Alexander Blanco San Pedro
Sibalom, Antique

11:24 PM
Guanco Street, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City

The silence was deafening. With caution, I held the handle of the car door to open it. The soft squeaking sound from the hinge bothered me as if it had awakened the sleeping coronavirus that surrounded me. I hurriedly entered the car, sat down and sprayed a hefty amount of sanitizer on my hands. I barely heard the door close as my senses were overpowered by the thought that my invisible enemy might have already entered my car. I turned the engine on and suddenly a jazzy tone from a piano started playing. Apple Music. Then followed Sarah Vaughan’s deep and soothing voice that temporarily gave me solace as I drove off.

“Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you…”

For a moment, I contemplated as I listened to the song. How many people could there be in the world, missing warm embraces from their loved ones because of this pandemic?

11:25 PM
Dalan Bonifacio, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City

There was blinding darkness everywhere. The road I was treading was wrapped in gloom. Other than my headlights, hardly any of the streetlights were turned on. None of the houses along the street was lit too. The darkness that surrounded me triggered my anxiety again. But the calming low notes of Sarah Vaughan’s voice wrapped me like a warm blanket and it somehow gave me reassurance that I was in a safe place, at least at that moment.

“Just one look at you, my heart grew tipsy in me
You and you alone bring out the gypsy in me…”

That second, I imagined how miserable it would have been for lovers and family members who were unable to see each other for weeks. Damn this deadly virus!

11:26 PM
Figueroa Street, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City

A short detour. Halfway through Dalan Bonifacio, I was stopped by a huge ‘No Entry’ sign, so I took a left turn into the narrow and dark Figueroa Street. It was only about 800 meters long but it seemed like a dark horizontal abyss during midnight in this time of contagion. Sarah Vaughan’s luscious river-deep voice started to give me chills as I passed through the gloomy street.

“I love all the many charms about you
Above all, I want my arms about you…”

That part of the song made me remember someone. And it made me smile a bit despite the anxiety that had been bothering me for the last three minutes or so.

11: 27 PM
Osmeña St, Villa Arevalo District, Iloilo City

I suddenly couldn’t feel my arms and legs. My heart skipped a few beats for seconds when a stout lady in her 50’s raised her right hand to stop me from about 10 meters away. Community Quarantine Checkpoint, the sign said. I slowly pulled over to the side of the road, opened the window and waited for her to approach the car. As she walked towards me, her strides were in rhythm with the slow beat of the Sarah Vaughan song.

“Don’t be a naughty baby
Come to mama, come to mama do…”

Despite her intimidating looks, she turned to me and gave me her most gracious smile before asking me a few memorized questions. I took out and showed her all the necessary documents so I could pass through. As I drove off, she hummed along with the tune playing in my car. Her off-pitch voice and Sarah’s voluptuous vibratos shook away the numbness I felt.

11:28 PM
Avanceña Street, Villa Arevalo District Iloilo City

Temporary Relief. My heartbeat went back to normal, as the music started to fade out in the background after Sarah Vaughan showcased her marvelous range towards the end of the song.

“My sweet embraceable youuuuuuuuuu…”

Flickers here and flashes there from some vehicles passing by. The amber glow from the street lights lit up the road. I was already driving at peace under the stars, forgetting all the anxiety and fear. Yet, I asked myself, until when? When would this hopelessness end? When would everything go back to how it used to be?

11:34 PM
Avanceña St, Molo, Iloilo City

Unexpected teleport. The next song in the queue started playing with a sweet piano tone followed by Sarah Vaughan’s deep and rich low register.

“April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees…”

When Clifford Brown and Paul Quinichette started blowing the trumpet and sax respectively towards the middle of the song, it seemed like I was transported to a romantic setting in Paris, in the 1950s, as I’ve seen in old movies. I felt dreamy for a moment wishing I were really there for an escape. But I remembered the news I read earlier that day that France had more than 2,000 deaths because of the pandemic, threefold as many as the deaths in the Philippines. I held back my thoughts. There was no place I’d rather be but home.

11:38 PM
Locsin Street, Cor San Jose St, Molo, Iloilo City

I reached the building block at last. I parked at the space in front of the building that used to be crowded with cars. There was barely anybody around the parking lot. Only the security guards on duty, some stray dogs, and most likely, a bunch of coronavirus lingering, waiting for their vulnerable prey. I waited until the end of the song before I turned the engine off.

“Till April in Paris
Whom can I run to?
What have you done to my heart?”

I contemplated again as soon as the song faded out. What have you done to the world COVID-19?

I whispered a little prayer before hopping up the stairs to start my shift for the night.

11:40PM.

About the Author

Alexander Blanco San Pedro is a Training Manager at Inspiro, Relia Inc specializing in employee training development programs and assessment of training and development needs of the organization. On the side, he is occasionally invited as a Resource Speaker in schools and other organizations to talk about topics on English proficiency, leadership skills, customer service and more. He also holds the position of Chief City Organizer of PechaKucha Night Iloilo, an organization that holds speaking events, since 2018.