Last Days Before Lockdown

Around the middle of April 2020, when the whole world was put on hold and when I spent my days and nights thinking of an uncertain future, I looked at my phone’s photo albums and realized I had gone to an entire year’s worth of places and events in the last few weeks before the pandemic lockdown.

It started in early February, when reports of the first few COVID-19 cases in the country trickled in. Back then, it all felt like it was a looming, albeit frightening—yet quite distant concern (oh, how wrong I was). But still, I had this compelling desire to cram all the events and activities that I could in those short four weeks. It seemed as if I had predicted that I would be holed up at home for the rest of the year, but I did not think that at all; I just felt I had to attend all these occasions, see my friends, go to these places. And thank God I did.

As with everyone else’s, my life completely changed right after that. I had to rescue my mother from the province, jobs were lost, friends got sick, relatives stranded in one country or the other, dear uncles and cousins died. Each memory of a life pre-COVID, I held dear, knowing it would be years before I could enjoy it again, if I were lucky.

So, here is a visual diary of most of the places I went to (this is just part of it, I went to more than twenty different locations in 25 days), in the four short weeks before the lockdown.

FINALE ART FILE, MAKATI, FEBRUARY. I was invited to an exhibit at the erstwhile Archivo 1984, also in La Fuerza Compound in Makati, but it was closed. Visited nearby Finale Gallery instead, where I caught the fantastic exhibit “Something Was Out There”. Here is Froilan Calayag’s painted Volks, “I’m Working at The Zoo.”
PAMINTUAN MANSION, PAMPANGA, FEBRUARY. It was my birthday, and my dear friend Christine took me on a field trip to Pampanga, wherein we toured factories, ate Pho, and ended up at the century-old Pamintuan Mansion, where our hairs stood on end (the guard was spooked, too). Here is the main entrance, opening up like a hungry maw.
IKARUS THEATER PLAY, COMMUNE, MAKATI, FEBRUARY. The last physical play I watched. Here is Ikarus Theater member Kit Singson setting up her group’s pocket play ALTER X COMPASS, two plays about the pain, nuances, and ugly sides of romantic relationships, of which I am all too familiar with.
COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS, UP DILIMAN, FEBRUARY. I went to the new UP Fine Arts building twice in two weeks, with two different sets of friends, seeing two different exhibits, but both visits ending up eating isaw along the sidewalk at Mang Larry’s. Ah, it was so good. Here is the last pottery exhibit of students that they showed in the new building’s second-floor galleries.
RIZAL MEMORIAL STADIUM, MALATE, MANILA, FEBRUARY AND MARCH. Another place I went to twice was the newly renovated, 1930s-era Rizal Memorial, and I was so happy to see it in its fully restored state. (I’ll post a future blog about this)
MALATE CHURCH, CAFE ALICIA, MALATE MANILA, MARCH. This was my last lifestyle article assignment before the lockdown, a roundup of Malate haunts. My favorite was Cafe Alicia (right) in the Art Deco, 1930s Orchid Garden Suites, a delectable and elegant hidden cafe.
RAMON MAGSAYSAY, ROXAS BOULEVARD, MARCH. I finally got to see this beautiful, modernist masterpiece up close.
OPEN PLAZA, MAGSAYSAY CENTER. There were so many people milling around, mask-less in the open plaza in the middle of the center, it seemed that everything was ok in the world. It was at this time that Jilson Tiu, the photographer assigned to the story, said he felt a foreboding of sorts that something really bad would happen soon. He was right. After the shoot, we immediately headed straight to the groceries to stock up.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM, ROXAS BOULEVARD, MARCH. One of our last shoots that day was the Met, which unusually had more visitors than usual that day. The PR person mentioned that they noticed more people had visited, anticipating the museum’s closure. Three days after this shoot, the entire country was put on hard lockdown. The Met has yet to open.

All photos here are by the author. Main photo is of the closed-up MRT, and a near-empty EDSA in April.

Published by medinarach

I am an interior designer, writer, and content editor for print and web. Join me on my adventure as I look for design inspiration, art, and culture in everyday life.

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