If there is an upside to this COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, it’s that many people have rediscovered themselves. I admire these productive types and their positive attitude. Instead of focusing on the turbulence and devastation around us, which can be depressing, they channeled their energies into being creative and learning something new and beautiful.
This self-discovery is delightful and brings joy and fulfillment, not only to the individual, but to those around them as well. This is a gift to themselves and to others. The world has slowed down but has awakened the creative spirit in these ladies. Be inspired.
Tessa Alindogan: From interior designer to prolific baker
Tessa Alindogan is known for the chic homes and stylish spaces she creates as a sought-after interior designer. She has also carved a place in the art world with her modern abstract paintings and has held a couple of exhibits.
Therefore, it was quite surprising to see her Instagram feed starting to fill up with the most amazing baked goods during the lockdown.
Tessa has become a prolific baker with close to 40 different types of delicious goodies created, all excellently executed and presented. Among these yummy edibles, what stood out for me was her ube cheese pan de sal, egg tarts, polvoron, hopia, pastillas de leche, cheese rolls similar to those of LA bakery Porto’s, taisan, Tim Ho Wan-inspired pork buns, piyaya, flower sausage buns (bahn mi xuc xich bong), pork floss buns, brazo de Mercedes, Singapore pineapple cakes, and Gouda milk cheese cookies similar to those of Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory, among many others.
I asked Tessa why she chose to bake during this quarantine period.
“Experiencing a lockdown during this pandemic can be quite daunting,” she said. “I thought I would struggle not being able to work and go about my daily routine. As soon as the ECQ commenced, I spent the first week chatting with my dear ones and good friends, catching up on films I had missed, and going through my collection of books.
“On the second week, I started to feel restless. A big part of me wanted to do something productive. I am an artist, so starting a new series of paintings could not have come at a more opportune time. However, as luck would have it, I did not have some of the materials to give way to this passion.
“Approaching the third week, my mother sent me a pie she baked and I immediately got a light-bulb moment that I should give baking a try. I like engaging my mind in something new. After all, baking is a creative undertaking. My baking experience is the most basic. My mother, on the other hand, is an excellent cook and baker. In my teenage years, I would marvel in awe watching her whip up her delightful creations. My partner also has a sweet tooth and loves to eat. So what better way to please her than surprise her with my goodies?”
Tessa would have never pursued baking in her pre-COVID life due to her workload and limited time. However, the lockdown has provided her with a surplus of time. When she bakes, she gets into the “zone.”
“Creative tasks like baking are a common cure for stress or feeling down,” she says. “When I bake, I attain a level of happiness and satisfaction. It also gets me into a rhythm. Baking not only relaxes me but also provides me with a sense of order, discipline and refinement. There is something certainly very therapeutic about baking.”
Kathy Huang: Rediscovering music
Lovely businesswoman, wife and mother of two Kathy Huang has always had musical talent, but it remained dormant for years as her busy life took over. However, during the quarantine, her love for music re-emerged and she started playing the piano again.
“We all have such busy lives, and it took the ECQ for me to slow down,” she said. “With homeschooling during quarantine, I spent hours with my kids, which I loved. But I needed to find something that was solely mine. I needed that time to find something I could take pride and ownership of. During ‘normal’ times, my kids would be at school most of the day and the time we spent together was ‘fun time.’ Homeschooling tested and taxed parents and children alike, and I needed an outlet. The piano became that outlet.”
It was a pleasant surprise to me that Kathy had this impressive musical background, which not many people know about. “I played the piano from five to 10 years old, and the violin from when I was nine to 17. I was actually a concert violinist with the New Jersey Youth Symphony. I was the first violin, fourth chair. My mother gave me this baby grand piano as a housewarming gift years ago, and frankly it was just sitting idly by, as decor. During quarantine, I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with, so I just started practicing again. I had not touched the piano in over 20 years.”
It was Kathy’s friend who actually influenced her to go the musical route. “Funnily enough, my friend Dawn Zulueta had posted on her Instagram a piece she had just learned: the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. About two weeks before lockdown, I had asked her for a copy of the sheet music. I had received it, and it was sitting there doing nothing. During quarantine, I decided there was no better time to start. It is quite a somber, emotional piece. And it really expressed what I was feeling at the time. It took me two months to learn it. When I finished, I continued to look for pieces that were a bit sad. I think everyone was and is still unsure of the future. It has also made me think about starting the violin again, once I find mine.”
