To borrow a song from R.E.M., 2020 is “the end of the world as we know it.” The coronavirus pandemic has definitely changed the world in the span of a few months.
Remote work became the norm rather than the exception. Video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Cisco Webex were thrust in the spotlight. Face masks became the new fashion statement, alongside face shields and hand sanitizer pouches. Before, people would look forward to staying home after a long work week outside; now, people look forward to going outside after being cooped up at home.
It hasn’t been an easy transition for most of us, as seen in the rise of anxiety and depression cases alongside the lockdown mandates. Manila had been under three months of the stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March until May, the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) from June to July, a more stringent modified ECQ (MECQ) for a fortnight, and back to GCQ until this time. Nevertheless, here’s what I have been up to during those months and what I have produced during that lockdown period.
I was already preparing to leave my previous job in an ESL company after almost four years. My busy schedule only permitted me to publish one post that time (228 – On Asian Backlogs: Triptych 35). I also worked on some additional posts for future periods during this month. Taal Volcano erupted early that month, with ash fall reaching Metro Manila. Many were hoarding face masks to protect against any respiratory diseases the volcanic ash may trigger.
I did not publish any posts for this month, as I was already preparing my requirements for a company that accepted my application. A colleague submitted his resignation letter at the start of the month, and I handed in mine a day before Valentine’s Day. Much as I wanted to stay, the French manager used his position to accuse me of an alleged infraction. Don’t blame me if I have a hatred of these cheese-eating surrender monkeys; I haven’t even had the chance to fight back.
For my last month at the ESL tutorial company, I wrapped up a few deliverables and prepared my transition documents for the next person replacing me. The next company I was set to work in was an Australian telecommunications provider with operations here in Manila. Incidentally, my first day in the new job was the first and last time I would visit the office in one of Manila’s central business districts.
And then the lockdown started. Metro Manila was placed under ECQ, limiting everyone’s movement to curb the coronavirus’ spread. I worked from home with my then-manager in Australia and another colleague here in the Philippines.
I also managed to publish a number of travel posts, including a four-part series on my 2019 trip to Singapore with my younger brother:
- 229 – The Monching Returns To Singapore (Day 1)
- 230 – The Monching Returns To Singapore (Day 2)
- 231 – The Monching Returns To Singapore (Day 3)
- 232 – The Monching Returns To Singapore (Day 4) + Singaporium
- 233 – The Monching Visits: Pililla Wind Farm
The pressure was on me during this month was starting to build up. Good thing I had the blog and a chock full of old material to help me cope. Manila was still under ECQ, so the isolation contributed to the lack of new content. I published an update entry (234 – On An Update And Catching Up In 2020) outlining how I managed to stay afloat during the first quarter to kick off the month.
Aside from the update post, I managed to send a two-part travel entry from early 2019 and four triptych entries to the presses:
- 235 – The Monching Visits Tagaytay (Part 1)
- 236 – The Monching Visits Tagaytay (Part 2)
- 237 – On The Ones Gone: Triptych 36
- 238 – On Past Dates: Triptych 37
- 239 – On Sandwiches Seen Differently: Triptych 38
- 240 – On A Corner Market Lunch: Triptych 39
The cracks were clearly showing in the glass by this time. My manager from the Land Down Under was showing her true colors, claiming that all my outputs were “hard to understand” – a classic form of gas-lighting to make you look stupid and incompetent.
My colleague managed to alleviate the situation, but I was slowly developing a disgust for my direct superior. I started developing anxiety attacks, dreading whenever I would log in to my work shift and snapping when my manager would send an email.
Blogging nevertheless remained my outlet during this time. I managed to publish a number of posts – including a product review, a generic overseas travel post and another local travel entry circa 2015.
- 241 – On Accompaniments: Cube 5
- 242 – On The Lunch Specials: Cube 6
- 243 – The Monching Walks: Intramuros, 2015
- 244 – On Taglines: Triptych 40
- 245 – On The Mid-Tier Shave
- 246 – On An Earlybird’s Culinary Quarantine: Cube 7
- 247 – On Three Singapore Stops For The Business Traveler
- 248 – On Promotion Channels: Triptych 41
I made the decision to once again polish up my resume and scour the job market – despite the ongoing pandemic. I could no longer stand a day more with the issues I encountered with my Australian manager. It came to the point that I even indicated my willingness to have my compensation slashed when I pitched my resume to companies. I didn’t publish new entries for this month to focus on the job hunt.
It also helped that Manila’s quarantine level was relaxed to GCQ, which allowed people to move about – provided that they had a quarantine pass with them. I managed to leave the house to run some errands and finish some paperwork, which the pandemic delayed for four months.
