A Year-end Thanksgiving: What Are We Grateful For Amid the Pandemic?

These admirable members of the social set share an attitude of gratitude in these times.

On the first day of January 2020, we celebrated the arrival of a new year. We were all hopeful for the things to come, the opportunities to take, lessons to learn, and experiences to have. However, the pandemic thwarted our plans and devastated our spirits as well. Throughout the year, we are struggling to adjust to the global crisis while taking care of ourselves and our loved ones. So much has happened, and we speak with members of the social set all about it. They share what they are grateful for in spite of the many challenges. Be it their career, relationships, family, and personal life, they keep an attitude of gratitude at the end of the year.

Some of the responses were edited for brevity and clarity of thought.

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The Zamora family. Left to right: Amanda, Rocco, Nicolas, Noah, Keri, and Francis.

Keri Zamora

“2019 was a difficult year for me because I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” says Keri. The journey to her healing was filled with challenges even after a year of finishing her chemotherapy treatment. In March 2020, her husband, San Juan City Mayor Francis, handled a mall hostage situation in their city. “I’m also proud of Francis for handling the situation well,” she says with relief. However, what came after was the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country. The early days were spent navigating the new policies and doing everything they can to keep safe. “We aced the pandemic together as a family by helping one another, by reaching out and helping our community. The kids helped me repack food and vegetables for families as well as sourcing [personal protective equipment] PPEs for our front liners,” she shares.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, what are you still thankful for?

I’m thankful for life. I’m thankful for experiences that have strengthened and deepened my faith in God and Mama Mary. Of course, I will always be thankful for having a loving and supportive family.

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Pinky Tobiano

The pandemic affected everyone regardless of background and social status. People had to adjust to the new policies implemented along with dealing with personal struggles. From closing a business, losing a job, losing a loved one, getting separated from them, to studying and working in new ways. “I felt challenged on how I can create meaning during the pandemic in the lives of these people,” Pinky recalls. “So, I started my care and share program called Grateful Tuesdays. [It] is a program where I feed 100 homeless families, jobless, street children, and abandoned elderly every Tuesday.”

Such an admirable and remarkable act already expected from Pinky as she has been creating initiatives for many years now. Her compassionate heart and natural gift to help shone brighter during these challenging times. “I believe that in this pandemic, everyone should have [a] grateful heart and to be [a] blessing to other people,” she emphasizes.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, what are you still thankful for?

I am very grateful for having my care and share program, Grateful Tuesdays. As of today, we have helped 20,000 families—those affected by the recent typhoons, those left jobless from the pandemic, the abandoned elderly, and children. I hope to impart to everyone that a grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.

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Ferdi Salvador

Many of the challenges during the pandemic include dealing with fear. Ferdi is no exception—he fears for the well-being of his family and friends, the loss of people’s livelihood, and of navigating the extreme changes. “I also feared depression and anxiety, which manifested during the first few months of the lockdown,” he reveals. He had to push himself to keep a bright demeanor despite his inner turmoil. “I had to fight it head-on so I can be stronger for others,” he says, elaborating, “there are numerous people that need me to be strong for them both in business and heart connections.” Indeed, dealing with this struggle while everything is in disorder as well is quite an ordeal. However, Ferdi claims, “my faith was the only factor that helped me.” Strengthening his relationship with God and believing in His plans and ways got Ferdi through the difficult months.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, what are you still thankful for?

The challenges of 2020 are one of the greatest blessings to me actually. It has helped me become a more compassionate person and taught me that humility and patience is a great way of handling hurdles. The ability to be able to help others in my own little way has given me such an appreciation that life is indeed beautiful even when faced with a grim situation. I’m sure you have heard that numerous times which is only a clear indication that we are all built stronger than we really think. I am thankful for losses and gains, pains and joy, tears and laughter, vulnerability and strength because, without these, we can’t truly see the beauty of the life that we are dealt with.

