We are now in the second month of the new year.  Before it gets well into 2021, I feel that it is now a good time to look back at the year that had gone by. 

There is no denying that 2020 has dished out challenges that were unprecedented in the last century.  However, we are grateful that we have survived it all and are still here to continue to do our bit for our family and the community.

The happy times

The year 2020 started fantastically for our whole family.   Our older son and fiancée got married in January on the beautiful Panglao Island in Bohol, Philippines.   All the arrangements went well, from the welcome party two days before the wedding, the actual beachside wedding ceremony and the reception that followed it.  The scenery was picturesque with a beautiful sunset coming in towards the end of the ceremony; the food was amazing and the drinks flowed. The 80 guests who comprised of family and friends from Australia, UK and Germany, enjoyed the occasion as well having a vacation before the wedding.  Some went to Boracay for a week, few days stay in Cebu and Palawan.

After the wedding, we were lucky that we were able to fly back to Sydney after flight cancellations happened in the days following the eruption of the Taal Volcano.   Coming to heel with this natural disaster was a devastation of unparalleled proportion. COVID 19 surfaced and started infecting millions of people and thousands dying worldwide in March.   Adversely affected were the businesses that had to shutdown to minimise the community transmission of the virus through contact with those who caught it.

Amidst some sadness down the track of the year, we celebrated our younger son, Bevan's amazing time being asked to to help our in Germany's Champion Team, THW Kiel due to injury and recovery from an operation of a couple of the team's regular players.  In the period of three months that he played with the team, he set historic points on four counts.  He was the first Fil-Aussie and Aussie to play:  with the top team in Germany;  in the European Handball Champions League; in the German SuperCup and male handball Bundesliga.  His achievements were widely celebrated by the foreign radio, tv newspapers and magazine, and the social media.

Before the year ended we were gifted with our second grandchild, our little princes Mila who is the second child and daughter of Bevan and wife Ann-Christin.  Their older son Luke, who turned 3 years in August enjoys being Kuya to Mila.  We can also consider it to be part of the happy times that Bevan and Ann-Christin went ahead having their registry wedding.

Coping with the Challenges of COVID 19

The first of my usual activities which was hampered by COVID restrictions was my volunteer work in St Mary Mackillop Cafe on Wednesdays.  My work which I have been doing since February 2012 is in the kitchen - toasting focaccias, sandwiches, warming up soup, quiche, meat pie, sausage roll, to be served with salad, etc; loading and unloading dishwasher.  These required to be on one's feet most of the day.  I enjoy serving the devotees who go to the cafe, as well as  the friendship of the other volunteers.  I also get to attend the Mass which brings people from the various areas of Sydney, and even from other states and visitors from overseas.  Sadly, due to the restrictions, there had been no Masses for the public from March; hence  the volunteers have not been asked to go back.

The other activity affected by restrictions due to the pandemic is the doing our radio show, Radio Tagumpay, which airs on Mondays, 2-4pm on Triple H 100.1FM located in the Hornsby area.  Due to the size of the studio, we were not allowed to have guests on site.  Rather than travel to the studio for doing the program on site, with the help of technology and a technical team member, we have been broadcasting from home.

I am glad that my other activities have also continued on, via doing online meetings for Kababaihang Rizal Inc., NARRA and FLAGCOM.   In addition, as a freelance writer, I have continued submitting contributions to Fil-Aus print and online publications.  I have also been attending and doing the Readings at Masses when the places of worships were opened to at least 50 people.

We were also able to attend outdoor events such as the commemoration of the Martyrdom of Dr Jose Rizal.  There were several events held during the day but I attended with KRI President Michelle Baltazar the ceremony held at Ashfield Park.

So despite the pandemic,  I have kept busy with the above activities.  My husband John and I also did lots of walks with our pet dog Snoopy and attended Aquarobics twice a week.

However, sadly a family event we were looking forward to but was deferred.  The wedding of our younger son based in Germany was scheduled in the middle of the year,  in June.  By May, the Australian Government, has shut down its borders to international travellers so the family's bookings for flights, accommodation and tours had to be cancelled.

From the start of the pandemic that the government rolled out restrictions and protocols to help prevent community transmission of the virus, pretty much we had followed their recommendations. We limited going out of the house to walking Snoopy and buying essential items.

Travelling within the constraints

With the easing of controls and borders being opened to NSW residents, we did day trips when we could.  When the Northern Territory opened its border, we did a 7-day trip to the Top End.  We have been planning to visit there but somehow always ended up doing overseas trips.   We enjoyed the visit to Darwin, Kakadu, Lichfield and Katherine.  The highlights included  seeing original Aboriginal arts, wildlife and the beautiful natural environment.

The other short trip we did was to the Sapphire Coast.  On this trip we also took with us Snoopy as there were pet friendly accommodation available.   On the drive down, we stopped by Bowral, Fitzroy Falls and Kangaroo Valley, before heading to our final destination - Merimbula, where we were to also meet a niece and her friends.  The following day we visited beautiful beaches, lookouts, historic places and other interesting places.  On the way back home on the third day, we stopped by Tathra, Bermagui, Narooma and Nowra. 

Other trips we plan to do include a revisit to Tasmania where we had our honeymoon way back in 1981.  Then when the Tasman Travel Bubble would allow it, we are looking at the possibility of going back to Queenstown, New Zealand.

Social Gatherings

Filipinos  by their nature are very social people and value the traditional gatherings with the family and friends.  It was truly sad that our usual big Christmas Eve family gathering was to be split into two due to the limit of 50 people.  It was fortunate that we had an advanced Christmas dinner with our son Timothy and wife Stephanie before they went away.  Then days before the event, there was a break out of positive cases which resulted in the allowed number for home gatherings being drastically cut back to only ten people.

The restrictions were further tightened for New Year's Eve with the number of guests in a home cut back to only five.  For the first time, there were just my husband John, our pet Snoopy and I greeted the New Year on the midnight of December 31.  Nevertheless we lighted our sparklers on the balcony and joined the cheering that went on from neighbours.

Looking forward to the future

We are looking forward to the roll out of the vaccine which would be for our own well being and also for the health of those around us and who we interact with.  Once we have the vaccine and the borders are open, we would be doing our  trip to Germany, which we did yearly before the pandemic.  We have missed spending time with our family there. 

Compared to other places in the world which are adversely impacted by the virus, Australia has been blessed with  much less cases of transmission and count of deaths. As we continue the fight against an invisible enemy, we need to continue being resilient, positive and kind to one another. 

As the pandemic has shown... at the blink of an eye, our situation could change.   We need to focus on things that really matter - the family and friends, good health, our spiritual and mental well being.  It is also important to avoid worrying about things that are beyond our control.  Stay well and feeling blessed.

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