How Kalami Cebu evolved during the COVID-19 Pandemic
While the rest of the country or perhaps the rest of the world is easing towards the new normal, many Cebuanos like me face the uncertainty every day as we live in the only city in the Philippines that is on lockdown. The stress and anxiety have forced me to redefine my content as well as find a purpose in this new normal.
How I wish, I can just go back in time and have a re-do 2020. Back in March before the president issued a nationwide lockdown, there were very few active cases in Cebu. While I was fearful and concerned for China and Italy, I never imagined that Cebu will ever be a hotspot for the dreaded Covid-19. I was a little sad that many events were canceled and I would not be seeing my friends for a while. As a food blogger/vlogger, I was also worried about the local hotel and restaurant industry. Not just the big companies but also the smaller ones like eateries, karenderia, and even the street food vendors.
One the personal side, my wife is a medical frontliner and we live with her parents who are senior citizens. Back in March and April, the hospitals were operating like pre-COVID times. Since I was living with doctors, I started wearing masks, and washing hands more often.
Life During the First ECQ
From March 17-26, I only posted 1 new video. I spent most of time monitoring the US and the overall case numbers in the Philippines. It was more out of curiosity than concern. Then ECQ or Enhanced Community Quarantine happened! During the first day of ECQ, the first thing I did was to shoot a video.
In April, my wife was told to report to the hospital and stay there for 15 days. Actually, it was a good set-up because we somehow save on gas plus we do not have to deal with the checkpoints daily. Back then, Cebu was still far from the spotlight.
During the early part of the first ECQ, I was featuring places where you can buy basic necessities. It was not fancy restaurants anymore but more on fruit stalls, bakeshops, and home cooking. I started to miss events and paid gigs but I was also beginning to embrace the ECQ survivalist lifestyle.
Sitio Zapatera Outbreak
In mid-April, Cebu had its first outbreak in Sitio Zapatera in Barrio Luz. This densely populated area is just 2.5 kilometers away from where I live. Many people were mad at the residents here and instead of joining the "mob", I posted a call for help and compassion. The post somehow got viral and many people also took action.
At that time I got involved in helping groups that are providing masks, food, and other needs of the affected Barangays and frontliners. My vlogs then included features of different movements that were helping the government win the war against the pandemic. One of the movements that I supported was Shields4Food and here was my video feature:
By the end of the first ECQ, the cases of Cebu were rising but many were also busy offering delicious food for delivery. My content by then involves driving around as well as featuring food that is available for delivery.
On the personal side, anxiety was also growing as there were more cases in Cebu City and I can feel the stress that my wife is feeling. It was starting to get serious.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed most of the country to GCQ or General Community Quarantine while putting Cebu City to MECQ or Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. Our mayor, Edgar Labella with the support of the local business community appealed for a GCQ. The president gave in and Cebu was in GCQ despite a daily increase of cases that can rival Quezon City (the city had the most number of cases then).
After the 15-day In and 15-day Out set-up in April and May at the hospital where my wife worked, for June, she has to go to the hospital daily from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM. That was the start of my daily GCQ drive where I document what is happening on the streets of Cebu every morning and afternoon.
From June 1-30, I had at least one new driving video daily. During this month, a lot of people got serious with their homemade food business. A lot of them send me samples for me to try. In exchange, I make short videos about the products of the home cooks. I even managed to create content that combined driving around the city as well as featuring a restaurant.
On the family side, it was quite tough as my wife got so tired after work and she has dealt with many suspected COVID-19 cases. There was even a time that she was sidelined for a couple of days because she was tested for the virus. Luckily, it came out negative. The incident made me realize that the situation in Cebu was really getting serious.
Now, we are at the end of June and most likely my city will remain on lockdown. Everything is still uncertain but I remain hopeful that things will be better soon.
I believe that making videos daily has been instrumental to my mental health. I feel the pinch financially but I know that most of us are feeling the same. I have used my social media platforms to promote the small businesses that are helping the situation become manageable for many.
I realized that a content creator like me can still be a big help for others during this tough time. I am even surprised that many people actually appreciate my daily drive because somehow it allows them to see what is happening in Cebu.
Moving forward, my main inspiration is my wife and all the people who are working hard at the front lines of this war against the virus. Every day they risk their lives to save others and many of them got sick and even died helping the sick. I could choose to do nothing but I believe a blogger or a content creator can truly help many people in this pandemic. Many are actually helping in creating entertaining and funny content but I will be sticking to my strengths which is to provide information or to be a "bird dog" that helps the businesses especially the smaller ones.
July will be a critical month for the country and I think each one of us has the potential to become a hero no matter how insignificant we think we are. Let's help each other and I know we can win this war.
This story is an entry to Comco SouthEast Asia's "Write To Ignite Blogging Project". The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit. "Write to Ignite Blog Project" aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by Comco SouthEast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet, and Teleperformance.