Published Feb. 03, 2021

We were able to gather interesting lessons from our interview with migrant workers, entrepreneurs, people working in the tourism industry and other hard-hit sectors by the pandemic. Their similarity is that they all got caught off guard and shocked by the impact of COVID-19 but nonetheless their experiences are deeply personal accounts of their unique situation particularly in their perspective, how they see the challenges and how they plan to overcome them.

Jomari’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl just before the Philippines declared lockdown in March 2020. He used to work as a fitness coach in a local gym and has regular private sessions with clients. His family of 5 rents an apartment.  He was not able to work for nearly 9 months so he moved his family to his wife’s parents and reached out to his clients for help and support.

Pablo is a physical therapist with a thriving practise before the lockdown.  He used to visit clients every day in several upscale villages before the pandemic.  Although he is a single young person, he supports his widowed mother and a younger sister. His emergency fund supported them for four months but he had to look for other means to survive.

Siena was so happy to take early retirement in March 2019.  By October 2019, she was able to start the business that she had been dreaming of and set up shop at a local mall.  Just as she was getting used to the routine and enjoying the freedom of entrepreneurship, the government declared lockdown. Although the landlord didn’t collect rent for 3 months, all her life’s hard work and savings went into the business which she had to close by June 2020.

We caught up with them recently to find out how they were. We asked them what they had learnt from the pandemic experience and what advise they can give to themselves and to people who are in a similar situation?

We summarised here the silver linings of their personal pandemic stories:

Faith, Belief and Conviction are Acts of Defiance

If you’ve been knocked down, you have no other direction but to stand up because you have to for your family and/or for your employees who depend on you.   Who would have thought that we had to plan for risk as huge as the pandemic? It just shows that emergencies and unparalleled change do happen.  We can turnaround our situation if we come from a place of faith, belief and conviction.  You will realise, you are stronger, more capable and determined than you thought.  


The pandemic exposed the weaknesses in your life.  Will you sweep your issues under the rag, defend them, deny or ignore them?  The pandemic is an opportunity to honour both the good and the bad and move forward by working deeply within you. In 2021, it helps to create a personal strategy by starting small in the growth areas and work hard in showing up every single day. Also, the pandemic taught us that we have the right to feel what we feel so practise self-love, self-compassion and empathy to ourselves as we would to a friend. Learn to write your thoughts on paper, do artwork, call a friend and build a connection or help others.  Maybe, sitting alone, taking a nap and doing nothing are the random acts of kindness that you need to give to yourself.

You can’t give what you don’t have

Your family is as secure, strong, confident and healthy as you are as the head of the family. You will realise that the uncertainties of the pandemic can make your family instantly vulnerable. If you were furloughed, you will start dipping into your rainy-day fund but for a family of single-income household with elderly parents needing help, the emergency fund immediately got drained out.  So, go back to the drawing board and ask how might your rainy-day fund be rethought and redesigned this 2021. What extra financial obligations outside your immediate family have you accepted? What might your relatives prepare so that they don’t rely too much on you? What regular items have you not accounted for in your budget and emergency fund? What are the essential items that you need to prioritise in your rainy-day fund?

Focus, Intention and Discipline

The pandemic brought a laser-like focus to what matters.  In 2021, the strategy is to keep prioritising health, a roof over your head, security and belongingness and relationship.

Emergencies and pandemic do happen so the company insurance went with the retrenchment as well. With little rainy-day fund and increasing credit card debt balance plus expenses, there is little freedom and options, and these add to anxiety. So, in 2021, the goal is to start small in strengthening livelihood, budgeting, increasing the emergency fund, paying the credit card debts in full and avoid impulsive purchases.  It’s also important not to cancel your insurance to free up cash.  In fact, you need insurance to transfer your risk and protect your income.  

Continued Learning

As the quote says preparation always meets opportunities so put yourself in a position by working deeply in expanding your mindset, getting skilled, elevating your standard.  Your personal growth is your own responsibility, not your company’s. The pain or problem areas are usually the growth areas in our lives.  In 2021, identify these areas and apply the strategy of “small and empowered change that produce big results.”  Starting small does not require strong will power so you have a greater chance of succeeding. Besides, seeing results however small they may be, builds momentum and it affects positively your mental and emotional health.