Love Under Lockdown: Filipino Couples Dish Out On Their Experience

Spending time with your partner on lockdown? Filipino couples share how spending the lockdown together was like, plus some relationship coping tips for COVID-19. 

Photo by Thanh Tran

The majority of the world has been in Covid-19 lockdown for a quarter of the entire year. The pandemic has forced people to fall into a “new normal” with their partners. The thing is, it’s not like everyone had ample time to adjust to this situation. With little to no warning, couples were locked in their homes or forced to be apart despite being only a couple of miles away.

It comes as no surprise that even the best couples buckle under such tough circumstances. We got three couples (and one ex!) to share how the pandemic has affected their relationship, for better or for worse.

A test of patience

Photographer Tarish Zamora chose to stay in La Union for the lockdown with her boyfriend, professional surfer Rico Dumaguin whom she has been in a relationship for 6 months. According to Tarish, it was her parents who told her to stay because it was safer. This wasn’t a surprise considering the growing cases in Manila day by day.

Tarish Zamora

“I planned to stay in my house in San Juan, [and] Rico had to keep going back and forth to check on Alon and Sandy in Urbizonto because he works there. When the lockdown was becoming stricter for each barangay, it just seemed practical for us to stay in one house so we won’t keep on traveling to see each other. That way, we get to take care of each other too since we both didn’t have immediate family living here.”

Tarish admits her patience and understanding was tested during the lockdown. Considering it’s their first time to stay together in one roof for a prolonged period with no other physical social contact, it was completely normal.

Rico Dumaguin | Photo by Tarish Zamora

“I’m just so glad that it worked out because both of us aren’t proud people. Whenever there was something wrong that we did, we own up to it and say sorry immediately to the other person. We didn’t let our arguments go big and tried to solve it immediately,” she shared, adding that they always took a minute to breathe and think how to figure out problems.

Locked down together three months after they became official, the couple admitted that the situation helped them get to know each other more, even in dark times.

Locked down together three months after they became official, the couple admitted that the situation helped them get to know each other more, even in dark times.

“There were no secrets. We stayed honest with how we felt with each other, especially when anxiety decides to hit and we get emotional. It made us work together in surviving this hard time as partners. At least now we know that we can live together in the future, for sure.”

A major shift in dynamic

Instead of being together, Cha and Faiz, who have been in a relationship for over two years, are suffering from a predicament most couples can relate to – they chose to stay apart.

While technology has helped the two stay connected, it’s just not the same as being in the same room. This major shift in dynamic has been hard – dates have turned into Facebook video chats, and sleepovers have turned into texts raining with emojis.

“It’s honestly difficult talking about issues when in an LDR. We can’t even celebrate our milestones together.”

But perhaps digital connection is not as bad as it seems. In more ways than one, the pandemic has brought them closer to each other. For Cha, she admits being apart helped her develop trust towards her boyfriend.

“It just made us trust each other more because there’s really not much we can do about this pandemic. Our priority is to stay healthily. I guess in the end, we just kind of realize that it’s not worth our time fighting so either one of us just lowers our pride. Then it’s all good,” said Cha, also adding that she and her boyfriend always try to find time to talk about how they are feeling.

“Physically, we are apart. But emotionally, we’re still very close. Lockdown hasn’t changed that.”

Intensive togetherness

For Din and James, who have been in a relationship for 4 years and married for 8 years, staying at their beachside villa for three months straight was not on the menu for this summer, especially when they expected fully-booked reservations for their business, Siesta Beach Retreat. But that was before COVID-19 drove millions of people around the globe into intensive togetherness.

While intimate relationships can easily turn viscerally insufferable during lockdown – especially when children and temper get into the mix, James and Din Fuentes’ family routine became much stronger. Admittedly a workaholic, Din shared that she saw a side of her husband that surprised her.

“Ang galing pala niyang tatay kay Lucas. Ang galing lang paano sila nag energy share, paano niya tinuturuan mag swimming, paano siya nakikipag communicate sa kanya. Di ko nakikita yun before. So mas naging appreciative kami sa strength nung isa’t isa, and mas nagging supportive kami sa weakness ng isat’isa.”

Just like other couples, fights are inevitable. In fact, sharing time together 24/7 can potentially snowball even the slightest annoyance to major fights.

“Sa una palang we decided na hindi kami mag-aaaway Magkakapikunan kami pero hindi kami mag-aaway. We handled it well. It was never a dream, but it became one kasi we understood each other more. Before, we didn’t have time or space for that,” shared James.

“Your space and emotional boundaries now are so available compared to when you were working. Yung energy ng isa will be the speed of the whole family so alam niyang damay lahat,” according to Din, adding that when they fight over things, they always give each other time to release.

“I’m just releasing my feelings but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad relationship for the rest of our life. It’s just a bad hour now; and he’s doing the same thing.”

‘We wanted different things’

It’s hard to deal with conflicts, even when people are not in the midst of a pandemic. Even at the best of times, breakups are a nightmare to deal with, and COVID-19 has made Joel and Clem’s (not their real names) two-year relationship more complex and challenging to navigate.

“I was 22 he was 29 and we were [already] living together. Months after, he proposed and well, I immaturely said yes,” shared Clem. However, the lockdown made her realize that they wanted very different things.

“We were both struggling with our own issues…we wanted different things, I was more inclined to settle and live a simple life.”

“I was in Mati when Davao decided to lock its borders. It was so tempting to stay there to recollect myself and assess what I really want. Anyhow, at the last minute, I wanted to save what little we have.” Clem decided to go back to the city to lay her cards on the table, but ultimately, their relationship just fell short. While being locked down together, she still didn’t see any progress between them.

“Mid lockdown I started having panic attacks. I was anxious 24/7 and couldn’t go on so I decided to move out. Lockdown made everyone crazy, it was hard putting your life on hold but at the same time planning the life you want while waiting for the uncertainty. It was the longest yet most fruitful 3 months of my life.”

“I was reconstructing my old room and after the breakup, I got so depressed. I had no motivation to do anything, no appetite. My mind and body wanted to shut down,” she said. Thankfully, friends are always to the rescue, keeping her busy with video chats and internet drinking.

“I never knew I could drink two cases of rum within a month.”

Photo Source: Justin Paget | Getty Images

In times like this, it is second nature to cling to familiarity. But it turns out, rocking the boat is sometimes better than staying on it. Treating the situation like an adult is what makes a difference. After all, this is no time for vase-throwing antics.

Written by: MJ De Castro
Edited by: Kristine Rioflorido

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