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College Category Project Ripples: Tell Your Story Essay Contest Winner

What COVID19 Taught Me

By James Henry Señagan


A word so visceral, a word that could produce a lot of unwanted memories etched into the depths of my mind, a word that can make a grown man shrink back to its knees like a helpless child.

I felt that feeling of fear on a firsthand basis when the COVID-19 struck hard here in the Philippines. I thought it was just another pandemic that would pass on quickly, an anomaly that would erase itself for a month or two. We were complacent. We took it for granted.

It all started on the fateful day of February 29, when I decided to move out of my parents' house and go to Cebu by myself. It was a cold night, from what I can remember. I took my luggage, two small bags, a sliver of hope, and excitement as I waited for a bus to come by and take me to my predetermined destination. I could remember the slight wetness trickling down my face as the light shower rain descended from the pitch-black sky.

I thought everything would be fine once I moved here. I had everything planned out, from where I will live and what companies I will apply to based on my skillset and resume.

I was planning to find a job in the meantime while planning to transfer schools since I wanted to pursue a filmmaking degree and produce a film of my own. I wanted the taste of freedom and independence that I didn't get back when I was at home.

But boy was I completely wrong.

I failed to get a job. My applications were rejected. One company told me that due to the tight competition, I didn't get the job. Another told me I was qualified, but due to the coronavirus, they're not accepting new applicants. And it went downhill pretty quickly.

In a stroke of bad luck, there were confirmed COVID-19 cases in a span of a few weeks, to the point where the city of Lapu-Lapu went into an Enhanced Community Quarantine on March 29, 2020. Life was bleak at that point for everyone. We had to stay inside our rooms and houses for the safety of the whole community.

I was alone in a city that felt completely foreign to me. My original goal of working in a BPO company so that I can earn money and go back to school was delayed in the meantime. "I'm jobless and penniless," I thought to myself. How am I supposed to survive a pandemic as alarming and extreme as COVID19?

I wanted to go home, but I couldn't. My family doesn't know where exactly I am, ever since I ran away from home. I couldn't contact my relatives out of shame and fear of what I did.

But my roommate, who happens to be my close friend from high school, understood my predicament. She even told me that she'd be shouldering all the expenses, including the rent and food budget for both of us.

I realized that amidst the emotional breakdown and mental bombardment of thoughts that invaded my mind, I forgot one thing; a tiny but worthwhile lesson from a good friend of mine.

And that is to COUNT MY BLESSINGS. Every. Single. Day.

I forgot to be positive, to be hopeful, and to be grateful. The fear corrupted my mind, my heart, and my soul. I let this unfortunate situation get the best of me. And I felt guilty for being selfish, knowing that there are other people out there who are in a far worse situation than I am.

So every single day, whenever I think of something that would lead to my bouts of depression, I simply redirect my focus into something more worthwhile. I made myself busy with daily chores, I got in touch with my long-forgotten hobbies, and for the first time, I finally got to know my Moon and Rising sign!

This pandemic made me realize that life is indeed short, but we should never let the fear get to us. Instead, we should rise up and empower ourselves and other people out there. Spread love, goodwill, and positivity. Be thankful.

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