Hindi naging madali ang mga lumipas na buwan. We have been in lockdown for more than a month. The government's promise to support and provide for the citizens was a hoax. True that we received help during the first two weeks. Pero pagkatapos noon ay wala na.
The virus outbreak that was first detected in Wuhan, China, is now a Pandemic. Thousands die every day, tens of thousands around the world are being infected. The economy is slowing down, the people are dying of hunger.
What is the government doing? I don't know.
Pagkatapos ng isang buwang community lockdown, Sir Siwon decided that it won't be best if the hotel continues to operate. Kaya hindi pa muna agad kami bumalik sa trabaho. We received our pay for a month, Pero wala na nang sumunod na buwan.
Kaya ngayon ay heto ako, araw-araw na walang ginagawa, nabawi ang mga tulog at pahinga na ipinagkait sa akin ng trabaho ko ng mga nakalipas na buwan at linggo.
My status? Jobless.
"You don't have to work, anyway. May pumapasok na amount sa bank account natin galing sa shares natin sa company. Nakalimutan mo na ba 'yon?" si Ate Tiffany, habang kausap ko sa facetime.
"I know, Ate. Pero ayoko naman na idle lang ako dito sa bahay. Hindi ako sanay na I'm earning without even doing anything." I complained.
"Then what do you want? Risk yourself out there? May mga company ba na hiring ngayon?" Ate coughed kaya napa-kunot ang noo ko. "Or why don't you ask Tita Boa to let you manage the Marketing Department of the company?"
"Why would I do that? Ate, ayokong makielam sa company." umubo ulit si Ate Tiff kaya hindi ko na maiwasang hindi pansinin. "Inuubo ka?"
"Isn't it obvious?" she said, rolling her eyes after another cough. "Hindi ka naman mangingielam sa company. Tita assured us that we can work in the company any time we want. May karapatan tayo doon as legal owners."
"Still, I don't want to. Si Lia na lang ang hayaan mo na mag-work doon." umismid ako. "Wait a minute. So, inuubo ka? Anything else? Have you gotten yourself checked?"
"W-well..." Ate scratched the back of her neck, the thing she always does whenever she's in a caught-up situation. "I-I was in New York last week a-and.."
Napapikit ako ng madiin. "And? You think you're positive?"
"I'll probably get tested tomorrow." Ate bit her lower lip after seeing my irritated face. "Relax! May pang-amoy pa naman ako at pan-lasa."
"Nilalagnat ka? How many days have you been like that?"
"W-well. The cough started as soon as I returned. Then, yesterday ako nilagnat."
"How about Ate Jessica?"
These two.. Mahilig silang pumasyal sa New York para mag-shopping at bisitahin ang flagship store ng Blanc doon! They probably couldn't stop themselves from doing that even with a pandemic going on.
"She--got tested yesterday.." parang nag-iisip pa si Ate kung itutuloy niya iyon, pero tinaasan ko ng isang kilay. "Positive."
I just sighed. Because if Ate Jessica is covid-positive, my sister is highly likely positive, too! Lalo at magkasama sila.
"Bakit ba kasi chineck niyo pa yung store sa New York eh diba trusted friend naman ni Ate yung store manager don?"
"Si Tyler? We found out recently that he's a snake! Binabayaran ng mga competitor para siraan ang brand. He's even secretly stealing our designs to sell it to our competitors! Kaya kami pumunta 'don para mag file ng lawsuit."
Sinasabi ko na nga ba, wala talagang magandang dulot ang lalaking iyon! He's just someone who's so obsessed with Ate Jessica. They were friends for a long time at kahit napaka-dami nang issue noong si Tyler ay hindi naniniwala si Ate Jess dahil mag-kaibigan nga sila. Now, look at what they've gotten themselves onto because of that guy!
"Alright, at least he finally reaped what he was sowing." I hissed. "Sige na, Ate. Be sure to drink your vitamins, still. Mag-exercise ka pa din para mag sweat ka. Please let me know when you get the result."
"Don't worry about me too much, my baby sister! COVID lang 'yan! Baka Hwang-Bae 'to?"
I chuckled. "Huwag mo nila-lang ang covid. Thousands get infected each day. Tens of thousands sa New York, where you probably got yourself infected."
"Oo na nga, masyado kang seryoso! Palibasa ilang years ka nang gino-ghost ni Seulgi!"
Tumawa na lang ng malakas si Ate at hindi na ako naka-sagot dahil ibinaba na niya ang call. Minsan talaga, hindi ko alam kung paano ko naging kapatid 'yon, eh.
