by Evita Ongchangco, RGC, Facilitator of Keep Going Baguio’s Virtual Meet-Ups
The year 2020 is, without a doubt, one of the worst years that has befallen us on a worldwide scale. COVID-19 took away a lot of opportunities from us in all sense of the word: jobs, travel, meeting with loved ones, and even just taking a walk outside. We were all forced to stay indoors for our own safety and that of others. For some of us, adjusting to the indoor life as if it was as simple as breathing. However not all of us are as lucky, either having to go out because we are needed, or having to stay indoors when it is in our nature to go out.
Mental Health Challenges
Despite the quarantine being for our own good, it took a toll on our ability to cope with the stress of change- and let’s face it, no one has a ready handbook in dealing with a pandemic. Concern for mental health has been all over the news, with increasing cases of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide itself. As much as it is a hard pill to swallow, we are faced with the reality that we are in a situation where our mental health is also greatly at risk as much as we are at risk with COVID.
The isolation imposed to us to keep us safe had slowly eroded the better part of our socialization, one of our most common form of comfort. Before we knew it, practically everything has been moved online. For the better part of the pandemic, Keep Going Baguio has materialized a means for people to come together virtually. It’s one thing to help everyone become aware of our current situation, physically and mentally, but it is another to be able to vent, be heard and to arm ourselves with better knowledge to keep moving forward.
The Keep Going Baguio Virtual Meet Up (KGB-VMU) is only one of the projects that our group has started during this pandemic. We also have webinars, trainings and workshops that aim to educate others about mental health, powered by empowered volunteers. Despite the distance, we have made new friends, discovered more about ourselves and learned to have fun even if we’re physically distanced from each other. We have successfully held a Halloween party and a Christmas party complete with costumes, games and prizes, all done online. Despite the necessary restrictions, it did not stop people from letting out their creativity and enjoying the fleeting, gleeful reprise.
Hopes for the Future
Of course, with the new year rolling in, we are reminded of our collective nature to look forward to better days, and see the hope that comes along with it. Our members also see this hope, and in grounding ourselves in the reality, majority of us would like to see ourselves improve throughout the coming months of 2021 among other things. On top of our list includes the hope for a vaccine, meeting new people, continuing careers/schooling, having a vacation, continuing with their art or craft, finding a new job, and the improvement in the political and sociological (something) of the country. Some personal hopes include finding a new romantic partner, hearing new music from their favorite bands or singer, having more time to bond with their kids, and having a new season to watch from their favorite show. We also hope for progress in mental health advocacy, trans rights, solidarity in depression, improvement of educational curriculum, peace of mind and financial stability.
Grounding in the Present
Even if we are eager and raring to go this new year, we are also continuing to keep safe and reminding others to do this as well. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that going into the new year does not equate to our problems magically disappearing. It’s still not easy, it’s still not back to normal and it’s a long way to get back to the sense of normal that we know. This also does not mean that we should not hold on to the hope we have found. If it’s possible to have so many new connections during the pandemic, if it’s possible to keep our wits about us during these trying times, there is no reason for us not to find the silver lining, and to keep going.