Disclaimer: The following statements are based solely on the author’s imagination and self-reflection.

It is the 10th of January in the year 2021— 10 months after COVID-19 struck the Philippines. Things got a little better unlike before. Quarantine protocols are lifted, people are allowed to freely go outside, businesses started to re-open, and classes resumed in all levels. It has been a month with no new reported cases of COVID-19 patients. We are now in the “new normal” era— everything was not the same as before; there were a lot of changes and we all ought to live with them.

As the new semester starts, I travel back to Baybay City from my hometown. I rode a van to my destination. There were only a total of eight of us in it. Well, it was probably because of the new guidelines that the IATF released five months ago. As we were approaching the city border, police officers wearing face shields approached the van. They all checked our temperature and fortunately, no one showed any signs of the illness. I got off in the terminal and rode a multicab to VSU. This time, we were separated by plastic sheets placed in between us. The 10-peso fare doubled to 20 since only half of the maximum capacity was allowed.

As I got off at the main gate of our university, I realized how much I missed the place— the view, the air, the people, and my dormitory. Before I entered the university, I had to go through another round of health measures. A nurse from University Health Services checked my temperature and sprayed alcohol on my hands, while the security officer asked for our school ID and validated certificate of registration. A mini tent was installed right outside the entrance. There was a series of pipes installed on the roof of the tent, spraying disinfectants as we passed through it. Fortunately, it was the last procedure before we could finally enter the school.

Some of us started walking towards our dormitories, all wearing face masks. It is one of the many new policies that the university made after the pandemic.

I arrived in my dormitory. Before entering, I had to step on a foot bath and once again apply alcohol on my hands. When I entered my room, a health kit was placed on my bed. It seems like it was not only for me; all of the beds had one. Inside was a 150 mL alcohol, 7 disposable face masks, a pack of vitamin C, a thermometer, and a pamphlet. It was all placed inside a small transparent bag with the VSU logo on it.

After getting settled in my room, I went to the VSU market to buy a few supplies. Again, before entering, a manual scanning of body temperature is required. All of the businesses are now open including food stalls. All the vendors are wearing face masks as well as gloves. Free hand sanitizers are placed in each entrance requiring people to apply them before entering. Despite the changes, the delicious comfort food that I always enjoyed was still there in the market.

Monday morning came— it was the finally the first day of classes. We had to go through the same process upon entering the university. Of course, students, faculty and staff must follow the procedure. Posters and signages about health measures are spread across the university, constantly reminding us of the things that we must observe.

As I was passing through the other buildings, I noticed that utility workers consistently disinfect the rooms every after someone uses it. Even the security heightened in the university— university guards are always on patrol around the campus to ensure that students are following the new policies that the administration set. Disinfection teams roamed around the campus, cleaning and sanitizing the different parts of the university.

Indeed, all of these felt very new to me. Even though I did not feel any struggle with the changes, I felt sad that we could no longer live the way we used to. The virus taught us a lot about life— it challenged our government, tested people’s behavior, and even reshaped policies as well as adjusted systems for people to adapt to.

The COVID-19 pandemic will forever be recorded in our history. It may be remembered as a time where we had to distance ourselves from one another and stay in our homes for the longest of time.

Despite this, I have not lost hope that we can still go back to the “normal” lives that we used to have. We survived the pandemic and remained strong, and that is what we are going to be for the rest of our lives.

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