It is the week before Christmas in what many of us will remember as Annus Horribilis. In this year that was marked internationally by the worst pandemic in modern history, locally by some of the worst storms of the decade, the losses and challenges became very personal.
At the Asian Institute of Management, December is graduation for most of our degree programs. Batch 2020 has been shaped by the pandemic in many ways. It has been particularly difficult for our part-time students, those that continued to hold down jobs while pursuing their master’s degrees in management, and especially challenging for our students who own and run businesses.
As virtual closing ceremonies are held by the various programs, we look back on this year of challenge.
Challenge and Response
When community quarantine was declared in mid-March, the first scramble was figuring out virtual classrooms, virtual meetings, and other work from home arrangements.
In a way, the business of education is uniquely suited to conversion to the online world. After all, we deal in the intangible, our primary mechanisms of delivery the written and spoken word – both easily transmitted through online channels. However, AIM education is primarily participative and the AIM educational experience profoundly social. The loss of visual cues was a severe handicap and the inability to come together easily in small social gatherings seriously impoverished the experience – at least, for a while.
It did not take long for everyone to adjust to both online delivery and online socialization. In ways large and small, we all adapted. At the Institute, faculty, staff, students, and alumni came together to help each other as well as to contribute to the general international and national responses to the pandemic. Like many others, I added helping with the Covid-19 response to all the other things I was doing. I found myself working with a group of researchers, data and policy analysts helping the IATF, the inter-agency body tasked with creating the Philippine policy response to Covid-19. I also helped organize a series of AIM lectures for managers on matters dealing with Covid-19.
Those first few weeks were simply a matter of making sure things continued to work. They were about establishing new supply chains, finding suppliers who could still deliver, and honing our work from home capabilities while keeping safe. Like many, we suddenly found ourselves spending more time with family. Our three-generation family, which had been dispersed across three locations as a response to the Metro traffic, were all together again in the family home.
As the quarantine extended and the pandemic morphed into something no one would have predicted when the first case was announced in January, survival mode shifted into something different. It became exceedingly apparent that many businesses needed to either change radically or die. At the other end of the spectrum, immense opportunities opened for businesses that could deliver the needs of the new normal, those that facilitated the new online work and retail environment, including last mile delivery. Innovation and resourcefulness became the new name of the game.
On the personal front, we all discovered a new sense of closeness. We rediscovered how to live in close quarters with each other, renewed family ties that had been frayed by hours in traffic or challenged by the distance imposed by staying in more centrally located condo units. Strangely, we also began to forge stronger relationships with friends from far places. As we began to hold virtual meetings and get-togethers, we realized how easy it had become to include everyone regardless of location. Time zones, not distance, was the new barrier for socializing.
As we settled into our new normal, we began to realize the blessings of the quarantine. The quarantine period showed us who our true friends were, who would take time and effort to keep in touch with us. It also gave us time to review our lives, making it clear what was important versus just part of the routine we had gotten used to. It gave us the chance to reconnect both with those we love as well as with our inner selves.
As we celebrate graduation for AIM Batch 2020, We look forward to life after AIM. Despite the pandemic, I have gotten quite close to many of the students graduating this year. I admire their persistence and their hard work. Most of all, I admire their optimism and their faith.
This was a year that required resourcefulness and grit. But most of all, it required confidence and hope: it required a belief in endless possibilities and the capacity of the human spirit, not just to endure, but to thrive.
Congratulations Batch 2020. I know you will succeed and make us proud.,
A personal note
On the personal front, 2020 was chasing two roller coaster years, full of change, challenge, joy, triumph, and loss. 2019 was marked by the loss of one of my very best friends, the editor-in-chief who got me started on this column. It was a loss I shared with the other person in our little drinking group. This was the group I drank with, just I and two people who kept me informed on all things politics and who worked hard to fill in the sorry gaps in my knowledge of popular culture. By the end of January 2020, I was the only one left in our little group of three. As the pandemic slowly changed the world as we knew it, it became even harder for me to bring my attention back to this column.
It was always, however, ever at the back of my mind and I kept reminding myself not to let 2020 end without going back to writing.
As I sat down in front of my laptop to write this column, I reviewed my sparse output in the last three years. I read one of the very few pieces I managed to write in 2019 and I realized both why it has been so hard to go back to this column as well as how important it is to begin writing again. This column has always been one of the things I shared with Jojo Robles, twice former editor-in-chief of this paper and one of my very best friends. The two things we had always shared were writing and sharing opinions about the world around us. As I read the piece I wrote to mark his passing, I remembered the other things I shared with him: an eclectic sense of curiosity and a natural attraction to possibilities. I also remembered that this column was his way of opening a door for me, a door back to my first love of writing, something I had drifted away from as I pursued a career in business and mathematics. It is a gift that I hope to cherish and nurture.
If you have read to the end of this, thank you, I hope you enjoy my writing and promise to continue to write regularly in the future. Have a great week!
Readers can email Maya at [email protected]. Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com.