Things came to a head this month following a performance evaluation. The manager told me that I could take a performance improvement plan, but I disagreed. I would still be working with her once the four-week plan ends, repeating the cycle all over again. Instead, I took the one-way ticket out and handed in my resignation. Despite her respecting my decision and saying that she would gladly give character references, my mind was perusing otherwise. In my mind, I was saying “I pray that our paths will never cross again!”
Thanks to my laptop being repaired this month, I managed to churn out eight new posts – five food-related entries (with one full restaurant review) and three non-food ones. The non-food ones basically consist of my experience using dating apps, an advice piece for saving up during the pandemic, and a feature post about the trainers I’ve used over the years.
- 249 – On Counterculture Epicure: Triptych 42
- 250 – On Yours Truly Being Terrible At Dating
- 251 – On Gourmet Vivacity: Triptych 43
- 252 – On Asian Anytime: Kopi Chan Asian Eatery, Araneta Center Cubao
- 253 – On Budgeting And Avoiding The Dreaded Debt Trap
- 254 – On Tempura Throwbacks: Cube 8
- 255 – On A Tale Of Trainers
- 256 – On A Curry Commemoration: A CoCo Ichibanya Retrospective
The big day came, and I rendered my last working day with the Australian company. It simply consisted of me wrapping up a few tasks, showing the next person the bells and whistles, and sending out farewell emails to colleagues. It so happened that the office building where my company was had a confirmed COVID-19 case, so I had to turn over the laptop and its peripherals via a courier sent by the office. Fortunately, the new employee got the laptop safe and sound – and the HR officer informed me that I was all cleared.
Just four days after I left the previous office, I started working in my current job. It was definitely a miracle that I got hired here. It did not only offer a larger compensation, it also had a Tuesday to Saturday work schedule (and I’m still on a work from home setup!)
I managed to continue the eight-post streak in July, in between the old job and the new. In addition, I purchased a new smartphone with a better camera to provide better quality pictures for my reviews.
- 257 – On Carbo-Loading: Cube 9
- 258 – On One-Shot Meals: Cube 10
- 259 – On Cheap Eastwood Lunches: Triptych 43
- 260 – On Lion City Parks
- 261 – On Cakes and Afternoons: Triptych 44
- 262 – On Eating Out In The New Normal
- 263 – On A Midyear Pandemic Update
- 264 – On Random Pre-Quarantine Meals: Cube 11
I had already settled in my new job this month, but I still had to learn the ropes. I initially stumbled as with a tenderfoot starting out, but I managed to get the hang of things. I also published one post this month (265 – On Cool Treats: Triptych 45), while taking the opportunity to get out of the house to research new food spots. It was also during this month that the previous company (the Australian telecommunications firm) gave me my final pay check. Pretty hefty, but that goes to savings.
Just the same, I took some time off from blogging to focus on researching for new entries. I had a pretty good run with my job, which I am thankful for. This was also the last month of my 20s, albeit devoid of fanfare – thanks to the pandemic.
I managed to celebrate my 30th birthday early this month, despite the lockdown and its accompanying restrictions. No physical gifts from other people as part of safety protocols, but I bought a few items for myself alongside my regular supply runs.
With the material I accrued and worked on over the past months, I started publishing on my regular Wednesday schedule. November saw the debut of the new This or That format – which I conceptualized for the new normal.
- 266 – THIS OR THAT 1: Banapple’s Creamy Chicken Pie or Casa Daza’s Chicken Empanada
- 267 – THIS OR THAT 2: Kumori Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Cookie or Scout’s Honor’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie
- 268 – THIS OR THAT 3: Banana Leaf’s Roti Canai Supreme with Chili and Spring Onion or The Roti Shop’s Roti Prata with Cheese and Onion
- 269 – THIS OR THAT 4: Healthy Options’ Pure Fit Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bar or Go! Salads’ Brookie
Nine months of the pandemic, and here we are celebrating the Christmas holidays! December 2020 had a lot of unprecedented events. This was the first time I attended a virtual Christmas party from home, and the first time I actually performed voluntarily in front of colleagues. It was also the first time that I only had two-day work weeks – and successive weeks too, before Christmas and the New Year!
I also managed to sneak in a full review, a product of early morning visits to a café I frequented. I also churned out two additional food posts, and a birthday post on Christmas Day.
- 270 – On Pandemic Breakfasts: UCC Park Café, Eastwood Mall
- 271 – On Mid-Pandemic Meals: Triptych 46
- 272 – On Post-Lockdown Lunches: Triptych 47
- 273 – On A Birthday Haul For Christmas
As a bonus for this section, here are some pictures from our Christmas and New Year spread.
That wraps up this rather long recap of the past year, despite only churning out a total of 46 posts. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
Until the next post, stay safe and may 2021 be a promising year for you!