overseas Filipinos

[OPINION] An intricate braid: Appreciating 2020 in hindsight

Marie Tanya Recalde
[OPINION] An intricate braid: Appreciating 2020 in hindsight
'These are the best days of my life and the stuff of stories I intend to share with my future grandchildren'

To end 2020, Rappler’s Voices section has requested writers who contributed at the start of this (very eventful) year to write a follow-up to their original opinion piece.

The following is by Marie Tanya Recalde, who wrote “Studying in the US in the middle of a pandemic” in June 2020when lockdown protocol was much stricter.

I still remember the excitement that I felt when I left Manila for Boston on the first day of 2020. I was coming back to the US as a student eager to continue the second half of my Fulbright-Humphrey fellowship on finance and banking. Armed with a planner filled to the brim with all the activities I hoped to do, I was eager to explore all available opportunities for learning in the US. Like almost everyone around the world, I had no inkling of what was in store for 2020. 

Annus Horribilis?

I’d hardly had time to check off even half of my “to do list” in the US when my life suddenly came to a halt in the middle of March. Fearful of the pandemic, universities suddenly closed and all classes shifted online. Despite suggestions by our fellowship organizers to go home, I initially chose to stay on in Boston, hoping that the lockdown would only last for a month, and thereafter be able to pick up from where we left off. However, as the days went by, the case numbers continued to rise while my fellowship days became numbered. Realizing that things would not go back to normal by the time my fellowship ends in June, I went home in May to continue my studies in Manila. 

Lost possibilities, change in perspective

Fighting off shock and self-pity because of lost opportunities, I decided to change my perspective. I convinced myself that this pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do things that I would otherwise would not be able to do during normal times. I checked my bucket list and underlined the best candidates. 

First was to publish a law book with my husband, a fellow lawyer and academic, a project that we long wanted to do but had no time for.

Second was to witness a financial crisis unfold and, as an economist and a central banker, help provide relief.

Third was to reclaim entitlements that are sacrificed by a mother on the altar of work, such as getting to know my sons more closely and literally watching them grow.

Fourth was to catch up with family and friends whom I miss but had no opportunity to bond with due to the finiteness of time and space. 

Unexpected opportunities

Choosing the topic of my collaboration with my husband was easy and serendipitous. The pandemic triggered a global recession, creating fears of financial distress for businesses and individuals. Yet, there was no Philippine law book yet solely on credit and bankruptcy. When we launched our book in November, it was the first law book of its kind in the country. 

With the book finished by the time my fellowship ended, I had the opportunity to devote time to my second project, as well as the third, fourth, and more. The pandemic’s unique delights – the utility of technology and the beauty of working from home – created various efficiencies that enabled a working mother of 3 like me to work and look after my family at the same time that I watch over my plants, mind my pets, and squeeze in opportunities to attend webinars and chat with family and friends on Zoom.

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The preparation and commuting time saved by working from home enabled me to take care of myself better by freeing time for sleep and exercise, gave me room to grow my plant collection, and allowed me to take on academic work such as writing and presenting research papers as well as vetting Juris Doctor theses. 

Admittedly, the extended period of lockdown, cabin fever, and decreased income provided me with pockets of sadness and frustration. Fortunately, they were easily neutralized by satisfaction from accomplishments at work and simple joys brought about by every unfurling leaf in my garden, a lick from a new puppy, unexpected food deliveries from friends and family, and my children’s everyday milestones. 

As 2020 reaches its end, with numerous COVID-19 vaccines in sight, I want take a moment to savor the novelty of this year’s seemingly endless days, when work, online learning, household chores, and family bonding moments are intertwined, like an intricate braid, enabling me to accomplish more than what I originally hoped for. These are the best days of my life and the stuff of stories I intend to share with my future grandchildren. – Rappler.com

Marie Tanya Z. Recalde is a lawyer and economist from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. She is an awardee of the Chevening, Fulbright, and Cambridge Trust scholarships.