Pagkatapos ng call na iyon ay lumabas na ako ng kwarto para mag-prepare ng lunch. Pass-eleven na din kasi at malapit nang magising ang magkapatid, kaya dapat ay may ready nang pagkain. Ako ang jobless ngayon na andito sa bahay, kaya ako ang gumagawa mostly ng chores. Ako din lang ang may quarantine pass - a very necessary card every household needs para makalabas. Dahil regulation ngayon na isang tao lang sa bawat bahay ang pwedeng lumabas para bumili ng necessities.
Almost twelve-thirty nang matapos akong mag-luto. Sakto din naman ang labas ni Jennie at Rosé sa kwarto dahil naka ready na ang table para sa lunch namin.
"Inaantok pa ako at tinatamad bumangon, pero naamoy ko 'yung kimchi fried rice at soybean stew, kaya bigla akong nagising, eh." natawa na lang ako kay Chaeyoung na kakagaling lang sa banyo para maghilamos.
"Sudden craving. Buti nga madami pang kimchi sa ref." I said.
"Ganoon talaga kapag mga Korean. Hindi pwedeng maubusan ng kimchi."
Although our current life is in the Philippines, we still haven't forgotten the Korean culture. My Papa is a pure Korean, Mama is half Korean, half Pinay. Ang mga magulang ni Jennie at Rosé ay pure Korean. They studied elementary in New Zealand and Australia and finished their studies here after their Dad's relocation.
"By the way, I heard you talking to someone kanina. Were you finally contacted by your boss?" tanong sa akin ni Jennie.
Sa buong buwan ng April ay hindi ako nakatanggap ng tawag or text mula kay Sir Siwon. Ganoon din daw sila Solar, Hwasa at Wheein. Kaya they're starting to think that Sir Siwon is already disposing us or that the hotel is already going bankrupt. Pero I doubt, dahil mas possible na i-dispose kami kesa ang maubusan ng pera ang mga Choi.
"That's Ate Tiff." sagot ko. "She's going to be tested tomorrow, dahil nag-positive daw si Ate Jess."
"Ate Jessica? Why?" I shrugged.
"They probably got it when they went to New York last week."
"Sabihin mo kila Ate, maybe it's time to get a private plane since they always travel." sabay sabay kaming natawa.
"Pero what's your plan pala, ate?"
"Plan about?" lito akong tumingin kay Rosé dahil sa tanong niya na iyon.
Ah., it's quite vague.
Hindi ko pa din alam sa ngayon ang susunod na step na gagawin ko. I don't want to consult Tita Boa about getting a position in the company because I think that's a sudden decision. Kung magta-trabaho man ako sa company namin, I want it to be my last choice. Gagawin ko lang iyon kapag wala na talaga akong ibang trabaho na mahanap.
Pero sa ngayon na patuloy na dumadami ang nagkaka-Covid sa bansa, madaming company ang nag shut down, madami ang nawalan ng trabaho, and obviously, madami ang nawalan ng kita.
With the current crisis we're facing, I know it's finally time to explore a different industry. It will take some time before the Tourism industry gets back to its original place and I don't know when the hotel will completely recover, or when it'll operate again. So maybe life is giving me a sign to finally quit my corporate life.
"I think I should resign." I smiled. "I don't know what the future holds, eh. Hindi ko din alam kung kailan magre resume ang operation ng hotel. And if it happens while there is still a pandemic, I don't want to risk you two."
"Kung hindi pa pala magkakaron ng pandemic, hindi ka pa magre-resign."
I simply chuckled. "As I said, I don't want to risk you two. Ako lang ang lalabas ng apartment, ako din ang possible na mag-dala ng virus. Paano naman kayo?"
"That's sweet, Ate Irene." Rosé pouted. "But what will you do after? I think you should start freelancing! Maraming online course! I can recommend you!"
"Woah, woah, slow down, Chaeng." natawa ako. "Siguro hanap muna ako ng company na naga-accept ngayon ng work from home?"
"Why don't you get a position from your company, instead?"
Natawa na lang ako. Bakit ba palaging lumalabas iyon sa choices?
"Seriously, pati ikaw, Jen? Usapan na namin 'to ni Ate Tiff kanina." I smirked. "Parang medyo sudden naman kasi kung sa company ako hahanap ng trabaho. Walang vacant ngayon."
"I believe your Tita Boa can easily find a position for you. Besides, you are the company's legal heiress so you have the very right."
Ang totoo, bukod sa ayokong mangielam sa company ay wala din talaga akong alam at interest dito. Mama grew up in the province where our largest plant is. She witnessed the bit s and pieces of it, and even studied it. My siblings and I only went to the province for a short time for vacation every summer, sometimes we don't. Kaya talagang hindi ako naging interesado sa company namin.