Ann Ong

As a celebrated international jewelry designer, it is only natural for Ann’s schedule to revolve around different shows every year. Be it in Dubai, Johannesburg, or New York, she admits the shows still pose a challenge for her, especially Curate International Collections “which I have been doing for [six] consecutive years twice a year,” says Ann.

With the pandemic, “VOD Dubai [International Jewellery Show] and the grand launching of my brand at Johannesburg have to be all postponed,” she shares. Despite the additional difficulty, she chooses to remain positive. “Challenging times can make [one] more creative and restructure operations,” she claims. Now that her artisans work from home, they continue to find ways to work around the present limitations. After all, digital shows can make it tough to engage with clients and market her brand. Nevertheless, she and her team pull through, focusing on the best they can do while still taking care of themselves.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, what are you still thankful for?

I am grateful to all the clients I have established in the global market over the years and locally. They have been very supportive of my brand despite the pandemic. We are busy with our orders until January of 2021—I have to finish some orders abroad. I always live up to my mission to create jobs for my artisans. This is where I get my strength because each and every one of them has a family to feed. I have expanded my production as well during this pandemic in preparation for the coming years.

We all realized how precious our life is and our family. I get my inspiration from reading at home, the surroundings of my house, the people I love, my meaningful friends, and my dear furry babies. This pandemic made me realize many things about life and being a human: there is power with positive thinking and self-care. You always have to believe in what you do because what you think attracts the goodness of the universe. Put God, our creator, as the center of your life, and meditation gives you peace and allotment for divine intervention.

Salome Uy

“Adjusting to life in lockdown was traumatic,” Salome muses. “It’s not knowing what the future holds that’s terrifying.” Indeed, uncertainty makes people more anxious and fearful of what is going to come. “The toughest will always be worrying about your family’s safety. How are we going to survive this? What will happen to my employees? How can I help?” These questions keep circling in Salome’s head that she then realized the best she could do is to take it one day at a time. After all, apart from her family, she concerns herself over the plight of fellow Filipinos like jeepney drivers whose livelihoods got affected. Thus, she commits to reaching out to them, “I try to help the best I can. We are all in this together.”

Despite all the challenges of 2020, what are you still thankful for?

I will always be grateful if my family is in good health. I am grateful we get to spend quality time together. I am grateful I can do a fitness routine religiously because now I can’t say I don’t have time. I have never devoted this much time to myself before. I am so glad of online food selling—this made lockdown bearable and even fun. Korean dramas on Netflix are one of the best blessings of this pandemic—it is one of the highlights of my life in 2020! Lastly, I thank God every day for the resiliency of the Filipino people.

Susan Sy

The pandemic forced everyone to pause—from work, studies, social affairs to busy routines. Until now, people continue to create ways to adapt. For Susan, she shares how it greatly affected their business, much like every other entrepreneur. “Interaction between customers and our employees has to be given a lot of thought and is a big responsibility on our part,” she elaborates.

Social distancing is only among the essential measures to practice. It definitely takes a toll on many, especially on reuniting with loved ones. “Even a simple hug and cuddle with family which has always been spontaneous, requires caution now,” Susan muses. “It has put on hold the freedom to enjoy even the simplest get-togethers we have.” Thus, people resort to online platforms to stay connected. It may be difficult, but this is the best we have for now while we wait the pandemic out.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, what are you still thankful for?

Everything in life happens for a reason. I really think that we have been placed in this situation to rethink our priorities. This is a chance to “smell the roses.” In our case, one positive note is putting to good use our culinary talents. We used to bake as a hobby and just enjoy the fruits of our labor. Now we have started a small business that gives us a lot of delight in what we do and showcases the hidden talents of my children.

Relationships that have been placed “on the back burner” because of a busy lifestyle are being rekindled. Finding out that one can exist without the things we thought are vital to our lives is a big surprise. It is enjoying the simple things in life and realizing it is enough, sum up the positive side of the situation. Having faith that all these shall pass and looking at these as a positive realignment of our lives helps a great deal.

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