Erica Abello-Daniels: Knitting her technicolor blanket
Beautiful and newly married Erica Abello-Daniels is based in San Francisco. She used to manage the family business but moved to the US with her husband Ryan. She is currently studying for a management certification and enjoying her new role as a housewife.
During the lockdown, Erica learned the craft of knitting. “I picked up knitting in May and have been knitting all day, every day since. I finished knitting a queen-sized blanket as my first project and am now moving onto knitting my niece a dress.”
Erica spent the quarantine at her husband’s family’s lake house, and his mother had all her knitting needles out because she was organizing her things. “I walked over and asked her about it and she agreed to teach me. She has been knitting for years and has made some really beautiful Afghans and sweaters for her family. I thought, what better way to spend all this time on my hands than with a fun, new craft? My friends tease me, though, that I’ve skipped the whole 'tita mode' and gone straight for 'lola mode.' I’ll take it. As long as I’m the cool lola!”
Erica’s first project was a birthday gift to her husband. “Since my husband’s birthday was one month away, I decided I’d give the blanket to him as a gift. That got me motivated to work on it for about six to eight hours a day and finish it in just a month. I treated it like a full-time job. You could say I was obsessed.”
Was Ryan happy with his gift? “He loved the blanket and was so impressed with my work that I told him every gift he’ll receive from now on will be knitted by me. Not too sure how happy he is about that now.”
Knitting has gone beyond being a creative outlet for Erica. “I think I’ve definitely acquired extra patience and perseverance from this craft. It's a very repetitive motion and you can go days thinking like you haven’t made any progress. But the feeling of seeing the finished product after weeks and weeks of doing the same thing just feels amazing. Knitting serves as some sort of meditation for me, too. It clears my mind.”
Frances Yu: Writing as a form of prayer
I have known Frances Yu since she was a little girl. She has always been highly intelligent, but it seemed like it was secret because she never boasted about it. She is also an excellent writer whom I admire. Currently, Frances is a marketing and management consultant, speaker, independent director for two publicly listed companies, and student. She is completing her master’s degree in Theology as a distance education student at the Augustine Institute in Denver.
Over the course of the lockdown, she self-published her book, Finding God in Our Daily Lives. Frances narrates that “over the lockdown, I found myself with some extra time on my hands. I was busy with Zoom meetings for work, but I did not have any social activities. I began to write, specifically, about some of the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Before I knew it, I had written quite a number of reflections. Through the years, I would write random reflections. So I decided to compile all of these and turn it into a book. The random reflections were woven together with the general thread of finding God in our everyday lives; finding the sacred in the secular; the holy in the mundane; and blessings even amid the most challenging circumstances.
“Before I knew it, I had a substantial work of about 20,000 words. The next question in my mind was how to publish a book. It is extremely difficult during a lockdown to seek out a publisher, editor, printer and distributor for a book. My sister, Crickette (Tantoco), gave me a tip. She told me to look into self-publishing at Amazon. I researched this and a whole new world opened up to me in terms of self-publishing in a cost-effective and efficient way; plus, having access to an international market of millions of potential readers. I signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and uploaded my book.”
So how did writing and publishing a book during the lockdown make Frances feel? “Frederick Buechner, writer and theologian, famously said, ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’
“I believe that I discovered my personal vocation over the lockdown. Writing is my heart’s deep gladness. It is the activity that engages my body, mind, and soul all together. Like prayer, it is a gift from God. Like prayer, it is meditating on and contemplating God. Like prayer, it is a conversation that bears good fruit.
“It took the lockdown for me to discover how to serve the world by exercising a gift. This is the first book in what I hope will be a series. I just finished the draft of my second book, which is entitled Faith in the Workplace. This does not mean, of course, that I will quit my day job. I see writing as a form of ministry that complements my profession. It does not interfere with it because writing can be done anywhere and anytime.”
Finding God in Our Daily Lives is available on Amazon Kindle and Amazon, or you can email her at email@example.com.
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