The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 24, Dasma Lockdown, April 12

Week 24, April 12, Dasmariñas Lockdown Week 4

It was another quiet week in Dasma.
Here we are in week four of this isolation insanity and I’m more than mentally pacing. I suspect most of you are feeling the same way. Oh it’s been fun and patriotic at first but it’s beginning to grow thin. A friend of mine, one of you readers, collects and sends reams of cartoons. Too many of them are about Donald Trump which I have long since grown tired of, but the others, lately, are about our universal confinement. I’m reminded that humour is a great mental release from stress and boredom but I am getting bored with this confounded covid-19.
I’m also reminded that the human species is a social one, contact, and even touch, is a fundamental need. The worst punishment man can make on his fellow man, short of capital punishment, is solitary confinement. I think of a number of my readers who live alone. They are feeling this lockdown more acutely than families I think, even those who have become accustomed to living alone, or choose to live alone. The key is choose. But even families are stressed, how much can parents take (and by that I mostly mean mothers) of trying to entertain their kids and keep them occupied. For that matter, how many strained relationships are becoming even more strained by worry and the constant companionship beginning to be loathed? 😏 And here we have an entire world self-isolating, self-loathing too I suspect. It’s like mass suicide, it’s Jonestown by a factor of many million.
I don’t think it will be long before authorities will begin to lose control if we don’t soon find a better way. We cannot long keep people cooped up in their houses; people will stop climbing walls and start climbing fences to loose their dogs in dog parks (though how the dogs will climb the fences is a problem I haven’t worked out yet), and climb the Scarborough bluffs to savour nature; young men wanting to play basketball in the school yards will play basketball in the school yards, to hell with the $750 fines. What are the police going to do? lock them up? shoot them? (like Duterte threatens). 
The Queen’s speech was lovely and encouraging. But there is a big difference between this war and the WWII effort: doing nothing versus doing something.
But enough of my rant for this week. Lets see if any of my predictions come true in the next weeks, or months.

I am very grateful for Carmen’s company. I imagine what I would be doing, and feeling, if I were confined to my Kanata townhouse alone. I would have more space than here, and I’d have my punching bags, but I would be doing a lot of the same things – reading, and writing my blog and books – but I would be alone. Even though I have been largely limited to living in close quarters with only one person for company for five months now, we are still friends. We are surviving our constant companionship, probably because she is very patient with me, but it is nevertheless very challenging to have to spend all one’s time with only one friend. And now that we can’t even organize excursions to visit her family and explore other parts of the Philippines, well, the walls do seem to close in. Neither Carmen nor I speak the other’s language fluently – though Carmen’s English is way stronger than my Tagalog – and so conversation is limited, but the companionship and company are nevertheless crucial to my mental health. I’m not sure I can say the same for Carmen. She has all her family here, and while she can’t see them in person any longer, and would be severely restricted even if she were back in her own little house in Trece, she speaks with them every day, often many times a day. She also keeps in touch with her many cousins in Australia, Chicago, London, Manila. She needs to talk. She doesn’t read. I read.
I read three books at a time for variety, but lately the books I’ve been reading have not been doing it for me. I finished Rampage, thank goodness, a thoroughly demoralizing book about the Japanese destruction of the city and the people of Manila. It is hard not to be disgusted with the amoral and brutish behaviour of the Japanese military and leadership of the time and not have it spill over to today. I’ve also finished A Crack at the Edge of the World, a book about earthquakes and in particular the San Andreas fault and San Francisco earthquake of 1906. One of my loyal readers suggested this book after we had lived through the Lake Taal Island volcano eruption last January. It’s entertaining and informative but a daunting read. And I’m almost finished Il Filibusterismo, José Rizal’s second revolutionary novel, but this earnest exposé of the despotism of the religious orders in Philippines in the last decades of the 19th century is also demoralizing. I need something light and uplifting next. I think I’ll go back to Alexander McCall Smith’s, No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 
But I have to say, there is only so much reading one can do anyway. And besides, sitting all day is exhausting for the tail bone and the glutes. And I tend to fall asleep when I try to read in bed.
Same goes with my writing. (Okay, that was an unintended non-sequitur, I’ve never tried writing in bed.) Many hours spent at my little table sitting on a hard chair, even with a cushion, requires a lot of stamina. And why do I do it? I claim it’s to keep to touch with family and friends through my writing. But I know I do it to indulge my interest in writing and in hopes that my legion of readers appreciate it, even if few reciprocate. One of my constant readers, herself a writer, gives the best advice – keep writing. There is only one audience that matters and that’s yourself. I suppose that’s true for all writers, even the popular extroverts. She points to a litany of famous reclusives – J D Salinger, Harper Lee, both of whom wrote only one book, but even J K Rowling. 

