Manila—The New Year greeted me with the flu. I had chills the day after the last sound of firecrackers died down. It got worse in the following days with cough and chills, then the headache and body pains.
I thought of the coronavirus pandemic and how Covid-19 mimics the common cold and the more disabling flu. Before Christmas, I remember passing by a newly installed testing pod in my neighborhood offering the antigen exam, so I thought of having myself checked for the coronavirus. That morning, there was a long line at the testing site. A flu outbreak was in the news and drugstores ran out of paracetamol and analgesics.
The three-member testing team was obviously undermanned as there were 60 people when I joined the line. They could test only 40 at the time so I left and went back at noon. After my test, I went home again to lie down as I had a fever.
I went back at dusk for the test results. I forgot about it for a while as I had to do my work-from-home job, but I tested positive for Covid-19.
It was the first week of the year and I was out standing in line for a test while monitoring the progress of my work from my cellphone. What a way to start a new year, being hit with the hyper-treacherous virus that causes what many survivors now call the “flu on steroids.”
As my co-workers and friends were checking on each other, I told them about my positive test. There were comforting messages to be well and of prayers and healing. Some friends asked me what they could send me via delivery – food, essential oils, a book, a plant, a teddy bear. A friend offered prayers and intentions to the Black Nazarene, which was being celebrated in the Catholic church’s calendar that week.
In between sneezes, sniffles and coughing, I self-managed with my munitions of paracetamol and analgesics, throat and nasal spray, and hot lemon-ginger-honey drink. What I was feeling did not match the symptoms of the treacherous flu but I followed the health department’s advice on isolation, quarantine and home care.
I chatted with friends who also either tested positive or thought they also had the virus. One friend talked about us dying, and went ahead to entrust me with her eulogy; in turn she will write mine in case I die first. I told her that it would be difficult to capture her entire life in a few paragraphs.
I suddenly remembered that the most difficult few words I had ever written was the DNR (do-not-resuscitate) order on my family’s behalf for my terminally ill mother who has been in a coma in the ICU for weeks.
As there was a surge of cases, the government reminded anew the restrictions to mask up and to stay away from each other. When I felt better, I went outside for my regular walk. Once again, the streets were quiet and empty; some establishments were closed.
As I was walking, I thought of other people who lost their homes to a devastating typhoon so they spent a desolate Christmas, or the people I meet on the streets who ask for financial help because they’re struggling.
In this world that is constantly blasted with the science of a virus and its variants, I was sick but alive, and lucky.
I forgot about the eulogy. Perhaps not today.
Diana G. Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org