Friends gave me sun-dried tomatoes, I gave them tea

Today was the day of the Great Neighborhood Exchange.

A friend who lived nearby drove over to drop off sun-dried tomatoes and I gave them tea in teabags.

It was weird to see them with half their face obscured by a mask. For a second, I wondered if it really was my friend who was waving at me. I’m sure I looked the same way.

There was no beso, of course. Just a quick touching of elbows because I think neither of us had planned on how to say hello in person (because who thinks of these things in advance?). Packages were swapped, a few words were exchanged, then I went back inside, then had to bathe before proceeding with my day.

I just realized that it has been 40 days since community quarantine was declared, 40 days since I have seen someone I know in person. It was a bit jarring seeing someone you’ve gotten used to seeing on screen in the flesh. Is this what we’re all in for when ECQ is lifted? A sight shock when we can finally see people in person once again?

I’m thankful I have thoughtful friends. It’s only now that I’m oler that I’m realizing the importance of community, and what a blessing it is to find with people who share the same values and who you can trust. I did’t use to think such people existed. I’m glad to have been proven wrong.

I come from a background where vulnerability is considered a weakness and to be used as a weapon against you. This is one of the reasons I’ve worked to beomce as self-reliant as possible. I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.

But I’ve had the blessing of meeting kind, compassionate, emotionally hygenic people who value trust and accountability, and who understand that just becaouse you’re ‘good,’ it dones’t mean you’re kind. We are not afraid to be frank to each other and to communicate our needs, and it’s resulted in wonderful friendships.

People like these are few, but they exist, and I’m thankful every time I run into someone like this. It’s people like this who have allowed me to soften my heart, to let down my shields, to not be scared. It’s people like this who’ve made me see the value of being part of a community.

There’s a freedom in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, there’s a chance you might get hurt. Yes, there are still people out there who think that being vulnerable is a weakness and will use it aginst you.

But at the same time, if you belong or have access to a community who loves, respects, and supports you on more than just a superficial level, then you are lucky because you are one of the few who will have realized that to intentionally reveal one’s vulnerabilty requires strength and trust, and not everyone has those luxuries.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.