2020 Then and Now

It’s the sixth month of the year. It’s hard to believe that in the same span of time, we’d be ushering a new year again. It seems that 2020 is both the shortest yet the longest year ever.

This year altered some common perceptions of work. Now, we know that a lot of work can be done remotely. Now, it is very clear that some meetings that require a lot of budget for the venue, accommodations and food can be done in way that requires less budget, less movement and less coordination, and that some meetings can actually be replaced by one informative and well-written email. The move of almost all establishments to require setting appointments showed it to be a more organized system both for the company and the clients. But then, we also saw a fragile system where people can be unemployed in an instant, with no safety net.

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Year 2020 urged schools to be adept in online education and to be ready to offer alternative methods of learning. It showed the need to prepare materials that are suitable for online learning and to train teachers to be skilled and proficient in the use of technology. The situation required the education sector to know the different platforms and online systems that are reliable, secure, and affordable. This same situation also showed the disparity between families and communities who have access and have the means to use technology in education and those who do not.

Tourism came to a halt as flights were banned and travel restrictions were implemented. People had to cancel their trip be it cruising in the Mediterranean, going on a pilgrimage to Santiago, touring the Puerto Princesa Underground River, climbing up and down the stairs of the Great Wall, soaking up the sun in Boracay, snorkelling in Palawan, joining a hike at the base of Mayon Volcano, seeing and feeling the awe-inspiring sights of Bagan, enjoying the scenic beauty of Switzerland, and going to many other places. On the other side, the ugly side, we see workers and commuters stranded. We see people confused as they are ordered to go back to work but they have no sufficient means of transportation. Or if they can get assistance in paying COVID-19 testing costs and hotel accommodations during a mandatory quarantine.

Year 2020 was and is a time to test the mettle of government leaders. It was a time for church leaders to inspire people to strengthen their faith. It is a time for presidents, CEO’s and heads of companies to show how well they can manage the company by taking care of both the company’s economic status and the employees’ welfare. But we don’t need to go too far to see the importance of good leadership. At home, within the family, whether together or far apart, a leader had to keep people together and make them feel that things are okay despite the difficulties.

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The importance of research is highlighted in 2020. This is not limited to researching the cure for COVID-19, although this should be a priority now. Other necessary researches should be the following: What can lessen the adverse impact of a lockdown to economies? What system can the government do to assist people, especially those who lost their jobs, aside from just distributing relief goods and cash to them? What improvements must be done in the health sector to make it more prepared for health disasters and emergencies? How can the government’s resources be utilized more appropriately and intelligently during a pandemic? How can learning be more accessible to all, even in remote areas with no advanced technology? How can we combat and prevent the spread of fake news at a time when accurate information is crucial? What measures should be done to address not just people’s physical health but also their mental health at these uncertain times? The list goes on.

The year is not yet over. There are still many things we can do with the rest of 2020 while applying physical distancing and taking care of our health. The year may not have been off to a good start but we can decide to start any day to do some little changes to feel happier, be healthier, be kinder, and feel more alive. We can support a good cause. We can assist others who really need help.

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For Filipinos, we can still celebrate the following: Independence Day on June 12, Nutrition Month in July, Buwan ng Wika in August, the lengthy Christmas season from September to December, and more. We can celebrate our birthdays, and that of our family members’ and friends’. Young couples can celebrate “monthsaries” or even “weeksaries” if they wanted to. We can celebrate a new haircut, a new lipstick shade, a good recipe, a new certificate, our child’s first steps, that single, tiny bean sprout by our window sill, our pet cat, our trip to the grocery store, because why not?

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I am not suggesting we pretend to be happy every day for the rest of the year. I am not even too sure if I enumerated all those suggestions also to convince myself that everything is going to be all right after all. But yes, we can try. Some things are beyond our control, but in the areas where we can make even the slightest difference to make things better for us and for others, we should. We must.

2020 might be a tough year, but we can be tougher.

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