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3 Millennials Talk About Living Alone In Metro Manila During Quarantine

And how it's affecting their mental health.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Courtesy of Ysa Singson, (RIGHT) Courtesy of June Sandoval
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On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. The very next day, considering the rising number of cases, the Philippine government put Metro Manila under community quarantine. It only took a few more days before all of Luzon was placed under “enhanced” community quarantine (ECQ)—movement outside the home was restricted, mass transport facilities were suspended, and by midnight of March 17, Luzon’s borders were closed. In a nutshell, things escalated quickly, and as a result, there are Filipinos who—either by chance or by choice—are experiencing quarantine alone.

Three Filipinas get real about what it’s really like to live alone during the ECQ.

June

How I felt when the ECQ was announced: I was super scared when they announced the *first* community quarantine. It wasn’t a total lockdown yet, but I prepared for the worst. When they announced the ECQ, I was a little more confident about how prepared I was so I was less anxious. I focused my energy on getting ready to distract myself from getting worried.

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What a typical day looks like for me: I still work from home (WFH) so I wake up early to prepare for the day. I spend most of my time in a small work space, but I always take breaks. I usually go to my condo’s roof deck to take short walks and to catch some sun. I exercise almost every day, and I try to reach 2,000 steps daily (given the situation, it’s hard to do more than that, unfortunately).

June: The view from my roof when I go up there to catch some rays.  Courtesy of June Sandoval
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I usually change my pambahay when I’m on work mode—not full-on office clothes naman but I go for casual (sporty) outfits. Some days, I also wear makeup. I can’t cook well, but I’m slowly getting better, so I make my meals at night and reheat it the next day.

June: I spend most of my time at my work space.  Courtesy of June Sandoval
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How my mental health is right now: As cliché as it sounds, breathing exercises has helped me cope with my anxiety. Whenever I feel like I’m getting anxious, I stop what I’m doing and take deep breaths. I’m not very emotional but since the ECQ was implemented, there have been times when I found myself crying over small things—and I usually give in to my emotions. We all need a good cry sometimes. On the upside, I also try to do arts and crafts (I’ve even made a washable mask using old clothes); when I have free time, I work on my journal and sometimes, draw.

Things I’ve learned about myself during quarantine:

  1. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for (physically and emotionally). The ECQ forced me to carry five gallons of water from our basement (refilling station) to my unit. I didn’t know that was even possible.
  2. I have so many friends I can rely on. Pre-ECQ, I was so busy with work that I rarely spent time with my friends. But during this very difficult time, they are always there (not physically, of course).
  3. Kaya pala!” There were so many things I never thought I could do, so many things I didn’t know I can get myself out of, and so many times that I told myself “kaya pala.”
  4. There’s so much I should be thankful for. I can’t believe I took so many things for granted.
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Karen

How I felt when the ECQ was announced: I considered going home to the province because I knew shit was about to go down. I’ve been living solo for almost three years, so I’m used to being away from my family, but I always go home on weekends to spend time with them. The problem with the lockdown is that even if there’s an “end” date, there’s also a chance that it’ll be extended. And that uncertainty almost convinced me to go home. But then I remembered that my parents are already in their 60s, and considering the possibility of me being an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, I decided to stay in Manila.

What a typical day looks like for me: I wake up at 7:30 a.m., brew some coffee, and then log-in to work. I cook lunch (I don’t usually like to cook but having everything delivered is expensive so I have no choice, lol), get back to work, then clock out at around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. I watch YouTube videos (usually BuzzFeed Unsolved: True Crime or online tarot card readings, haha), eat dinner, watch more videos, then go to sleep. Sometimes, when I feel really stressed, I draw before dinner.

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Karen: One of the dishes I've learned how to make during quarantine is this Grilled Herbed Cheesy Chicken. Courtesy of Karen Pangan

How my mental health is right now: Not in its best state most of the time, to be honest. I miss my family (even though I call them twice a day), and there is also the feeling of unease because I’m at home all day. Before, I didn’t mind spending a few weekends in Manila because I could go to a coffee shop whenever I was bored, but now, it’s a different story.

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Also, I have problematic neighbors (noisy stomping!) so emotions run high when you have no other choice but to stay in an environment where temporary escapes are not an option. The news all over social media can be quite depressing as well. Imagine being alone, without anyone physically beside you to talk to for stress relief. My response is to go on social media, but then I’m bombarded by all these negative happenings. It’s hard.

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To cope, I do guided meditations (there are a lot on YouTube) and draw. I also do home smudging where I use a sage stick to cleanse my home. It’s believed to drive away negative energy which can accumulate in a certain space, and I’ve found it incredibly helpful. I do it every other day.

Things I’ve learned about myself during quarantine: I have control over my emotions. There are a lot of things beyond our control so it is easy to feel helpless, anxious, and overloaded, but you have to make the conscious choice to take yourself out of a rut. Meditate. Find other things that can calm you. I have been trying meditation videos on YouTube to calm my mind, and they have been helpful to some extent. Also, I learned that I’m not that bad at cooking. ;) I also went back to making art, a hobby I’ve put in the back burner for so many years because “life” got in the way. Overall, I think this situation proves that while everything is hard, I can still take care of myself, as long as I put my mind and heart into it.

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Ysa

How I felt when the ECQ was announced: As someone who works in a fast-paced environment (media), I was taken aback by how overwhelmed I was. I like to be in control, and not being able to make arrangements made me feel helpless. The worst part was that I didn’t have time to process everything until about two weeks into the ECQ, when I realized I hadn’t been sleeping properly.

What a typical day looks like for me: Everybody knows I like to get up before sunrise. I used to do it to beat the rush hour, but I find that even now when I have nowhere to be but home, I am still ready to start my day before 5:00 a.m. I drink my first cup of coffee while I’m checking my inbox and the news.

Ysa: I always look forward to my morning coffee: black with muscovado—just how my parents take it.  Courtesy of Ysa Singson
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Then, at around 6:30 a.m., I go down to the pool area—while practicing physical distancing—just to breathe better. I sit by myself and listen to K-pop for 30 minutes, and then I go back up to my condo to work. I’m usually in front of my laptop until 5:00 p.m., standing up to stretch every 30 to 45 minutes. If I can, I take another trip to the pool area to experience the outside world again before making dinner and watching a K-drama until I fall asleep.

Ysa: These days, I keep my windows open because I find the sound of the outside world really comforting.  Courtesy of Ysa Singson
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How my mental health is right now: It was really bad the first two weeks because I entertained a lot of dark thoughts. My asthma usually starts acting up around summertime and it lasts until August or September. Last year, I went to the ER a couple of times because of my attacks. Not knowing how I’m going to get to the hospital if it happens again freaks me out.

I also don’t get homesick a lot—I lived in another country for four years without my family and was fine—but my parents are older now. While I know they’re very capable people, my brain likes to come up with the worst possible scenarios (so I am emotionally prepared) and in the middle of writing an email, I worry about my dad getting sick because he’s the one who goes to the market. Or I’m in line at the grocery and wonder if my brother has enough face masks while working at his farm. Or I’m in the shower and I admit to myself that this lockdown will probably be extended because the numbers keep climbing and think, when will I see them again? All of these make me cry. I haven’t figured out how to deal with my emotions, so I just try to distract myself with work—something I’m grateful to still have.

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Things I’ve learned about myself during quarantine: I am getting pretty good at #adulting. For example, I wash my own clothes now!!! I usually drop my clothes off at the laundry place attached to my condo—a privilege, I know—but they’re obviously not open. So I’ve been washing my clothes in my sink with a detergent bar. My hands are dry AF, but I’m so proud of myself.