It’s hot season in Philippines and getting hotter: 34o every day, 35 on Wednesday, but as they say in Sudbury, or Arizona, it’s a dry heat. Now how can that be? Here we are surrounded by ocean, never more than 100 kms from the water, and it’s dry season. And that’s no joke. It hasn’t rained here for four weeks. And counting. It feels like Southern California. Damn, another day of sun.  You begin to pray for rain, if just for variety. Hey, is that a dark cloud over there? But be careful what you wish for; soon it will be rainy season, and then typhoon season.

35o?! That’s 95F.Talaga!
Since we went metric in Canada, 30 became the threshold for hot. That’s only 88o F. Back in the 60s (and most of you remember that, don’t lie), before global warming, the threshold was 90/92. I remember lots of days when I lived in Welland and Peterborough we often had days of 95; I remember walking across the fields to swim in the Welland Canal, no sunblock; working in a lumber yard in Peterborough, no hat, and we would mark the pillars of the shed of days over 100oF (we didn’t go into the yard on those days). And humid, you would sweat just sitting still. It was 96 the day I was born (not in the 60s!); my mother almost died – she always hated heat. It’s amazing how we adapt though. I don’t mind the heat here now, but I do avoid the sun, it is intense. I sit on my shady balcony reading or ranting at Twitter until my tail gets tired. My native Filipina kaibigan on the other hand lives indoors with the air conditioner at 24.
There was an early theory that novel corona virus doesn’t like the heat, that’s why it will recede by the summer months, or so the story goes. What the hell? Philippines has 4648 cases (but limited testing) and 297 deaths (6.4% fatality rate but based on a low denominator) as at April 12 and it’s summer here 12 months of the year. How hot does it have to get?
And no sooner had I written this bit about the unceasing sun than some dark clouds did roll in from the Northwest and rest over Dasma a while and deposit some heavy rain on QQR. The buildings have a metal roof and as we are on the second floor the roof is right overhead. There is no insulation in the ceiling, or at least, probably not much, and the sound of rain on the metal roof is LOUD. But it was also welcome. (I can only imagine how loud it must have been during Ursula.) Carmen cooked on our sheltered California Kitchen and we dined al fresco to the sound of rain on the pool and rushing out the downspouts.

Downpour at QQR

Al Fresco Dining

I’m sure all of you are beginning to fuss about personal grooming. Certainly Carmen is, daily more distressed by her white roots. Luckily for us we both were at our respective hairdressers just before going into Manila March 13 for the symphony [non]concert. It is now only a month since and my short haircut is only just beginning to look unruly. I like being as ruly as the next guy but I can do unruly too; I just like the front brush trimmed. Carmen is very quick to get out the scissors but doesn’t trust me with them on her. She has nail polish and a manicure set and keeps her hard working fingers very tidy. Nevertheless, the first place she is going when this lockdown is unlocked is the beauty salon for the whole treatment. But what if this is months from now? 
For those of you celebrating the resurrection of Christ, or even the last of Passover, I hope the Easter Bunny was good to you and you enjoy a pleasant little feast today. How I crave a rack of lamb and a bottle of Zin. Joyeuse Pâques.  
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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