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Day 44 of Boracay Quarantine, 7th of May 2020: Guilt in the Time of COVID-19

Anonymous contributor

I’ll be honest. Quarantine and self-isolation have really not been that hard for me, in general. I work online, from home. So, I’m used to spending days without physically seeing anyone. Despite outward appearances, I’m also an ambivert (someone who can be both introvert or extrovert depending on their mood, context, and goals) and so I’m content in my own space. Most times I relish it.

And yet this last week has been tough.

Not in an “I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family today” tough, or “I’m never going to be able to pay my bills/loans” tough. So, of course I then immediately feel guilty. What have I really got going on, that justifies me wallowing in a state of “struggle” or “sadness”?

The heat doesn’t help; it feels like it’s been the hottest March and April ever. And that we’re not allowed to enjoy our beautiful beaches, or to take a dip in the sea, doesn’t help.

On the one hand the beach ban feels like a crazy decision. But on the other hand I can just imagine the outcry, the anger, hatred and jealousy, which islanders would receive from other areas of the country, if we’re allowed to enjoy our natural resources. The viral images and cries of “why are people on Boracay allowed to do that, they think they’re above the law like always.” Because anything “Boracay” does makes the news, and article titles are usually twisted to illicit as much engagement and reaction on social media as possible.

Truth be told, I’m proud of the island. I’m proud that regardless of whether people agree or disagree with the quarantine model, the vast majority have followed the ECQ guidelines to the letter. And we are free of cases. And then I flip flop again and think “at least ease up on the beach rule.”

I’m proud that businesses and ordinary islanders have pulled together in groups, to try to plug the financial gaps, the food relief gaps, to share their blessings or what they can spare to support the poorest on our island. That there has been little selfishness in terms of bulk-buying or hoarding grocery items, which denies others who can only afford to buy food or essential items each day. Boracay, after all, has been through similar with the six-month closure.

It’s these things I try to focus on: the gratitude, the thanks and appreciation of our island community; the blessings we have. And yet that rut persists. And then the guilt that I’m feeling in a rut kicks in.

This can often be a human reaction to these extreme situations; this feeling that we aren’t allowed to do “sad”, do “depressed” or do “struggle” because there are others who have it far worse. The feelings of guilt when we need to talk something out with someone, who we perceive as having far worse problems.

But it’s okay.

It’s okay to feel scared about your financial position, even though you know of people who are worse off, or struggling.

It’s okay to feel scared about your future, even though you know of people who currently don’t have much of a present.

It’s okay to feel sad or low, even though you know of people who have more obvious reasons for feeling sad or low, and yet they’re just getting on with things with a smile.

If it helps to shake yourself out of your rut by thinking “look at X, they have it far worse than you and they’re not wallowing, they’re getting on with things,” then fine, use that approach. But if that just makes you feel even more guilt, then you’re going to get stuck in that rut.

You have to learn to accept that someone else’s pain, sadness or struggles do not negate yours.

Take care of yourselves islanders!


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