Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin

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A Love Story during the Pandemic
We know for a fact that COVID 19 brought people apart, sometimes in great distances. Lockdowns literally
banned people from leaving their homes to avoid the spread of the virus that has claimed (and still is claiming)
hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world. There is absolutely nothing more important nowadays than
being online, to reach out to others, especially to family members forced to stay put in different locations when
the pandemic hit. COVID 19 left people isolated, sad, and extremely depressed. Thanks to Facebook
and other
social media apps,
reaching out to others and communicating with them regularly made this grave situation a bit
bearable, particularly for some groups of people who are used to domestic living, like senior citizens and

One of my best friends, Gabriella, is a 66-year old widow with four grown up children and five grandchildren. Her
husband of 40 years, an engineer, died from an accident in Qatar 10 years or so ago. She retired from her
A Valentine's Day Story
managerial work in a large bank in Manila more than a year ago and decided to retire for good in
her hometown north of Manila, a beautiful place near the sea and the city of Baguio, the summer
capital of the Philippines. The place is located in the province of La Union, where air is fresh and
organic food such as meat, poultry and vegetables, are aplenty. Gabby, as her friends call her,
truly loves her new life as a retiree receiving enough financial support from her kids, two of whom
are working in the Middle East as health professionals, plus her Social Security pension which
actually covers all of her basic needs outside her kids’ monthly support. Gabby has been
enjoying life with friends from her elementary and high school days, and because of good health,
she has fun joining several sports fest for seniors as well as picnics and outings even outside
the boundaries of her town.

Then COVID reached the shores of the Philippines early 2020, and Gabby’s happy life came to
an abrupt halt, just like the rest of the world.

Gabby, with only a housemaid and a part-time driver in her household, became extremely sad,
because she could no longer do her outside activities such as her daily jogging with friends at a
local sport complex, going to church, and attending happy events. Everything was put on hold, as
the government issued rules and regulations, ordinances and orders banning get-togethers and
all kinds of parties, and closing establishments people usually frequent, such as malls, salons,
gyms, restaurants, movie houses, and the like. Only hospitals and a few groceries were allowed
to open. Nobody can visit anyone. COVID 19 killed people as well as people’s happiness,

Modern communications technology and one’s ability to use it made a lot of difference to people
like Gabriella. When you cannot get out of your house, how do you expect to contact and be
contacted by other people. By telephone, of course! Without landlines (which is very normal in the
provinces) you can only depend on cellphones. Fortunately, the new cellphone models feature
Internet connectivity allowing users to connect anywhere in the world. Gabby turned to Facebook
and Messenger as her means of communication, and both became Gabby’s daily companion.

The new system of communication via social media truly connected people in many ways. With
the limitations set by COVID-19, it has become the new normal means of communication, and
helped develop new friends and acquaintances. Gabby, with so much time on her hands, ended
up having lots of new “friends” online. With some caution, however, because of reported scams
and schemes that bleed people dry, especially senior citizens with pension funds, Gabby chose
carefully who to accept as her new friends online. She preferred those already known to her
close friends and relatives.

Then one day, while browsing her Facebook account, she received a friend request from a man
with 20 of her mutual friends. She went to check his profile, and she realized that man was her former neighbor, classmate since elementary
grades until high school, and was once her partner in a folk dance when she was in Grade V! His name was Fernando, and his profile photo
showed he was good looking, well-groomed, and his smile was infectious. She found out that Fernando was a widower, with three grown-up
children, and six grandchildren. He also recently retired as an accountant of a big brewery and at that time was residing in Pampanga, a few hour-
drive to La Union. Gabby became excited to make “friends” with Fernando, thinking there was nothing wrong with online friendship with someone
she used to know.
The day Gabby acepted Fernando’s request for FB friendship
was the start of a special relationship. Gabby and Fernan began
a daily ritual of “Good morning,” “Hello, how’s your day?”, “Good
night; sweet dreams,” until their conversations grew sweeter as
obviously both of them developed a mutual feeling that only the
two of them could understand. They made video calls almost
every day, that everything one did was known to the other. Being
in lockdown created the perfect situation for the two lonely people
to fall in love all over again.

They realized, however, that it was quite impossible for them to
meet in person, considering the checkpoints in every town
manned by law enforcers that banned travels from town to town,
as part of the stringent measures to prevent the spread of COVID-
19. There is a saying though, “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” and
Fernan mustered courage that made their meeting a reality. It
was the first day of May 2020 when Gabby was surprised by a
knock on her door, and when she opened it, Fernan was
standing there with three roses for her. Gabby cried her heart out
as she rushed to hug the man of her dreams.

It’s been almost a year since that beautiful day of Spring. Then
last week, Gabby and Fernan sent out an invitation to closest
family and friends for a simple garden wedding, cautioning every
one to wear face masks, face shields, and maintain social
distancing -- something they surely don’t do when they’re

Love surely finds its way even during the pandemic.