Girlie Rodis wistfully recounts her life in the US then and now as the ongoing pandemic puts things in perspective with this intermission.
In late February 2020, I was in the US for a screening of our film, Ang Larawan, at the Colorado Dragon Boat Film Festival. A few weeks later, news about COVID-19 intensified, and travel restrictions were soon imposed. By then, I had journeyed to Massachusetts to visit my siblings and their families. I didn’t feel anxious about the situation, since I decided to make the most of my extended stay. Massachusetts, after all, is a lovely state. The season was still winter, but it was slowly transitioning to spring. I thought it was just a matter of time before things would normalize and I could fly back to Manila.
Winter soon turned to spring, spring to summer, and summer to fall. Now it is winter again—a full circle of the seasons. One year later, COVID-19 is still in our midst. I am still in Massachusetts, unable to take that flight home.
The entertainment industry, which I belong to, has been hit the hardest because of the pandemic. Our next film, Song of the Fireflies, was put on hold. The singers under my agency had to cancel shows and concerts. The term “pivot” emerged as the byword for the necessary realignment and reimagining that businesses had to do in order to survive. Since I work in the theater scene and have produced stage musicals, I would rather use the word “intermission”—or the break that comes in between Act 1 and Act 2.
From Intermission To Creative Renaissance
To be honest, this intermission that is COVID-19 has been difficult for production companies or talent agencies such as ours. But we still support our artists. And thankfully, the past 12 months have given them a creative renaissance.
Raymond Lauchengco, singer, actor, and director who was already into photography and building miniatures, discovered quite successfully another aspect of his artistic side: Kintsugi, the beautiful Japanese art of mending broken pottery.
On the other hand, Rachel Alejandro returned to the music studio to record a new song entitled, Takipsilim, which has been getting many downloads on Spotify. Celeste Legaspi collaborated with National Artist Ryan Cayabyab for a new rendition of the OPM song, Never Ever Say Goodbye, composed by the late Willy Cruz.
Meanwhile, Nino Alejandro has been busy producing new material under his own music label, Rebel Records, while Arthur Espiritu still travels around Europe to perform in operas. Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski is part of an online show entitled, Real Talk: The Heart of the Matter, and continues to push for sports development as a Board Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board. As for Cris Villonco? She has taken personal time to focus on family matters.
Their achievements make me feel happy and proud. Plus, I do my best to stay in touch with my colleagues and artists in the Philippines despite being in the US. I have had challenges in helping my company navigate the new normal, but I am fortunate to have someone who has worked with me for more than three decades handling the day-to-day operations. Thankfully, 2021 has been off to a better start, as we continue to represent AVON in securing their various brand endorsers.
Of Musings And More
On a more personal note, the biggest breakthrough for me has come in the form of a shot. As I write this, it had just been hours since I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The experience was painless. And so far, I am feeling okay. After the shot, I was asked to sit for a while—about 15 minutes—to make sure that there was no bad reaction, and thankfully there was none. My second dose is scheduled for five to six weeks and I’ve observed that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination is moving well here in the US. The authorities are optimistic to foresee that everyone in the US will be vaccinated by June 2021.
I can finally plan on my flight back to Manila, but this time, I am a little anxious about getting on a plane. My apprehension, however, is eased when I realize that the gains still outweigh the losses.
This has been the longest time that I’ve been away from the Philippines. Although I consider myself fortunate to be sheltered in my sister’s comfortable home—which is in a beautiful part of Massachusetts—and that I am able to visit the other members of my family who live within driving distance, there is a huge part of me that feels that my life is on pause. Before this pandemic, we were busy finalizing our second movie, Song of the Fireflies, which should have been screened by now. But now, the project has been indefinitely postponed.
Life On A Pause
I do, however, believe that perhaps we all need a pause, or well, an intermission, in our lives to re-evaluate—to take time to review what’s important and what’s essential to living a good life. I am taking that time. A restart is certain and that may come soon.
I am not sure if I have become wiser because of this, but I am certain that I am more grateful for the time to smell the flowers and to enjoy moments with my loved ones. One doesn’t need much to be happy. Stuff such as bags, shoes, clothes, and other material things don’t add value to who you are. Health and friendships and family—those are what matter.
It’s still winter here; the trees are still without their leaves. The temperature is very cold. But I feel warm inside. I wake up grateful for every new day. Just waking up gives me hope to create new memories.