2020 In Silence Leaves



Same time last year, the fortune tellers were vociferous. Diviners – those who could see the future of the universe through humble tea leaves were all over the place, gaining more prominence than all the Old Testament prophets. And they were as loud as those old men ranting forever about the sins of the world. But the most opportunity fell on the feng hsui experts – they who could tell when the placement of the door is auspicious and what kind of windows would bring in wealth. We know it was part of fashion heeding them, but these flamboyant personas – usually Chinese in ethnicity – practically took over the functional aspects of architecture. But before our buildings and homes fell through sinkholes, a virus made its way in February. It is said the virus was already there in the air or in the liquid parts of the sky but our ignorance allowed us to enjoy Christmas and New Year.


After months of languishing in anxieties ((whether we admit it or not), friends are telling friends that they never expected that 2020 would be a dismal year. How could be morbid about the 2020 when all things were pointing to good energy and happiness? The numerologists, for one, called our attention to the first two digits of the year repeated. It appears that very few people will live through another of this type of numerals. The next phenomenon of the two digits in a year being repeated will take place on 2121.


It is moving to talk of mortality when one recalls the arrival of 2020. It is known to be the Year of the Rat, not just any rat but Metal Rat. I do not have the expertise why animals take on different physical manifestations but the Metal Rat, according to avowed experts, indicate strength and longevity.


But here we are in the middle of pandemic. The options for human societies remain limited; the end of this sorrowful global journey is nowhere at hand.


As for the virus, the latest news is its mutation. To laypersons, a mutant is a dangerous concept. Weaned on sci-fi and comics, we are not ready for any mutant even if biologists would tell you that everywhere around us mutation is taking place. It does not entail growth of extra head or a sudden appearance of wings on the back of land mammals but there are constant shifts in our bodies – humans and animals alike. Or because we are also animals.


The mutation of the virus scares us because we have not really known the virus and it has already changed.


If we are afraid of changes in our everyday lives, how much more the thought that a virus that has altered our lives, kept us to our own space, and gave birth to words like “social distancing” and “quarantining” has now shape-shifted?


I have seen too much of horror films and super heroes that my discourse about diseases is infected by fantasy and hyperbole.


The fact is we will really never know about the virus. We can assign it a number and feel like God on some days of creation but that is that. Not everything is dark though about this virus that has taken over our lives. There is one realization and that is – in ten months or a bit more – we have learned more about human nature than the medical aspect of transmission.


We have learned to live with the mask and the shield. Women now have to contend not only with playing the color and texture of the skirt with the blouse. There is the “mask,” that contraption that has also rediscovered the allure of a good pair of eyes. While we sigh each day about people getting sick and dying, are we not assured of the fact that our nose, the most contentious of the Filipino’s facial features, is saved from damnation and mortal judgment? The lips also, already overrated even when not used for kissing and talking, are given time to rest. There are only those pair of eyes and the mask.


If the mask is not enough, there is the shield. In public places, the shield has taken a more prominent position – that of protecting the back side of the human head.


You see, the world cannot end with the virus. That is a deathly boring resolution to our colorful lives. And so when the bells ring to bring in the New Year, let us pray for those fortune tellers and soothsayers who are so quiet now in the face of the more arrogant virus of sickness and annihilation. Let us pray that they change their ways. Let us also pray that our kin and friends who believe in all these forecast and divination to stop buying fake frogs with fake coins in their mouth and put an end to the annoying cat waving with its paw.


Let us close our eyes and silently assure ourselves how our life on this earth cannot be ruled by ceramic cats, plastic frogs, and mirrors. Nor by a virus.