My 2020: Losing Our Jobs, Starting a New Business, and Getting COVID-19

Hey. I’m still here.

I’m still here. How powerful it is to see that line these days. 2020 has been a year of losses for many of us, a year of empty chairs and empty tables. Surviving that hellish year, being alive, breathing well, standing still, being here–what a miracle.

I write my end-of-the-year review today, March 15–exactly one year since our government announced that it was imposing a strict ECQ. I remember that day so vividly. We’d been wary of this new “Wuhan Virus” for a while, and my husband has warned me many times to stock up on essentials. I was in denial and thought it wasn’t going to be a serious threat here. By March 15, 2020, it was apparent that COVID-19 wasΒ a serious global threat. I queued in the grocery for three hours. I thought it was so surreal to be living through a real pandemic, experiencing a lockdown I’d only seen on games and movies. Still, I was hopeful that this community quarantine would only last for a couple of weeks to a few months at most.

There were many things going on in our lives, so many things to be excited about. The husband’s work in the live events industry was picking up, and he had big projects lined up. We also planned to start the construction of our home and even paid in full for the digging to begin. What I thought would be a short pause would turn out to be one whole, grueling year.

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Strong Start: Celebrating my birthday at Sofitel, Lucas’ first haircut, construction of our future home, and traveling to La Union.

Losing our Livelihood & Starting a New Business

When the ECQ was announced, it was clear to us that we would lose our main livelihood. Concerts, exhibits, and events were the first to go and we knew that they’d be the last to resume. What little savings we had would slowly, but surely, be spent up. My gigs as a freelance writer could keep us afloat, but we also had to think of Enzo’s crew who were quarantining with us.

By May, as we entered the third month of the lockdown, Enzo, who is an avid leathercrafter, decided to train his men on the craft. These were painters, carpenters, and artists to begin with and they picked up the skill pretty well. As soon as our suppliers resumed business, we decided to launch a small online brand.

Attique ph

Attique, our passion project, was born on May 27, 2020. We started selling leather masks and other handcrafted leather accessories. Starting a business with actual employees is not an easy feat, especially during a pandemic. We definitely had a few hiccups along the way and learned a trove of lessons. It’s been almost 10 months and we’re still here, trudging along. We’ve gone beyond selling on Facebook and Instagram and invested on an actual website, started catering to international clients, and even got featured on Philippine Tatler! What I am most proud about, however, is the fact that we are able to give jobs to our crew as their livelihood is put on hold. This purpose keeps me going, even during points of low sales.

Testing Positive for COVID-19

As if the year hasn’t been harsh enough, we received another shock just as 2020 was about to end. Yes, I tested positive for COVID-19. On December 10, I was exposed to someone who I didn’t know had the virus. By Dec. 14, I had a sudden 38C fever and got tested on the 15th. Sure enough, I had it.

It was a shock, yes, and reading the word “positive” gave me cold, nervous shivers for a few minutes. But really, it’s a miracle how our family has managed to avoid the virus this long. While I initially thought the coronavirus wasn’t going to be a serious threat, I now believe that it’s here to stay and we’re all gonna get it at some point. It still sucked, especially because my 14-day isolation meant that I’d be spending Christmas away from my husband and 20-month-old son.

COVID-19 positive
Our 2020 Christmas Card. Celebrating Christmas Eve via Facetime.

Because I got sick, my husband lost a couple of projects just as his job was slowly reviving. By extension, he was a person of interest so he had to quarantine as well. Christmas was a truly depressing time. We had lost so much throughout the year. It felt like we drowning and couldn’t rise to take even just one gulp of air.

Ironically, when 2020 began, I chose the word HEAL to be my inspiration for the year. To heal from past hurts and mistakes, to heal from physical and emotional pain. I never thought I’d be claiming this word literally.

Despite all that I’ve lost last year, my gains by far outweighed them all. I shall remember 2020 as the year when we lost all our savings, our house, our job, and stability. It was also the year when the Lord has come through for us. He has healed my mom of cancer, protected me from COVID-19’s severe symptoms, and held our families closer despite the physical distance. 2020 was the year when my perspective on life has shifted on what’s truly meaningful, lasting, and essential.

All in a year: Lucas turned one, my mom got cured of Stage 3 cancer, we launched a brand (!), my family is well and complete, and I’m raising a son in the new normal.

I’m tempted to say that it was a good year for the sake of optimism. But I won’t, because I don’t want to negate the bad and all the hardships people had to face. Because if there’s one more thing 2020 has taught me, it was to be sensitive to other people’s plight, feelings, and coping mechanisms. So I’ll just say thank you, 2020. Next.