have contingent income and little in the way of savings, they can’t ‘work from home’ and they have no eligibility for EI. It drives me crazy the shallow and empty expression from privileged Canadians, of every stripe, who think they are suffering from this quarantine. 
Things are much more dire here in the Philippines, already a poor 3rd world country where millions of people are poverty stricken and living on the edge. Things are still stable here, for now. People trust the President (except the press and intellectuals, how surprising is that!? and he says outrageous things like, he will shoot to kill people flagrantly abusing the lockdown) but the situation is also deteriorating by the day. Here in Pilipiñas great swaths of the population are fearful for their next meal, and many are crying for rice. The government handouts don’t reach everybody and the ration is not enough for big families.
Let me give you the example of Carmen’s family here in Trece Martires, which is almost typical: eldest son, Julie, is a fish monger in Laguna and by today’s measures is doing okay; second son, Ronnie is a mystery living in Manila somewhere; third son, GR, recently converted all his financial resources into a business, buying that resto-bar/carwash combination, this business has now been closed due to the lock down and he and wife Mylene are preparing meals for take-out/delivery and selling roadside; daughter Celca’s husband is a tricycle driver and he and his vehicle are now off the road; he has gone to Bicol to take care of his mother, while Celca takes care of her family of three here, but her little clothing business is virtually stopped for lack of customers; youngest daughter Olice is marooned here in Trece with her two kids, unable to get to Manila for her call center job, her husband is employed still in Manila but can’t commute to Trece weekends as before. Then there are the extended family, the Blancos, but I won’t catalogue the entirety of this; leave it to say there is great anxiety and uncertainty.
So I am now benefactor for much of Carmen’s extended family: I am providing a weekly allowance to Celca and she in turn meters it out to about five other families, >15 people. I also send a stipend to family members in Tacloban and to my young minister friend struggling with cancer. It makes being here all the more worthwhile.

In last week’s report one of my readers remarked that this forced confinement afforded me opportunity to learn Tagalog. I was affronted by the inference that I had been recalcitrant to this point and in my defense I pointed out that I had invested in a Tagalog language workbook months ago and I am all the way up to Lesson 20.

(Notice the ‘flying flying’ resting on my workbook; evidence that the high tech fly-swatter was proving ineffective.)

When I’m finished the book (27 lessons) I plan to go back to Lesson 1 and repeat. Tagalog is, to my Eurocentric mind, a very difficult language as its structure is completely different from English or French; it does bring back memories of Latin structures though, and I used to be quite fond of Latin studies. I have acquired an extensive Tagalog vocabulary now, at least 20 words, and at my age I’m thrilled when I can remember even half of that on demand.

I said at the beginning of this volume of the Dasma Diary that I don’t worry about having material to write about because, invariably, something will turn up. And once again that has proven to be the case. Or perhaps more accurately, something didn’t turn up, but I can still write about it. In this case, it was our driver Arlyn who did not turn up for our weekly run to Robinson’s for groceries and meds. Her powers of persuasion have proven insufficient to prevail upon the rigid soldier manning the roadblock, her certificate of passage and her compelling reasons denied. When this was reported to me I have to confess, my patience left me and I cursed this cursèd covid and the stupidity of officialdom for its misguided strategy. I am a member of the alleged cohort that is being ‘protected’ by this massive societal disruption and I now risk being ‘saved’ through neglect and starvation in my locked down prison. I asked Carmen if she was ready for a Romeo and Juliette pact but apparently she is not. We’re just going to have to find another way to get groceries.
And so we did. We walked the 1 km trek to Robinson’s, uphill, both ways, risking 34o heat; we donned face masks and completed our errands without challenge from the constabulary. 

This road is usually bumper to bumper from here to Robinson’s.

Two heavy bags

The masked marauder.

So pleased with ourselves with our Thursday triumph we repeated the journey on Friday to get my back-ordered meds. Saturday was spent mostly nursing muscles that had been neglected since Tagaytay. At this rate our fitness level will clearly improve. But how long will this lockdown madness continue? 
I am beginning to yearn for the sensible leadership of FDR: ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’

Stay safe. Stay sane. And stay tuned for the next edition of The Dasma Diary.

Doug Jordan Reporting to you from Dasma, Philippines

© Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing All rights reserved. No part of these blogs and newsletters may be reproduced without the express permission of the author and/or the publisher, except upon payment of a small royalty, 5¢. 

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