For some of you who know, my birthday was on March 11th, Wednesday. Days before, news broke out of the increasing number of positive Covid19 cases in the Philippines. The numbers kept jumping since Sunday prompting the government to suspend classes for the entire week starting Tuesday. Since then, I converted to a work from home setup. It’s not entirely without hiccups and I’d very much prefer to do work in person rather than being confined to a screen, but we all have to make do.
And that’s exactly what we did for my 24th birthday. After work was done, I went to check the online greetings on Facebook. I’m surprised by the number of greetings and on different social media platforms, privately and publicly. This is truly the online age, especially heightened by the suspension of classes and of several work places. It brings me joy to respond to each one of them with a “thank you” and a smiling emoji as fast as I can. There was also beauty in non-digital greetings.
A few days ago, a letter from my alma mater, Ateneo de Manila University, came to my doorstep as expected. Every year, the University President, Fr. Jett SJ writes a letter to alumni greeting them on their birthdays. Unlike the previous years, however, this one is very well-written.
In it, Fr. Jett writes:
Ateneo College Class 2019 asked me to write my parting message to them in longhand. I happily obliged, using a fountain pen. There is something valuable about doing things the old way, making marks that are indelible with some irreversible-ness to it, where you cannot just press the key or unhide your errors, and your strikethroughs and smudges are there for all to see.
Birthdays are always a kairos kind of time to pause and reflect on what has been indelibly written on the pages of our lives and the stories we ourselves have been writing over the years.
Every birthday reminds us of time and ageless realities, so to speak, of the longhand type. I hope you believe me when I tell you that God’s love for you is written in longhand. It is indelible, irreversible. Remember to thank God for such a love that has no backspace key.
A surprise came during lunch break. A special someone greeted me in a bashful way and with pictures! I found it really funny and made me smile a lot. He said I was the BEST and wished me much happiness.
My mom also told me in her greeting that I was “Know that you are loved more than you feel, smarter than you think, and stronger than you seem.” A statement I need to be reminded of every now and then as I underestimate myself.
I resumed to working in the afternoon, but nonetheless tried to respond to greeters. Afterwards, I had my daily exercise. The situation still feels unreal to me. When 2020 entered, I had high hopes that it would live up to the beauty of its name. Within three months, the world was engulfed in a pandemic. Like a dystopian fantasy, places such as China, Italy, and France had to be on lockdown, streets abandoned. Masks had to be used in abundance. Social distancing kept you safe from getting sick. Disinfection happening everywhere. World leaders scrambling to contain an ever spreading disease. It sounds like a sci-fi fiction indeed.
In the late afternoon, I decided on what food to have for my little home party: PIZZA. I have always had a liking on pizza and there are good pizza places that I can recommend (I just had pizza last weekend in one!). However, my favorites are currently out of reach, hence, I settled for a convenient choice: Pizza Hut, which was also a good. Mom and I went out to go shopping for the party in our masks.
At around 6PM, we came home, our hands full of party goods. I quickly set up the dining room: opened the boxes of large-size pizza, laid down spaghetti, and placed the soda bottles on one side. I was excited to dig in and to have my birthday cake: Mango Sansrival. They sang me “Happy Birthday” and I blew the candles to a wish of global normalcy and more happiness.
My birthday didn’t spare me from doing housework and I cleaned up the table, washed the dishes and put them away. As I laid down on my bed for the night, I checked social media once more. It’s very heartwarming that there were still people greeting.
The next morning, I found a very sweet message from an Atsi (older sister):
“To one of the smartest. most creative, and yet talented yet down to earth person I know… Happiest birthday, Faith!!! May the Lord continue to use you to honor and glorify His name.”
I am touched and overwhelmed with joy. While I am stuck at home, I’m happy with a simple birthday celebration like this. In fact, this birthday was better than some I’ve had outside the house. Simple things bring the greatest joy. I hope this inward joy continues to my 25th birthday and more.