Unli Dapa

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Find out more about Unli Dapa, a quirky and amusing term that we invented during the quarantine.

(Unli Dapa, from the words “unlimited” and “dapa,” a Tagalog word which means “to trip or to fall over.”)

Unli Dapa encapsulates how our life has been during the Metro Manila quarantine that was brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

My toddler having Unli Dapa

Unli Dapa

    Why Unli Dapa, you might ask? It’s nothing profound, really. Unli Dapa is a term that I quite jokingly coined to describe the afternoon walks that my wife and I had with our two little children during the lockdown.

    With all the time we had in our hands, I remarked that my eldest son could finally play outside to his heart’s content. And since I would put protective pads on his knees and elbows before we went around running, he would not get hurt even if he fell down several times, hence, Unli Dapa.

    In the end, our Unli Dapa moments, all those simple yet happy times of togetherness, kept us distracted from all the uncertainties during the quarantine.

    Life before Unli Dapa

    Before there was Unli Dapa, I was already at a crossroads in terms of my career. I felt like my job was eating too much of my time and I wanted to spend more of my hours with my children.

    Yes, my wife and I do come home early since we are renting a unit near the office. We can still take care of our children and play with them soon after our day at the office is done. We feed our kids, read a book to them, and put them to bed, and we would still have a bit more time left for ourselves.

    Baby boy enjoying unlimited playtime or Unli Dapa

    We are grateful because, unlike other working parents, we have this privilege of being with our children immediately after work. Despite this, I can still feel a void inside me, a yearning to be with my kids a little more. I think it was the routine at the office that was already taking its toll on me and beginning to rob me of the things that make me happy.

    When my mind wanders sometimes, I get sad with the thought of one day waking up and realizing that my kids have already grown up without me noticing it. On many occasions, I wished for the day when I can finally make it up to my kids. Thinking about it now, I was actually praying for the day when our Unli Dapa moments would arrive.

    Unli Dapa steered us through the gloom

    The answer to my prayers came in an unconventional form because I had to find it in the midst of gloom.

    By mid-March this year, the entire Metro Manila was placed under a widespread lockdown because of the pandemic. Honestly, I thought that the quarantine would only last for a week. After that, we would be back to our regular routine. That was not the case though, in fact, the community quarantine was extended a few more times until we were allowed to resume work at our office.

    Could this situation finally be the Unli Dapa that I was fervently praying for? I will have to find out later on.

    Like other Filipinos, our anxiety grew by the day because of the uncertainties and the seeming darkness that lie ahead. The disruption from the familiarity of our daily routine was unthinkable. But more than anything else, it was the waiting game that was unbearable.

    Happy toddler because he can have unlimited play or Unli Dapa

    What will happen to our jobs? We could not help but be anxious each time we are bombarded by news about companies laying off employees and businesses closing down. Before the pandemic, I was wishing for a new career path but I am not ready to lose my livelihood in an instant just yet. We do not have enough savings to get us through the days and I am worried about the future of my children.

    It felt like my whole existence was being constricted. The everyday stress, the feeling of unease, and the challenges of supporting a big household, when combined, is a panic attack waiting to happen.

    Thankfully though, our companies assured us that we would continue to receive a salary and that our leave credits would remain intact despite work suspension. That alone lifted a lot of burden from our shoulders and at least put us at ease that we would not starve in the days ahead.

    Still, the pandemic brought a different level of paranoia when it came to our health. More than anything, I was worried about the health of my loved ones. My wife is considered high-risk because of her hypertension. My children are still so small; the idea of them catching an infection is unthinkable.

    Furthermore, my parents are both senior citizens living on their own at our home in the province. Who would take care of them should anything untoward happen? And lastly, I feared for my own health because I wanted to grow old with my wife and see my children become adults.

    Toddler smiling and enjoying games or Unli Dapa

    However, these are things that we have little control over, and worrying round-the-clock will not solve anything. We can be more cautious health-wise, yes, and we can limit the errands that require us to go out, but that is just about as much as we can do.

