I’ve known veteran and well-respected documentarist and journalist Mr. Howie Severino for a long time, but only in the way that most people know him — by name, and through his body of work. I’ve never met him in person. Therefore it took me by surprise a couple of weeks ago when I saw that he had followed me on Instagram. His IG was on private, but I requested to follow back anyway because… why not? 😀

At that time, it hadn’t been publicized that he unfortunately contracted Covid-19, and I only learned about it when he accepted my follow request and I got to see the photos on his feed. He also sent me this very touching direct message, and with his permission, I shared the gist of our encounter with my private list on IG Stories, and a few days later, on Twitter. Reposting the thread below for documentation.

While trying to deal with pandemic-related uncertainty, stress, and anxiety, I’ve been thinking on and off if art ~ the only thing I can do – had any use at all, but Sir Howie’s message (above) made me see its worth even at a time like this.

Sir Howie also showed me an awesome photo of him, his wife, and son, posing by the roots of a huge Dao tree and wondered if he could commission me to draw it. I don’t accept portrait commissions anymore, but this was different. Around that time, his essays, “Ako si Patient 2828” and “The Anti-virus Warriors in My Blood” had already been published on the GMA website, and I read both of them in one sitting.

While drawing, I kept thinking that there’s no way I can accept any payment after he had been through so much suffering. It was going to be my gift for all the good he has done, and is doing – undergoing even more tests in the name of medical research, and continuing to share what he knows in order to help others.

After I told him, he sent yet another touching message.

If there’s anything I will remember during these past 1.5 months of extreme-whatever lockdown, this experience would be it. In case you get to read this, thank you, Sir Howie. I’m actually the one who received a “gift” through our encounter because it has inspired me all the more to keep creating and helping in any way possible. 🙂

Edit (April 24, 2020): I just learned that our exchange was also featured in an article on the GMA News website.

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