by Jeffrey Cabuay, Philippine Honorary Consul in Toulouse
Before anything else, I would like to congratulate the association, Association Franco-Philippine en Midi-Pyrénées, for organizing this event. You have always shown your implication and joy to the promotion of the Filipino community. Thank you Madam President, Tess Thomassin. Thank you officers.
This year, I was to go back and visit the land of my birth, and the place where I lived almost all of my life. For the first time in 9 years, I will go back and see the Philippines again… to see my family, my friends and to probably cross paths with people whom I shared moments with. I was excited to the expectation of seeing the monuments, of hearing the sounds and noises, of smelling the odors and of feeling the ambiance of what I would typically call, The Philippines. I was even more excited because this time, I will be experiencing all of these with the entire family… with Mireille, and my 3 beautiful and “makulit” children. This would definitely be a very memorable time for everybody. Mireille and I have been planning for this for a long time already and have bought our tickets well in advance. The children have been raving about going to see their Lola and share great moments with her. And of course, I was not to forget our excitement of enjoying the pleasures of Filipino cooking.
… and then COVID-19 came.
Work and school stopped. Stores and business establishments closed. Adults and children remained inside their homes. Apartments were quietly being abandoned by its tenants. Houses and commercial spaces are advertised as available almost everywhere in places where normally it’s a rarity to see such great finds. And then we had to cancel our trip.
It was tough (and sometimes it still is).
During the height of the confinement (we call it lockdown in the Philippines); I received lots of phone calls from people in France and in the Philippines, because a family member was stuck there. Nobody could go in nor go out. I heard from panicked-stricken parents asking me to help their children so that they could go back to France. Sometimes, I even received phone calls late at night and very early in the morning with the same calls of despair… but nothing could be done for days because the world was at a standstill, trying to reflect on how to manage the situation.
For the first few days, being confined in the house with the entire family (with the children) was not so much of a problem but as the days progressed, difficulty started to build up and emotions began to inflame. Added to this was the fact that everything was uncertain and unknown. Tensions almost became a certainty.
But you had to breathe… and handle the situation and change your way of thinking. We have a saying in the Philippines which states: “Habang maikli ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot.” In English, “If the blanket is short, learn how to curl up.” “Si la couverture est
courte, apprendre à se recroqueviller (ou se replier)” in French. It speaks about how to endure hardships and to adjust in times of crisis.
My family and I have been lucky enough to still have food on the table and have a place to sleep. And we are thankful for that blessing. Because of the confinement, Mireille and I got to discover more of how our children studied and what they learned (and I got to review my arithmetic again). We were able to discover more of our children’s attitudes, talents and abilities. I also got to improve on my patience. Mireille and I got to exercise at least 3 times a week in the house, and this became our bonding session. I also realized that I did not need that gym membership that I was paying for. Although my dream of having that 6-pack abs is still, well, a dream.
I recently saw that Disney Christmas advertisement which was inspired by the Filipino spirit. It was beautiful. Please allow me to quote a part of the song that was used:
This pandemic made us discover and realize, that it is the essential matters in life that is the most important… Some of them are traditions, family togetherness and nostalgia.
Create those moments that would mean everything (like that smile, that laughter, that tenderness, those activities), so that we can say that, together, we carry so much history.
In behalf of the Embassy, my family and myself,
Je vous souhaite Un Joyeux Noël ! Merry Christmas everybody !
Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat !