Each day, over 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are administered in 82 countries. According to Bloomberg, more than 186 million shots have so far been given all over the world.

In the Philippines, the government announced its readiness to launch the vaccination drive, which aims to vaccinate over 90 million adults by the end of 2021. This seeks to attain herd immunity, a situation wherein a considerable percentage of the population becomes immune to the infection, curtailing its spread.


The City Government of Pasig conducted a full simulation of its COVID-19 Vaccination process last February 16. (photo from Pasig City Public Information FB page)


Mock Vaccinations and Dry Runs

To prepare for the vaccines’ arrival, several sectors have been conducting simulations of the vaccination process. Pasig was the first local government unit to have its vaccine plan approved, which met the requirements mapped out by the Department of the Interior and Local Government. This early approval meant that Pasig will be one of the first cities to receive the COVID-19 vaccines once they arrive.

The plan is a detailed outline of the three phases: pre-vaccination, vaccination and post-vaccination. With Pasig planning to vaccinate more than 700,000 residents, all steps—from the registration and floor plan to the process flow and emergency response—were meticulously prepared. Last February 16, the LGU held a complete simulation of the procedure headed by the Pasig City Beat COVID-19 Task Force, Mayor Vico Sotto and the vaccination team. Representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH) were present to give their observations on how to improve the process.


(photo from Philippine News Agency)


Hospitals have also been conducting their dry runs, including the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country’s biggest COVID-19 referral hospital.


Proud Partner

AIR21 crew loading a refrigerated truck


With over 40 years of experience in various logistics services, AIR21 is proud to be a major partner in the government’s COVID-19 vaccine storage and handling. AIR21 President Maricris Campit shares that for almost 15 years, the company has been servicing the transport and distribution needs of various pharmaceutical businesses nationwide. “The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) granted us a license to operate as a drug wholesaler. We are also certified by WHO to handle pharmaceutical products. Out robust system for shipment tracking and tracing allows us to monitor, not only the progress of nationwide deliveries, but also the temperatures inside the trucks. As the accredited logistics provider of the COMELEC (Commission on Elections) since 2010, AIR21 is able to reach the country’s remote rural areas.” 

To ensure the vaccines’ safety and efficacy, they need to be maintained in very low temperatures in every step of the way— from their arrival in the airport to storage and delivery. Campit highlights AIR21’s capability strengthened by the country’s biggest fleet of multi-temperature delivery vehicles. “We have over 100 refrigerated and temperature-control trucks that are Euro 2 and Euro 4-compliant, which means they meet globally-accepted emission standards. These are capable of transporting, not only temperature-sensitive goods like medicines and vaccines, but also medical supplies needed in the vaccination process. All our trucks are equipped with GPS trackers and temperature-monitoring software.”

AIR21’s high performance and customer-driven culture is also boosted by its vast network of dedicated delivery agents nationwide. Aside from meeting various shipping requirements grounded on protocols set by pharmaceutical companies, AIR21 also guarantees on-time deliveries based on the requirements of the national government and local government units.

“On-time delivery ensures the timely administration of the vaccines,” Campit explains. “This seamless delivery is very critical in meeting the vaccination schedules without any untoward incident such as vaccine spoilage that may endanger the public.”


One of AIR21’s cold-storage facilities


As the flagship company of OneLGC, AIR21 partners with its affiliates to provide comprehensive services in support of the vaccination drive. These include Nague, Malic, Magnawa, and Associates Customs Brokers (NMM) for customs clearance; U-Freight Philippines for the freight movement from airport to warehouse; Cargohaus and LGC Logistics for the cold-chain storage; Integrated Waste Management Inc. (IWMI) for the collection and proper disposal of medical wastes; and E-Konek Pilipinas for the data information and communications technology. 

Because of AIR21’s strong capability and vast resources, the company is invited as partners by competitors in a concerted effort toward pandemic recovery. Campit shares, “We are so proud and excited about this. We feel we are a big player in ensuring that the government fulfills its target in conducting 100% vaccination in the country. The whole team looks forward to giving support to our national government and local government units. It’s a great feeling to be part of this mission.”

Donna May Lina and Agay Llanera


Weeks ago, Australian think-tank group Lowy Institute measured the performance of pandemic responses across the globe. With evaluations based on numbers of reported cases and deaths, tests conducted, and the rates of positive tests, the Philippines ranked 79th on the list.

But the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines may change the landscape of global pandemic recovery. According to Bloomberg, over 152 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have so far been administered in 73 countries. This is roughly equivalent to 5.64 million doses a day.

With the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arriving in a few days in the Philippines, health experts agree that the vaccination drive should still be supplemented by basic health and safety measures.

A year after since the Philippines reported its first COVID-19 case, how well do you know the basic precautions that could spell the difference between life and death?



To test your knowledge, go ahead and tick the Yes or No boxes of our COVID-19 Safety Checklist. If your answer is a No, check out the explainer under the Find out How column, which also provides helpful links. 



1. Where to get factual information on COVID-19?


2. Know the symptoms of COVID-19?


3. How to wash hands properly?


4. How to wear a face mask?


5. Why staying home is important?


6. What physical distancing is?


7. How to greet people without physical contact?


8. What essentials to put in your bag?


9. How to maximize digital tools?


10. How to work from home?


11. What to do when you had contact with someone with COVID-19?


12. Practice a healthy lifestyle?


13. Why it’s important to be updated daily on community news?


14. How to properly dispose of personal protective equipment?


15. How to ensure your surroundings are clean?



1. Where to get factual information on COVID-19?

It’s alarming to note that until now, there are those who believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax! Know that the health crisis is real, and that if want to read up more on it, visit these reputable websites:

World Health Organization (WHO)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Department of Health (DOH)

Get your facts straight on COVID-19 by verifying sources before sharing information on social media.


2. The symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms range from the most common and less common to the downright serious. Learn to differentiate these from allergy and flu symptoms. People with mild symptoms can manage them at home, but serious symptoms need medical care. Take note that it may take up to 14 days for an infected person to show symptoms.


3. How to wash hands properly?

Washing hands is a basic practice we learned during childhood. Know the proper way of doing it to ensure you’re safe during and beyond the pandemic.


4. How to wear a face mask?

Face masks should cover your nose, mouth and chin. WHO emphasizes the importance of handwashing or hand sanitizing before and after putting on the mask and adjusting it on your face. Here’s the updated “wearing a mask” routine.


5. Why staying home is important?

Because COVID-19 spreads through droplets sneezed or coughed into the air, staying home limits the possibility of you interacting with an infected person. You may also be asymptomatic, so staying home can stop the spread of the virus.


6. What physical distancing is?

When outside the home, keeping a distance of 6 feet between yourself and other people can protect you from infectious droplets. Stay away from crowded places. Practice physical distancing along with other safety measures (masks, avoid touching your face, handwashing, etc.) to reinforce personal protection.


7. How to greet people without physical contact?

Say hello, wave, nod, give an air high-five, a salute, or a flying kiss. There are many ways to greet friends and family while maintaining physical distancing. Perhaps Filipinos followed these safety tips during the holidays, which was why experts noted that a spike in COVID-19 cases was not observed after the Christmas season.


8. What essentials to put in your bag?

Aside from your wallet and cellphone, your bag must contain the following:

·         Extra face mask

·         Extra face shield, which you can make from plastic bottles

·         Alcohol

·         Sanitizer

·         Soap

·         Reusable bottle of water

·         Towel

·         Tissue

·         Your own pen to fill out contact tracing forms (since pens used by other people may contain viruses and bacteria)


9. How to maximize digital tools?

From paying bills to bank transactions and buying essentials, take advantage of online services to keep you safe at home. Last September, the government launched the StaySafe.ph app, the country’s official contact tracing program. Downloading the app also allows you to monitor your health conditions and social distancing practices.


10. How to work from home?

While kids learn from home, you can also learn to work from home if your company allows it. If you’re looking for work, explore remote employment opportunities found in reputable job portals, allowing you to earn from home. In this day and age, learning how to navigate video conferences in different formats is a marketable skill.


11. What to do when you had contact with someone with COVID-19?

Read up on the DOH’s updated guidelines on contact tracing of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Even if you don’t feel symptoms, practice self-quarantine right away. Watch this for more home quarantine tips.


12. Practice a healthy lifestyle?

There are many ways to boost immunity. The basics are incorporating fruits and vegetables in your diet; getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily; regular exercise; and maintaining a positive outlook to facilitate your mental health.


13. Why it’s important to be updated daily on community news?

Visit your LGU’s website and follow its social media accounts to know the latest programs you can avail of. Keep track of the active cases in your barangay. Update yourself on your area’s vaccination plans.


14. How to properly dispose of personal protective equipment?

According to WHO, disposable masks should be replaced as soon as they are damp. After removing the used mask without touching its front, immediately throw it in a closed bin and wash hands.

To avoid passing on the virus, the UK government recommends putting the used face mask in a plastic bag, and discarding it in another bag dedicated to infectious waste.

But environmental advocates warn about how the rampant use of disposables can worsen the climate emergency, which may also have fueled the pandemic. To mitigate waste, some recommend reusable masks, which you can also make.


15. How to ensure your surroundings are clean?

Frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, phones and toilets should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. After cleaning these fixtures with detergent and water, disinfect them with this DIY formula.


With this checklist, we hope you learned something new, or at least remembered what we all need to keep doing. Get these basics down pat, and always comply with safety measures. Even with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we can’t let our guard down. The true key to pandemic recovery lies in awareness, consistency and vigilance.



Donna May Lina with Agay Llanera


It’s been a little over a year since the Philippines reported its first COVID-19 case. Since then, our lives have drastically changed.  To reduce the spread of the virus, we all had to learn the basic protocols: wash our hands, wear a mask, maintain physical distance. Guidelines were set out on international, national and barangay levels.  

Just a few weeks ago, Lowy Institute, an Australian think-tank group, compared the effectiveness of the different countries’ pandemic responses. Criteria included the numbers of reported cases and deaths, tests conducted, and the rates of positive tests. On the list, the Philippines ranked 79th in terms of COVID-19 performance. Top countries that were able to control the virus were New Zealand (1st), Vietnam (2nd), Taiwan (3rd) and Singapore (13th).


(Source: Lowy Institute)


What did they do right?  

For one, these countries have very clear guidelines. The New Zealand government has created separate COVID-19 safety websites for specific audiences—the business and service sector, workers, and even for its construction industry. Taiwan has only seven pandemic-related deaths because of its tight entry restrictions. As early as February last year, travelers with Taiwanese mobile numbers have been utilizing the QR code system for health declarations. Even home quarantine and isolation monitoring are done via mobile phones; if a person left quarantine, his or her phone will alert authorities who will immediately verify the person’s location.

With clear guidelines come clear penalties. To compare how the Philippines compares with other countries in meting out fines for the simple safety protocol of wearing face masks, Panahon TV came up with this chart:


With local government units in our country having their own penalties, guidelines become confusing especially for travelers. A quick web search on sanctions for those failing to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols also revealed the following:







Factors that Contribute to Pandemic Response

Politics and location play a big role in the different pandemic responses across the globe. Vietnam and Taiwan are known for their disciplined citizens because they have always been challenged by threats of war. Due to geographical reasons, New Zealand has learned to be self-contained.  A strict compliance with laws has always been the key component of Singapore’s governance.

Culturally, these countries have a more collectivist culture.  Social psychologists define collectivism as a value that emphasizes interconnectedness, prioritizing a society’s goal and needs over those of the individual.

Interestingly enough, countries known for their individualistic cultures seem to have weaker pandemic responses, as listed by the Lowy Institute’s report. These include Sweden (37th), the UK ( 66th), Netherlands (75th) and the U.S. (94th). 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commentary observes how COVID-19 measures seem to focus more on individual risks, which lead to gaps in response. In order to curtail the global spread of the virus, messaging should promote cultural inclusivity. But instead of pitting one culture type against the other, the commentary suggests embracing “multicentric logics – individual, collective, and everything in between.” Different cultures and attitudes are factors in seeing how countries will be able to implement, comply, and continue to maintain safety guidelines to this date. 


(photo by Jire Carreon)


How will the pandemic end?

In an attempt to answer this question, the New York Times discussed how the 1918 Spanish flu virus, which killed as many as 100 million people worldwide, has simply lost steam, evolving into a still potentially fatal seasonal flu. 

With the vaccine race “won” in round one by pharmaceutical companies like Moderna (U.S.) and AstraZeneca (UK), more than 108 million vaccine doses have been administered in 67 countries


(Source: Bloomberg)


The vaccines were developed through collaborating scientists, were tested among selfless volunteers, and rolled out to countries’ frontliners and vulnerables depending on government strategy.  Through modern technology and cooperation, vaccination has been conducted through Emergency Use Authorization, allowing the release of unregistered drugs and vaccines during a public health emergency. No other vaccine has been rolled out this fast.  

But we will still need to work together and faster. The virus is mutating, and has evolved into variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil, which are being closely monitored by health experts. Though vaccination seems to be the best solution in ending the pandemic, it doesn’t mean that the virus will magically disappear.

The Philippines is reported to receive the vaccines by the second quarter of this year. While we all wait for the vaccine rollout in our country, the best thing for us to do is to comply to safety standards. 

The Philippine government has basic taglines for the people’s easy recall. Repetition has always been an effective communication tactic. There’s the Department of Public Work and Highway’s Build, Build, Build; and the Department of Agriculture’s Plant, Plant, Plant.  

We should all then Comply, Comply, Comply to washing our hands. Comply, Comply, Comply to wearing face masks. Comply, Comply, Comply to maintaining physical distance. Comply, Comply, Comply to answering contact trace forms.  

This may be easier said three times than done, but if we want our country to fare better, we must continue fighting the good fight despite quarantine and protocol fatigue. In this global crisis, there is no room for complacency, only repetitive compliance. Whether you’re privileged, careless, or downright indifferent, one thing is clear: the virus does not care.  


January is Zero-Waste Month, as declared through a presidential degree in 2014. While this initiative aims to cultivate environmental awareness and care among Filipinos, zero-waste practices particularly focus on waste prevention. Simply put, its goal is to eliminate the trash sent to landfills and incinerators.


Plastic waste dump in Dumaguete/ photo by Greenpeace


Why we need to limit our trash

A few times a week, the city’s garbage truck comes to our neighborhood to collect our household trash. Even though we have dutifully segregated your biodegradables and non-biodegradables, the harsh reality is that most of our garbage are dumped into our already teeming landfills. And what our landfills cannot hold eventually end up in our oceans. 

Though recycling centers are tasked to manage environmentally-toxic plastic, which takes 400 years to break down, National Geographic states that a new study has discovered that only 9% of global plastics have been recycled. 

Zero-waste principles aim to address this waste management crisis at the source—by redesigning business process and individual lifestyles to limit the trash produced. Here are its 5Rs shared in our past feature on Angelica Mata, known in the blogosphere as Low-Impact Filipina.



Have you integrated these practices in your lifestyle? To celebrate Zero-Waste Month, take our quiz to find out how much of an environmental advocate you are. 


1. It’s a hot day outside. You swipe the sweat off our face and realize that you need a drink of water to cool you down. What do you do?

a) You open your bag and take out your thermos, which you always bring whenever you are out.

b) You hunt for a café that offers paper cups, which you believe are eco-friendly. You fill it up with water, drink, and shoot the paper cup in the recycling bin.

c) You buy a plastic bottle of water (they are available everywhere!), finish your drink and throw the bottle in the bin.


2. When the server gives you the plastic fork and spoon that come with your meal, you:

a) Refuse them and fish out your reusable cutlery from your bag.

b) Refuse them and bring out the plastic spoon and fork from your last takeout. You have a collection of these in your home, which you use a pair at a time.

c) Accept the plastic cutlery without question.


3. The weekend rolls around, and it’s time to do some housekeeping. First on the agenda is to remove the accumulated dust. What do you use?

a) a homemade rag you’ve sewn from your old clothes, towels, and linens

b) a rag from the stash you regularly buy

c) Wet wipes. You just pull them out from their plastic pouch and throw them after use. So convenient! 


4. Your big job interview is just a few days away, but you can’t seem to find anything appropriate to wear from your wardrobe. What do you do?

a) Swap clothes with a friend. This way, you both benefit from each other’s old clothes! 

b) buy from an ukay-ukay

c) Log on to your favorite online store and click add to cart.


5. Let’s face it. Drinks like milkshakes and milk tea cannot be simply gulped down; they have to be sipped for maximum enjoyment. What do you do when you order from your favorite milk tea store?

a) Let the server know that you don’t need a straw. You always bring your own reusable straw.

b) Ask for a paper straw.

c) Accept the plastic straw given to you.


6. It’s time to give the bathroom a good scrub! What do you use to clean it?

a) My homemade all-purpose cleaner made from white vinegar and table salt! I just dampen a rag with vinegar and sprinkle salt on it. Vinegar naturally disinfects, while the salt scrubs away stains. 

b) All-natural cleaners I bought from an eco-friendly store.

c) I use whatever I buy from the supermarket.


7. You’re at the palengke, buying fruits and vegetables. What bag do you use for shopping?

a) a canvas bag that you’ve been reusing for the longest time

b) A new eco bag you purchased at the grocery. You have dozens of them at home! 

c) You just use the thin plastic bags that come with you purchases.


8. You open your fridge and this is what it looks like:

a) Leftovers and easily spoiled food are at the front, reminding you to eat them right away. You make sure you don’t waste anything. In fact, you keep a list of your fridge’s contents tacked on its door, and you plan your meals around them. 

b) Leftovers are neatly stored in containers, but sometimes, you forget to check them, and end up throwing out some.

c) You only get to check the inside of your fridge after you weekly grocery run. You throw out old food to make room for the new ones you bought.


9. After whipping up an amazing meal, you end up with a pile of vegetable and fruit peel. What do you do with them?

a) Gather them and put them in the compost pit in your backyard.

b) Segregate them and wait for the garbage truck to pick them up.

c) Throw them in the bin with the rest of your household garbage.


10) You take a good look at your food supply. What does it mostly consist of?

a) Fruits and vegetables. You avoid buying food in packaging.

b) Huge packages of food. You buy in bulk to minimize packaging waste.

c) An assortment of sachets, small cartons and pouches of food.


Congratulations on finishing the quiz! Before we move on, here are 10 quick notes on the questions you answered.

Did you know?

  1. Most papers cups are not actually biodegradable. To keep them from getting soaked by their liquid contents, paper cups are lined with a type of plastic called polyethylene.
  2. Plastic utensils easily break and are meant to be disposable, so it’s best to refuse them from the start. 
  3. Most wet wipes contain plastic and are therefore not biodegradable. 
  4. 10% of carbon emissions come from the fashion industry
  5. Though paper straws are biodegradable, think of all the trees and energy consumed to produce them. It is still best to use reusable straws.
  6. Chemicals from household cleaning products flow into our oceans and contaminate the food chain. Eco-friendly cleaning products are well and good, but make sure to bring your own reusable containers when purchasing them. Homemade cleaners are easy to make, and utilizes ingredients found in your kitchen.
  7. The purpose of eco bags is not just to eliminate plastic use, but to eliminate waste. Don’t keep buying eco bags and discarding them because this contributes to waste. In fact, you don’t need to buy a reusable bag. Just look through your old stash of bags and constantly reuse them when you go shopping. 
  8. According to the World Resources Institute, food waste makes up about 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Disposed food in landfills produce methane—a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming our planet.
  9. Food waste is not the only thing you can put in your compost pit! You can also add cotton, tissue, and other biodegradable things
  10. According to Greenpeace, global meat and dairy production is a major cause of deforestation, and the degradation of oceans and freshwater sources. Find out how a green diet helps save the planet here.


Compute your score!

Each answer has these corresponding points:

a – 3 points

b – 2 points

c – 1 point


Add up your points for all your ten answers, and check out which type of zero-waste advocate you are.

Graphics by Mark Cris del Rosario and Jearom Martinez


Keep up the great work, Super Advocates! If you are a Semi Advocate, now you know the areas to improve on. As for the Shy Advocates—chin up! We all have to start somewhere, and hopefully, after this quiz, you can take your first step in adopting a more sustainable lifestyle for our planet and future generations.


Happy Zero-Waste Month everyone!

The new year is just around the corner, which means most people are making plans and resolutions to spark positive changes in their lives. By letting go of attitudes, habits and situations that no longer serve them, people are better attend to their needs, improving the quality of their lives.

One significant change some make is to literally move beyond their comfort zones—and by that, we mean changing their places of residence. According to a survey released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2012, internal migrants were at a whopping 2.9 million between 2005 and 2010. While 45.4% merely changed cities, more than half (50.4%) were long-distance movers who changed provinces. The latter movers came from Calabarzon at 27.7%, the National Capital Region (NCR) at 19.7%, and Central Luzon at 13%. 

NCR is the top choice of migrants outside Metro Manila, as shown by the World Bank’s Philippines Urbanization Review in 2017. In the previous decade alone, the country’s annual increase of urban population was at 3.3%, making the Philippines as one of Asia-Pacific’s fastest urbanizing countries.

But what about the second-biggest population of long-distance movers who moved out from NCR? Their significant number shows that there are Filipinos who choose to trade the modern conveniences of city life for the slower-paced rural setting. We get to know some of these brave migrants, and the steps they took to make such a major change.

Layla Tanjutco


Current residence: Mangatarem, Pangasinan since 2018

Residence history: I was born and raised in Quezon City right up to when I started working in Makati. I eventually had to move away from our childhood home to be nearer my work. I was pretty much the city girl and enjoyed having everything accessible.

In 2007, I decided to try out the probinsya life with my family. We moved to Negros, in a house by the sea. I woke up to and was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves— and I loved it. After about a year, I got pregnant with my second child. Just then, job offers in Manila started coming in, so I decided to move back to the city. My family followed, and we settled back in my childhood neighborhood.


Reason for moving to Pangasinan: I’ve been working from home full time. Meanwhile, my favorite cousin put up a farm in their family property in Pangasinan. My family and I would go for short visits and I would always enjoy my time there. My cousin needed help running the farm, and one of my sisters and I were getting really tired of the city life so we floated around the idea of moving to the farm for months before finally deciding.

  Also, my kids were growing up and needed their own space. I needed my own space too and with how multi-bedroom rentals are in Manila, there was no way I could afford them. That and the fact that my sister and I can work anywhere as long as we have internet cemented our idea for the move.

Liwliwa Malabed


Current residence: Bae, Laguna since 2016

Residence of history: I was born and raised in Ilocos Sur, and went to Manila to study in UP Diliman in 1997. Since then, I never left the campus, staying in dorms and rentals even after I graduated and took my master’s degree. When I became pregnant with my daughter, our family moved to Makati, and when we needed more space, we relocated back in Quezon City.


Reason for moving: I was coming home from a workshop I’d conducted near ABS-CBN. It was raining on a Friday before a holiday payday. I couldn’t get a cab or a free seat in jeepneys. My daughter was only a year old then, and in my desperation to go home, I started walking, hoping I could catch transportation along the way. But I only got inside a jeepney in Quezon City Circle, and even then, the vehicles weren’t moving. So I got off and ended up walking all the way to our house in Visayas Avenue, Quezon City. It was then I told my partner that we should move out of Manila.

We chose Laguna because my partner wanted to live somewhere near Manila. Because I’m a licensed teacher, I felt I could find a job anywhere. I also liked Laguna because I had fond memories of it—it was there I finished a part of my master’s thesis, and my older brother has been living in Los Baños since 2008. Knowing he was there was a huge plus because I knew I could count on him if we needed help.


Aya Tejido


Current residence: Antipolo, Rizal since 2009

Residence history: I have always been a Manila girl until I got married and moved to the borderline of Cainta and Antipolo in Rizal. 

Reason for moving: My in-laws bought this house in the 1980s, and since it wasn’t being used, they suggested that we renovate it and live in it. My husband and I agreed because we didn’t have to pay rent. It didn’t occur to us that we would be far from everyone; we just wanted to have our own space without incurring so much cost.


Layla about to harvest vegetables in the farm


What are pros of probinsya living?

Layla: I sometimes miss not having everything at the drop of a hat or being far away from my friends, but waking up to bird song or seeing the night sky peppered with stars, feeling closer to the earth and things that grow are things that I cherish and am very grateful for. Anywhere you live, there will be challenges, but I feel like my soul is calmer here. My sister and I would often joke that we’re having an eternal summer vacation. We used to just spend short vacations here; now, we live here and we love it no less, maybe even more. 


Liwliwa: We enjoy each other as a family. Before the pandemic, we’d often hang out at IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) and UPLB (University of the Philippines Los Baños). The air is fresher, and we get to see fireflies. We like exploring other parts of Laguna; we’ve gone camping in Cavinti and Caliraya. Our diet has become healthier because we directly source from local farmers. I think it’s more peaceful and safer here, and the rent is much cheaper. Right now, we live in a 4-bedroom house with two bathrooms and a backyard—and the rent is a fraction of what we’d pay in Manila with the same facilities.


Aya: It’s less dusty here. In Manila, it would take only two days to get a thick film of dust in your room. Back when we didn’t have neighbors, we could see the mountain, which looked dramatic during sunrise. Even when it’s summer, we don’t feel the heat. Over the years, the area has gotten more developed, with more small hospitals and community malls with groceries, so it’s now convenient to live here. 


Liwliwa and her daughter at the Makiling Botanic Gardens


What are the cons of probinsya living?

Layla: What we really found challenging to adjust to at first was the early time shops would close. In Manila, restaurants, bars and stores would be open late at night. Here, only 7-11 and the evening pop-up carinderias would be open beyond 8 p.m. During the pandemic, closing times became even earlier, and a lot of the small shops and eateries closed down for good. We didn’t use to have delivery services for the various cafes and restaurants that started popping up early last year, but now we do. We often had power outages and I never thought I’d consider owning a generator but here we are. 


Liwliwa: To get to Los Baños, which is where all the action is, you take a jeepney that has to be full before it leaves the terminal. So even if we’re near Los Baños, travel time takes about an hour. Public transportation is a real challenge, especially when I get home late from the occasional gig in Manila. When that happens, I’d call my brother, who’d fetch me with his motorcycle. Eventually, my partner and I were able to buy a car, which allowed us to move around during lockdown. 


Aya: I had to get used to the silence. As early as 4 a.m. in Manila, I’d hear jeepneys warming up their engines. Noise was a constant companion, even at night. Here, I only hear birds and the tuko. I found it weird at first.

In my area, traffic is a perennial issue because there’s only one road to take if you want to go to the city—and that’s the Marcos Highway. The problem is compounded when there’s roadwork along the highway. If we’re traveling out of the country, we have to book a hotel near the airport because there’s no way we can leave at a decent hour and arrive in time for our flight.  

Mostly retirees live in our huge village, so one time, when my daughter was looking for playmates, we had to walk several streets before we found kids her age.


Aya in her backyard with a flourishing malunggay plant behind her.


Are you happy with your decision to move?

Aya: We’re happy living here. If someone asked me advice about moving out of Manila, I’d tell them to always look for the nearest hospital, drugstore and grocery store. Since they would be living away from family, they need to know where to get their essential goods and services. Here, we learned to be self-reliant, especially when there’s flood. Our shelves have to be well- stocked all the time. Still, it’s more refreshing to live outside the city.


Liwliwa: When we made the decision to live in Laguna, I was ready for countryside living. I think  we always idealize the province as a good place to bring up our families, but what matters more than the place is the people you’re be living with. I think our family will thrive wherever we end up because we get along with each other. 


Layla: Living the probinsya life really drove home for me how we take many things in our life for granted. Whether you’re living in the city with the many conveniences that are easily accessible or here in the laid-back province, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. We always feel like we’re missing something; we want what we don’t have, so much so that we forget what we do have at this moment. I am thankful I have the luxury of looking out my window and saying hello to a beautiful bird, or eating sweet, seedless papaya from our backyard tree in the same way I am thankful now for the many years I spent in the city, and eventually (when things are better) being able to go back there for a quick visit to see friends and the places I missed. Probinsya life really teaches you to slow down, take in as much of the view as you can, enjoy the little things every day, and be thankful for each one.