I didn’t realize until now that in the grand scheme of things, I am considered a non-essential.
I had just flown back from London where I had lunch with very important people from very important publications to hype the new creative director of a luxe clothing brand; the following week, I was supposed to arrange for some of our biggest style stars to fly to Seoul for the opening of the flagship store of the same brand.
In between, I was organizing three other launches, a summer campaign event for a department store, and a made-to-measure effort for private clients by an Italian tailor under a label that rhymes with Rada.
All this while juggling a teleserye playing myself and a talk show on cable with my name on the title. In short, I was getting warmed up for the year.
And then COVID-19 happened.
Everything got cancelled or postponed till further notice. All our clubs and restaurants had to be closed. Travel was banned. Life’s little joys like hugging were discouraged, and I had to stay put in a place where I was mostly absent from — home.
What I thought was going to be jail time ended up being something else. I finally had time to read a book (still haven’t done it), or write my long-delayed book (still haven’t done it).
Okay, so I may have indulged in a K-drama series or two (or five), which somehow made my eyes become a natural in subtitle speed reading but I finally know what my K-drama addicted friends and titas are talking about and I totally get them.
I am one of them now!
At the start of the lockdown, my partner Javi Martinez and I started the hashtag #frontlinersPH and the 5 p.m. habit of applauding our frontliners from our windows, inspired by the scenes of support in other countries. We did it for one day. I’m so happy that it snowballed into a full movement, which is being done until now to show appreciation to the heroes of this pandemic.
“ Boredom was the enemy. Imagination was key, as well as the mindset that we would make the most out of everything and nothing. ”
I also helped bring some companies together to provide food for the frontliners of 20 different hospitals for the duration of the lockdown. But then it got extended, and got super extended. And got modified and enhanced and fortified and took on a life of its own. I honestly don’t know where we are now. DOH Secretary Duque and I are on the same boat.
I spent the first month of the quarantine finding humour within the madness of everything — in social media. I think I am part of the reason why certain memes trend — kidding not kidding. The minute I woke up, I would forward memes and jokes (better than fake news any day!) to all my chat groups, from the Creatives to the Quarantitas.
From Zoom to live
I was also Zoom-hopping from one group to another; some for work and others to just catch up. I wanted to make sure that my friends knew that I cared enough to keep in touch. I’d randomly message people to check up on them or broadcast a message of positivity to start the week.
It was the longest time I hadn’t seen everyone. And I was used to seeing people almost every day — okay, every night.
Then I combined my work and workout spot into one. Beside my table is a treadmill and a spinning bike, and I put a makeshift swimming pool by the penthouse terrace. We jumped from one area to another, converting every untouched space (except the toilets) into a new dining/ living area.
Boredom was the enemy. Imagination was key, as well as the mindset that we would make the most out of everything and nothing.
At the start of the lockdown, Javi and I produced an online talk show called Tim Yap LIVE on Facebook and YouTube so we could be with our friends virtually and see how everybody was dealing with the situation.
This routine kept me sane — listening to people who are insane — and gave me something to look forward to.
“ We should all be more flexible versions of ourselves — it’s not only good for yoga but also to live life in the time of COVID. ”
To date, we have put out close to 20 (and counting!) episodes of the show — with everyone from politicians to superstars, TikTok stars and COVID survivors as guests. I could have made it into a daily show, as my old normal would, but I told myself, “Use this time to do things differently,” so I did it three times a week.
Pivot & change
Our full-service events and PR company Yaparazzi got busy pivoting to online events. I watched in awe as I observed Javi give virtual graduation to an entire generation of up-and-coming IT girls for a shampoo brand; do an ‘80s-themed party for 100 of the country’s top entrepreneurs, and mount a fashion show shot inside a locked-down venue for a Japanese brand. It wasn’t easy to shift from larger-than-life live events to Facebook Live, but one thing we learned during this pandemic is: “When life gives you lemons... you livestream it.”
You highlight it and see what it does to you and what you can learn from it. When you learn, you earn. So turn your suffering into an opportunity and make the most out of every situation, whether good or not so good.
The thing that I’ve long realized about myself is that I am quite adaptable. If things don’t go as planned I can easily shift till it becomes the best-case scenario. We should all be more flexible versions of ourselves — it’s not only good for yoga but also to live life in the time of COVID. We actually have no other choice. ‘Wag na matigas ang ulo.
Moving forward, after having tried 101 variations of sushi bake and 150 kinds of ube cheese pandesal, and featured more than 250 small businesses on my IG Stories, I have decided to make something out of it. Something yummy and yappy is in the works, as well as a service that’ll help bridge people together. The COVID situation has forced us to stop, look and listen — at the world, our relationship with God, others and ourselves. It forced me to stay home, appreciate every nook and cranny of it, realize how hard I have worked nonstop, how I lacked sleep and put a little premium on rest.
It dawned on me that I was so focused on being competitive and running the race that I forgot that how much I loved the run part of it — from feeling the wind against my face to doubting why I’m there in the first place — and I should savor and enjoy every minute of it.
It taught me to focus, make the most out of my time and appreciate the people around me. It gave me amazing bonding time with my partner who loves me unconditionally — and my kids — my 10-plus pets at home (dogs, cats, a turtle and tortoise).
“ The COVID situation has forced us to stop, look and listen — at the world, our relationship with God, others and ourselves. It forced me to stay home, appreciate every nook and cranny of it, realize how hard I have worked nonstop, how I lacked sleep and put a little premium on rest. ”
It made me climb up to my roof deck every day to watch the sunset. It made me pray (especially before taking a COVID test) harder. It made me anxious, stressed, doubtful, crazy, agitated, confused and always hungry.
But I was happy. In the end, that is what’s most essential.
Edited by Tanya T. Lara