This month, I’ll be celebrating my birthday. Looking back, it dawned on me that a number of things are new: new decade, new challenges, and new normal.

New decade

Every year, we always wish that the coming year will be good to us. This year is no different even if it’s the new decade. Most people, including me, were very optimistic at the start of this new decade. I made a number of plans in my bucket list for this year.

Earlier this year, I planned an out-of-town birthday trip with my officemates. The flight was already booked. Then the pandemic came so we had to eventually cancel the trip. In fact, many travel goals were also affected by this crisis.

Who would have thought that 2020 wouldn’t be as clear as we envisioned it to be?


New challenges

This year didn’t start out well. Taal Volcano erupted in January (good thing, the volcano already calmed down). It was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now there’s a nationwide community quarantine.

But there are still many things to be thankful for. After all, my name John means “God is gracious” which is true and I thank Him for all the blessings I have received so far:

The gift of opportunities. I’m blessed I’ve been working from home since the quarantine was implemented in March.

Many people (e.g. jeepney and tricycle drivers) lost their jobs during the community quarantine.

The gift of friends. It’s true that we outgrow friendships. I’ve blocked and unfriended lots of Facebook friends during this fake news and fanaticism era. I’m glad that the circle of real friends I have now stood the test of time. We may not meet and talk every day even before the quarantine (we usually meet to celebrate birthdays), but they will always be there for me when I need them and vice versa.

The gift of family. My family reminds me that I always have people I can come home to whatever happens.

The gift of life. Hundreds of thousands of people already died of COVID-19. I’m very thankful that I still get to celebrate another birthday with my family.


New normal

In the new normal, wearing a mask is a must. Security guards will check your temperature before you can enter a building. Frequent hand washing will be imposed. Work-from-home setup will continue. And social distancing will always be observed.

Before this new normal, I used to throw a birthday party where I invited the kids I’m teaching in our community. Once, I even shot my advocacy story for a TV feature on my birthday. Most of the time, though, I just celebrated it with my family. But how will I celebrate my birthday in the new normal?

For sure, there won’t be a mañanita or an early morning serenade for a birthday celebrant. Mass gatherings including birthday parties are not allowed in the new normal. Also, there won’t be liquor and roses. Why would I want roses? Besides, I won’t be celebrating a debut! Most probably, my birthday celebration would be the usualsalusalo with my family.

Now that I’m celebrating my birthday, I have to make a wish. Well, I have more than one wish for my birthday this year.

1. Lord, please blow the coronavirus out. Every day, people are getting infected. And this virus has already killed so many people who had a family, a dream, a rich story to tell.

2. For the typhoons: I know we, Filipinos, are known for our hospitality but please limit your visit to our country. It’s just the second quarter of the year but we had enough disasters already.

3. I hope discrimination of frontliners like nurses and doctors will be stopped. They are all risking their lives to save other people’s lives.

4. I wish everyone good health, especially my family and friends. And of course, the discovery of vaccine for COVID-19.

5. Lastly, Lord, please give us more strength and courage to face more new challenges in the new normal in this new decade.

John Patrick F. Solano finished his BS Applied Mathematics degree from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, an MS Mathematics graduate (full scholar) from the Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Thailand, and is currently an MA Filipino: Malikhaing Pagsulat student from the University of the Philippines Diliman.


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