    Thus, instead of wallowing in despair and preoccupying my days with dread, I decided to look beyond the grimness of the situation. We can start something new and pick up from where we were at. After all, we were told by the government to stay home. Why not just take it as it is? At least, we would not have to go through the trouble of filing for a vacation leave, I thought in jest.

    Selfish as it may seem but we had to find a way to look at things creatively to survive, and that is when Unli Dapa finally came into our lives.

    To keep ourselves busy, we created a simple routine for our kids that included learning and play. Mornings were dedicated to getting the early morning sun, reciting the alphabet, identifying colors, playing with shape sorters, watching educational videos, and letting our kids play with their cousins.

    Meanwhile, late afternoons would be the schedule of our “unlimited” playtime at the front lawn. But before that, I would prep my two-year-old son by putting on knee and elbow pads to cushion him when he fell down.

    That’s when I jokingly said that he could have Unli Dapa all he wants since he is well-protected anyway. That gave my son the confidence and the enthusiasm to carry on and enjoy the activities that he loved doing the most without any hesitation. From then on, I began calling our afternoon bonding Unli Dapa. When it was time for our afternoon walk, I would cheerfully announce “Unli Dapa na!” and our toddler would be ecstatic.

    During the quarantine, we did not use our free time to learn new skills or try the different food trends that became popular at that time. It was perfectly fine because I finally fulfilled my dream of having unlimited bonding with our kids and nothing could be more wonderful than that. Having lived in the restrictive confines of a condominium unit for years, unlimited playtime outdoors is a totally new experience for us and it was utter heaven for the kids.

    What’s even better is that our routine worked wonders for our toddler. We observed that our firstborn, who was diagnosed with global developmental delay when he turned two years old, showed a lot of improvements as the days went on.

    He began to be more responsive when we said his name. He was making more eye contact when we talk to him, and his concentration has dramatically improved. He would also read letters and say the names of pictures that he recognized. We consider those as big achievements and they inspired us to push forward each day.

    Little baby smiling because of Unli Dapa

    About my younger baby, we saw him grow right before our very eyes. He was born just three months before the lockdown. If you factor in our combined maternity and paternity leaves, then you would see that we have just been recently back to the office when the lockdown was imposed. There is nothing more joyful than seeing your child’s growth milestones unfold in front of you. As parents, it's really hard to describe the happiness that you feel when you see your children getting big, enjoying life, and laughing vigorously.

    As the days passed, I realized that the phrase Unli Dapa took on a deeper meaning in our lives because it helped us cope with the pandemic. Unli Dapa, without us immediately realizing it, got us through the days of uncertainties, and what’s even better is that it came with the bonus of further strengthening the bond that holds our family together.

    Toddler holding a milk bottle and flash card during his unlimited playtime called Unli Dapa

    For my family, Unli Dapa connotes the resiliency to bounce back from setbacks and the faith that there is still something good and bright to look forward to after each day. For me, Unli Dapa captures all those many little precious moments that I got to spend with my wife and kids during the community quarantine.

    And for many people, Unli Dapa is the mettle to continue moving forward and tackle the challenges that lie ahead because life is not about giving up. Life is about hurdling barriers because we see the good things that await us on the horizon. We may not always win, but at least we put up a good fight. Beyond all the chaos and drama of the pandemic, that is how I choose to remember the almost 100 days of being in isolation.

    The human spirit is strong. As long as it sees hope, it can take unlimited beatings. As long as it loves, it will not stop moving forward. As long as it seeks, it will trudge obstacles.

    Unli Dapa means that we may fall down a lot of times and we may commit many mistakes along the way, but there’s no limiting the number of times that we can get up, start again, and make progress.


    This article placed 7th overall in the "Write to Ignite Blogging Project." My gratitude goes to God who has continuously provided us with all the necessary things that we need. Thank you also to all the readers and supporters of this humble blog.

    Certificate of Recognition for placing seventh overall in the recently-concluded Write to Ignite Blogging Project
    Certificate of Recognition


    This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications, and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet, and Teleperformance.

    Write to Ignite Blogging Project

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