Finally Free?

by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan

After more than two years of being stuck and quarantined because of the pandemic, borders have started to open, flights are getting booked, airports are becoming crowded and tourism is starting to flourish again.

At the beginning of June, South Korea finally welcomed tourists back. The streets of Myeongdong, a famous shopping area, which became a ghost town during the pandemic, are now teeming with people again.

Hongik University, which became quiet, is once more filled with street performers, entertaining tourists, and locals alike. People walking the streets is a sight to behold and the sound of music and chatting, albeit mouths still covered with masks, is music to the ears.

Have we finally been set free from the clutches of the pandemic?

Not yet.

The number of cases here in South Korea is still in the thousands by the day and many countries are still recording thousands of new cases but I must say, we have learned to live and cope with it.

The virus is still lurking but the fear it causes has lost its grip. We made it through the darkest part of the tunnel. We haven’t got out of it yet, but flickers of light are breaking through.

Humanity has survived one of its greatest battles yet, but we are still picking up its remnants. The war isn’t over yet. In fact, it will be a long journey to recovery, but we are taking it one day at a time.

Our family started to attend church services and gatherings. Friends and relatives have booked flights to come over. We have booked weeklong stays in some of the famous tourist spots in the country. Just recently, we rode the plane for the very first time since the pandemic and flew to Jeju Island to attend a conference and for a time of rest and recreation.

Even on Facebook and Instagram, I see many of my friends enjoying the beach, flying to another country, and enjoying a reunion with family and friends.  We are slowly gaining our lives back. We are starting to have a sense of normalcy. We are moving on.

Yes, we are moving on but not without the lessons we have learned from the pandemic.

Some people will have to move on carrying the pain of losing their loved ones. Some will have to face a new day, starting from scratch because the pandemic has taken away their resources.

We will all have to move on with a fresh perspective on life with more gratitude for the gift of fresh air, for our lungs that help us breathe, and for our hearts that continue to beat; with a deeper appreciation for the people we love and care about; with greater consciousness about the futility and brevity of our life on earth.

Just recently, we celebrated the 124th Philippine Independence Day. We remember how we, as a nation, have been set free from colonization and oppression.

With what we’ve been through during the pandemic, freedom has taken on a deeper meaning. We have been taken captive by an unseen enemy and it has wounded us in unimaginable ways.

But as always, by God’s grace, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4: 8-9).

Freedom is sweeter this time around. 

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