My husband was sick earlier this week and I was already researching RT-PCR tests that can be administered at home when I read the announcement by our HOA that there will be free swab tests in our village. All we had to do was pre-register for it. So I signed us up, filled out the forms and submitted them that Monday and by Thursday, the people from our barangay and Red Cross were there in full hazmat, armed with test kits for residents who pre-registered for the test. The venue was in our village’s open court. Our HOA set everything up so that there were no walk-ins, the small crowd was easily managed. Everyone registered at the entrance, everyone was required to wear masks and face shields, and seats were spaced about a meter apart. It went pretty quickly. If anyone was worried about whether the swab would be painful, let me put your mind at ease…it wasn’t. My nose felt ticklish for a  bit and I had the urge to sneeze afterwards but it really wasn’t too big a deal. We were in and out in a few minutes. From encoding to specimen sample collection to transporting the specimen, until the results were released two days later, everything was easily tracked through Red Cross’ online tracking system. I’m happy to say that our household tested negative for COVID 19. It felt like a great weight lifted of my chest. I was worried because my husband and I had possible exposures a couple of weeks back and so when he got sick, that really made me lose a lot of sleep.

I must say that our household’s experience of this pandemic has been relatively easier because of many factors. My husband and I were already working from home for a little over a decade, so there was practically no transition for us in that area. The company that I work for was able to quickly transition to 100% remote work in a matter of days, which was no small feat. Since we’ve been working from home for a while, we already have our home set up for it (two fiber internet connections, backup internet, comfortable work spaces, etc). My brother-in-law was able to easily transition to a work from home setup too by using my study. We have enough rooms in the house so that we can spend these past days together without being in each other’s way. There had  been very little interruption to our daily routine.

Our HOA has been very good with listening to what residents need. They are quick to coordinate requests for support from our local government whether it’s for personnel or provisions. Our HOA organized community markets, and were quick to adjust and implement a working system when they saw that there were a lot of people who need to buy things from the market. They were quick to learn from mistakes and implemented changes on the fly. Efforts for contact tracing, managing crowds, disinfecting the area used for the market, all those were put in place as soon as they saw the need for it. When the residents complain about barangay policies that do not work, our HOA immediately advocate for us and are able to negotiate for safer, more practical policies. They went door-to-door to distribute quarantine passes. They made it easy to do contact tracing for workers who need to do home repairs during the quarantine. They requested frequent disinfections of our streets. They made sure we received regular food packs and announced distribution schedules in advance during ECQ. We didn’t need to be at the mercy of inflexible rules by the local government because our HOA actively worked on our behalf to make our village as safe for residents as possible.

I recognize that these things are layer upon layer of privilege and that other people are experiencing a drastically different kind of quarantine right now. All we can really do is continue advocating for each other and to look at whatever opportunity we have to really help one another, and there’s always somebody who could use our help. We just need to be sensitive to their needs instead of completely retreating into our bubble of safety. This is the time to go beyond “positive thoughts and prayers” and to truly open our hands and help our neighbors. There are people struggling to put food on their table, who are at a loss about mounting medical  bills, or are trying their best to scrape together some money to buy phones/tablets/laptops so that their children can attend online classes. No, we can’t help everyone, but we can at least help someone.

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