Keep Going!

Columban lay missionary Marea Lyn Almirañez explains why one of her favourite Mandarin phrases is 加油 (jiā yóu).

The first character ‘加’ (jiā) means “add” and the second character ‘油’ (yóu) means “oil”. 加油 means “to add oil” or “refuel”.

In Taiwan, you will see the sign, ‘加油’ in gasoline stations but 加油 is also an expression of encouragement and support such as “Go!”; “Come on!” and “Keep it up!”.

When the coronavirus began to spread in Taiwan, the first thing I witnessed was the panic buying of face masks, alcohol sanitizers and toilet paper that caused shortages in many stores. Shortly after, other activities including Masses were postponed or cancelled, particularly in Hsinchu City where I live.

I felt sad and worried. I felt that the coronavirus was a serious public health concern. I asked God in prayer how the faith of Catholic migrants and immigrants would be nourished without the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Confession.

At the same time, we won’t be able to receive the Body of Christ. Most of the time, I stayed in my apartment due to the restrictions. Every time I ventured out-side the apartment, I became more aware of the things I touch, the places I go and the people I encounter. I’m always wearing a face mask and carrying hand sanitizer with me for protection. I feel uncomfortable doing these things as I’m not used to it but, I have to in order to protect myself and others from the virus.

Once coronavirus was confirmed as a pandemic, I became more worried because many countries are affected including the Philippines. In the news that I read, many countries implemented lockdown by closing businesses, offices and people were to stay in their houses. Additionally, events or activities were also cancelled or postponed. I’m worried about my country, my family, relatives and friends.

I often talk with my family and friends in the Philippines as well as in other countries and ask them how they are. They have told me their stories and their challenges during the lockdown.

My two brothers who are working in a factory and another brother who is tricycle driver have no income because they couldn’t work. Some of them are getting bored staying in the house. I feel sorry for them. I also feel sorry for my nephew and niece who were looking forward to their graduation ceremony which has also been cancelled.

I watched a documentary about the frontline workers in Wuhan, China during the lockdown. Most of the doctors and nurses couldn’t go home because they needed to work overtime to save the lives of those infected by the virus. Some ended up contracting the virus themselves, especially the doctors. This scenario was not only happening in Wuhan, but also in other parts the world particularly in the US, Spain, Russia, UK and Italy.

I read in the news that some doctors have died in the Philippines. I salute all the frontline workers who are doing their best to serve the people.

I am worried about the elderly like my parents as they are most vulnerable to the virus. I’m afraid about what’s happening in the world now. Many people have no in-come. Many people are hungry and afraid. I’m always praying to God to stop this pandemic. I prayed not only for myself and for my loved ones but also to all the people who are suffering. I don’t know how to help my loved ones and other people. All I can do is pray. I wish I could do something to lighten up the mood.

One day, I passed a gasoline station and saw the word 加油. I smiled. I realized that if the drivers go to the gasoline stations (加油站) to refuel their vehicles, then the people who experiencing down moments in their lives also need to refuel their strength to keep going. This is a new realization for me. I decided to shift my perspective of letting go of my worries and frustrations to accepting the new reality.

This helped me see the silver lining in all of this, such as people spending more time with their families and friends. Even though, they couldn’t work, the opportunity to be with their loved ones is a precious time. The air is clean and fresh because there is no traffic. Several generous people extended their hand to help others especially in those areas that have been greatly affected.

I appreciate the value of the internet. In the midst of pandemic, many Catholics attended online Masses. People who live far away from home like me could connect to our families and friends. I see their faces while we talk, share our own experiences during the pandemic and do funny things like sharing jokes or playing with AR effects in Messenger.

I see and talk with my classmates from Mother of Life for the first time in 13 years. It’s good to talk with them and reminisce about the past. I am doing an online Mandarin language class with my teacher which I find more convenient and safer.

I am still blessed because I am staying in Taiwan where the government is doing their best to prevent the spread of the virus. They put in place strict regulations for buying face masks and alcohol sanitizers which I find very effective. We do not have lockdown and I can go out and do my errands cautiously.

I appreciate the presence of my fellow lay missionaries in the apartment. We regularly share our feelings and thoughts about what’s happening in our home countries and our families. Also, I appreciate the value of prayer time. This is a time where I connected to God most and find peace. These are what matters to me now. I am thankful to God for giving me this beautiful insight to lighten my mood despite the problems and difficulties.

I am always telling myself, “加油! 加油!”加油!” (Go! Go! Go!) to remind myself that life is still good, and God is still in control.

There are a lot of things to be worried about but there are also a lot of things to be grateful for. I chose to be grateful and it helps me to keep going. I surrender to God all my worries and frustrations and this helps me to trust Him more. He will make a way. Just believe and keep going. 加油!

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