Sunday, April 19, 2020

Art in the Time of Pandemic

In a different situation, I should be packing up for my flight on Tuesday morning. ANA NH820 bound for Tokyo, a two-hour layover before I sit my butt for a long haul flight to Los Angeles. 

For 3 days, my team and I would be competing at Loyola Marymount University along with other representatives from different universities across the globe. Dressed up, high heels on, butterflies in stomach as we tackle one of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. Win or lose we planned on taking a night bus from LA to SFO and spend a couple of days in Yosemite National Park. We’d hike on a chilly weather, with rays of the sun peeping through the canopy of trees. In the evening, we could get an iced cold beer, fleece blanket all over to warm us, and talk about nothing and everything at the same time. I could finally visit the Tanner house along Broderick Street, cruise along Golden Gate, be in awe at the vast steel bars reaching for the clouds in front of me.

Then I’d meet my best friend who’d fly from Paris to Chi. Forget about having a detailed itinerary. All we knew is we could explore the Windy City’s architecture, visit a jazz house (was it Green Mill?) where Frank Sinatra and Charlie Chaplin used to play. Having read Becoming by Michelle Obama, I daydreamed of following the former flotus' footsteps on which restos to try, which parks to walk, and perhaps observe the city from a glass platform, barring fear of heights, of course.

Instead, I found myself staring blankly at my laptop, preparing myself for another week of “new normal” work from home routine, and at the same time feeling anxious whether my internet connection would act up or go smoothly for the now virtual competition. It’s been over a month since Metro Manila was put on lockdown. All over the world, vibrant cities become a picture of empty streets; runways are free, stores are closed and everyone has to stay at home. 

I don’t know how I managed to get through the first few days. Well, I guess we all just get through it, no matter how painstakingly. Day in and day out, I’d read the news eager to learn that maybe, like miracle, the global pandemic would finally halt and we can go back to normalcy. There’s a collective malaise that we are all trying to survive. And this uncertainty is forcing us to be still, to stand together despite the distance. It prompts the question, which part of normal should we go back to? Phrased differently, which part of normal should we NOT go back to?

Unfortunately, I am ending this narrative with no definitive answer. In between sorrow and hope, could-have-been and could-be, I wish to be at home in my own body and find the answers someday.

There is this beautiful passage from one of my favorite novelists, Rainer Maria Rilke, which says…

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Here's some of the pieces I made during this global pandemic epoch. (I'll make sure to update once I finished my work on Rilke's piece).
Of compassion

Of self-love
(Disclaimer: Original line art from Pinterest)

UPDATE: We're happy to bring honour to our alma mater. Our team won (yay!!) both in 25-Minute and 10-Minute Presentations. <3 You may see it here.


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MJ Roxas
+63908 622 1546
Manila, Philippines
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