Iyon ang dahilan kung bakit ayokong humawak ng position sa company, kahit anong sabihin nilang dahilan. Dahil baka maging kagaya lang ito ng previous job ko. Na sa huli, pagsisihan ko, sa huli, hindi pala ako masaya. I don't want to invest my time and effort over something I am not interested with. Alam kong hindi ako magiging ganoon kasaya kapag nag-pursue ako ng isang bagay na hindi ko naman talaga gusto.
"But still, I have no interest in the company so it's best if I stay away from it."
"Kaya nga, you should just try freelancing, Ate! Promise, hindi ka talaga lugi dito!" natawa ako sa sinabi ni Rosé
"You are really trying hard in promoting that, huh? Will you be commissioned if I start freelancing?"
She chuckled. "Hindi naman, Ate. It's just that I really want you to get away from that 9-5 job of yours and have a taste of a healthy and enjoyable life. Alam ko naman kasi na hindi ka na talaga masaya sa trabaho mo ngayon."
"And you think I'll be happy with freelancing?" kumunot ang noo ko.
"Of course! You're a homebody, right?"
Our lunch was interrupted by a phone call so I excused myself. Naramdaman yata ni Sir Siwon na pinag-uusapan siya kaya tinawagan ako para papuntahin sa office. Ang dahilan, hindi ko alam.
Kaya mabilis kong tinapos ang pag-kain. Nag volunteer naman si Jennie na siya na ang magliligpit para makaligo na din ako at makapag-bihis. And when I'm done, I made sure that I am wearing a face mask and a face shield before heading into the parking for my car. Siyempre, dala ko sa bag ang quarantine pass dahil hindi ako makakalampas sa mga check point kung wala ito. I'm sure even the guardhouse won't let me in the hotel if I don't have this. Kaya siniguro kong nasa bag ko iyon.
Kinakabahan ako nang i-park ang sasakyan sa parking lot ng hotel. This space used to be alive, with different cars every day. Now it looks dull with just my car, one service from the hotel, and Sir Siwon's car. The pandemic truly is scary.
I walked through my usual routes. I am used to being greeted by different hotel staff as I pass by each corner, sometimes entertained by children running around the lobby. But now everything is empty. There's not even a piece of jazz music playing in the lobby, and my front office was not on their post. This is devastating.
One knock on the door and I entered Sir Siwon's office. There, I saw him sitting on his swivel chair, looking so stressed, with a cup of tea on his table.
"Long time no see, Sir." I tried to sound bubbly as I felt that the atmosphere was heavy.
"Please have a seat, Ms. Bae." I just shook my head after my greeting being turned down.
Sinunod ko ang sinabi ni Sir Siwon at naupo sa tapat niya, carefully studying his face.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"Not used to staying at home doing nothing, for a long time, Sir." I chuckled.
"That's what happens when you've been working hard for a long time." tumango naman ako. "May savings ka pa ba? I trust that you still have some left from the bonus you received last January."
"Of course I'm thrifty, Sir. I have enough savings naman po."
He sighed. "That's good. Because you'll have to support yourself with that until you find a new job."
Napa-angat ang ulo ko doon at seryoso akong napatingin kay Sir Siwon. Ano ang ibig niyang sabihin?
"I know that you know what's going on in our economy, because of the pandemic. Our hotel suffered great loss in the past two months. Two months pa lang tayong nag stop ng operations, but we have already lost millions, Miss Bae."
I bit my lower lip, mukhang alam ko na kung saan ito patungo.
"The management has decided to cost cut. And this includes termination of contracts of some of our employees." Unti unti akong tumango. "I know that you have done a lot of good deeds for the company, Irene. You have brought a large sum of money from the deals that you closed. It's a pity, though, that we are experiencing this crisis right now."
"Yes Sir, I understand.."
"I'm so sorry, Miss Bae. But you were among the employees that were laid off." Napapikit ako ng mariin.
I have been thinking of resigning because I'm tired. But experiencing this layoff hurts my pride.
Kulang ba ako? Incompetent ba ako? Hindi ba ako itinuturing na asset ng company kaya isa ako sa mga kasali sa na-layoff? I thought they owe me a lot because of all the deals I closed! But why was it easy for them to dispose of me like garbage?
Na pagkatapos ng lahat ng pagod ko, lahat ng gabi na hindi ako natulog, lahat ng gatherings na hindi ko nadaluhan dahil sa trabaho, ito ang ibabalik sa akin ng company. A layoff, really?
Wala akong ibang nagawa sa desisyon na iyon ni Sir Siwon. Besides, hindi lang naman siguro ako ang nakaranas ng ganoon. Isa pa, talagang matindi ang epekto ng pandemic sa economy at hindi ko alam kung kailan ito makakabawi.
And yes, maybe it's time to really move on from my corporate life.
Kaya ngayon, heto ako, katapat pa din ng making laptop kahit nasa bahay, getting ready to join the online course I enrolled at. The first step I'll have to take to start my freelancing career.