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 was 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.

mom blog ph
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.



Baby’s Room Tour

Lucas is turning one in four days. We had planned a fun camping trip with his cousins. Enzo had a grill made, we ordered picnic blankets, prepared a few games and prizes, I ordered souvenirs, and reserved a venue. Sadly, that is not going to happen.

It’s been a crazy tough week for everyone. In our part of the world, we are in an enhanced community quarantine. A lockdown, basically. Because of the increasing threat of COVID-19. NCoV, Coronavirus, or “veerus,” our president calls it. My family and I are all safe, grateful that we have ample food and essentials in the house. While we entertain ourselves with funny memes about this pandemic, we are seriously anxious about things. The husband’s work–our livelihood–is dependent on live shows and mass events, which for sure will change once this is all over.

It’s just been a week. We’re in it for the long haul. As they say, it will get worse before it gets better. For now, we’re using this time to plan our next steps and making the best of what we have now. Enzo has been busy tinkering with his tools, while I finally had the time to clean, fix, and take photos of the baby’s room.

Nursery Room Tour

I read several books on Montessori parenting when I was still pregnant. While I’m not as strict as other Montessori moms, I do appreciate many of its principles. One thing that I practice is the concept of having a “prepared environment.” The goal is to promote independence and encourage learning through exploration within boundaries. A baby’s room should be safe, simple, clean, and orderly.

A prepared environment is this: even if you leave the baby alone for a few minutes, he’ll be safe. You may find him crying, hungry, and with a soiled nappy. But he’s safe.

This is really important for me because how many times did I have to take a few moments to pee, have a drink, or talk to the phone? Sharing a few details of how we assembled this area, for mamas who are planning to do the same during this crucial time of social distancing:

1. Large floor mat with a thin foam

Maria Montessori also advocated mats over beds. I agree. More floor time for baby means he’ll develop motor skills and independence faster. However, Lucas still sleeps with us in our room, on our bed. When he does sleep here though, we just lay him on the mat. We ordered that from Shopee. The bed here is more for when we have guests sleeping over because we only have two rooms in the house.

2. Mirror with a bar just beside the mat

Here’s another Montessori principle that we adopted early on. Having a mirror beside a baby’s sleeping mat encourages self-awareness and space consciousness. We put a bar when Lucas was around six months, just as he was trying to grasp things and pull up. This bar is life-changing. He’s been happily pulling and standing up since he was six months!

Pikler Triangle with Ramp

3. Pikler triangle with ramp

Dr. Emmi Pikler was a pediatrician and infant educator, and she believed in the child’s innate ability to learn through independent playing. She designed a climbing triangle, now known as a Pikler, so babies can learn to navigate spaces at their own pace. Like the bar, this has been life-changing for Lucas. He was already pulling up when we first introduced the Pikler to him, but he seemed uninterested at the time. We didn’t force him. “Observe more, do less,” as RIE parenting advocates would say. After a few weeks, we caught him attempting to climb up–one to two steps at first until he mastered going to the top. We attach the ramp from time to time to practice his uphill crawling.

We also did not show him how he’s supposed to use the Pikler. Sometimes, Lucas drops toys inside the triangle and crawls through it as if it’s a tunnel. We’ve had a few frustrations–he gets trapped most of the time–but if I didn’t interrupt, I’ll see him solve his own problem and get out after a few attempts. It’s amazing how imaginative babies are when they’re learning.

A few moms who have seen this Pikler at work on my IG have asked me where I got it. Enzo actually made it using dimensions I found online. We actually wanted to order from an online seller but found the price too steep. I’m lucky my husband is a carpenter. If you want to have one made, DM me and I can send the dimensions. :)

Walker Wagon

4. Walker wagon

Montessori also discouraged the use of contraptions such as traditional walkers. According to her studies, babies develop motor skills in a specific sequence and it’s crucial not to restrict or skip these steps. A walker wagon provides babies the freedom of movement to develop their standing and walking skills at their own time. I ordered this wooden wagon from Happy Story Co.

5. Bookshelf and knickknacks

On the other side of the room, we have a shelf and a comfy chair I used for nursing. We’ve had that tall bookshelf since forever, and while most Montessori rooms you’ll see have low-lying shelves, we decided to just use our existing one. I just put all the books and toys at the bottom rows, so Lucas can easily reach them when he’s playing.

On the upper rows, we have some classic books we hope Lucas will be interested to devour once he’s reading. That cute portrait is made by a former colleague who’s now a mom of three. You can ask her to paint your baby or godchildren (drawings make the cutest gift!)–see her other works at Selah Soul Art.

We love this room because it’s safe and we can leave Lucas on his own here with minimal supervision. I’ve even napped while he’s awake, playing on his own. If you’re keen on setting up your own Montessori nursery, I strongly recommend that you read this book. Also, follow other moms who have done it so beautifully. I personally follow How We Montessori.

How are you spending your quarantine time, mamas? Are you also busy with baby projects? Share them in the comments below!