The Frontcam Series: Creativity in The New Normal

The Frontcam Series: Creativity in The New Normal

With over 1.7 million confirmed Coronavirus cases around the world, countries have implemented strict measures to flatten the curve. From business closures, work-from-home set up, closed borders, and online classes, saying that our lives have been affected by the global pandemic feels like an understatement. While most of us  are privileged enough to be able to continue working and earning from home, the other side of the spectrum is facing a new and scary normal: frontliners risking their health every day and people losing their jobs. Lives, all across the globe, have drastically changed and have been forced to reshape, and it will continue to as we try to survive these strange and unprecedented times. 

As we stay at home to help slow down the spread of the virus, this also means a direct slow down of our usually jam-packed everyday lives. Life in isolation brings grief and uncertainty. And while this quarantine loneliness is of course still no match to the harrowing struggles other people are going through right now, the collective trauma that this pandemic brings is unnerving. Not to mention that the sudden lack of human interaction and daily conversations can certainly leave us all feeling empty and directionless. 

Daily routines have been dismantled and all we can do is come to terms with our new normal and adjust accordingly.

People adapt to difficult situations differently. While there is absolutely nothing wrong to use this time for much-needed rest and relaxation, for some, the only way to survive this isolation is to continue creating. 

For freelance photographer Mike Gella, being in quarantine means no studio or location shoots. Despite the situation, Mike refuses to stop shooting. Together with the /ESCAPE team, he staged a shoot with what resources are available during quarantine. We called up our favorite influencers and digital creatives and photographed them through video calls on Zoom and asked them how they’re dealing with being in isolation. “Being in ECQ for almost a month without shooting made me miss my camera and working with a team. I love working and it keeps me sane so I decided to do this series so I can still release some of my creativity,” Mike says. 

Our lives may feel like at a temporary standstill right now, but there can still be creativity amid the stillness.

/ESCAPE: Describe your regular quarantine day.

Ashley Ortega:  Once i wake up, i go to the bathroom and wash my face. Then i go down to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee then finally have breakfast (usually prepared by my mom and sister). After eating breakfast, I get ready for my daily workout. My workout routine usually takes about an hour or more. I play badminton with my sister afterwards. I then take a bath then go on social media.

Alex Diaz:  I wake up at or before 7 and scroll through my timeline for a while on updates regarding Covid19. Heat up Coffee and Coffee flavoured Amino Energy, I sit and write down 3 things I’m grateful for on my laptop, set up my camera, speakers and join my friends for a morning workout from 8am sharp till around 10am. I then begin the house chores: laundry, sweeping, mopping, dishes folding clothes, walking the dogs, taking the water jugs to be refilled, making brunch for the roomies, feeding the dogs, whatever needs to be done that day. At around 2-3 pm onwards, I begin work-related stuff like shooting and editing vlogs, recording covers, creating TikTok, watching masterclasses or writing. My late afternoon is for zoning out, eating and naps. At around 8:30 after dinner, I either watch movies, hop on Minecraft or play PS4 with my roomies until bedtime.

KC del Rosario: I start every day with yoga, mat pilates, cardio and ballet.  After that, I read. I’m currently reading this book on creative producing and I’ve been watching one Master Class a day. Life-changing.  I’m in quarantine with family so we chill and do dinner every night

/ESCAPE: How has this situation affected your creativity and productivity? 

Bea Marin: Normally, I would be too busy or distracted by my day to day life that creativity has been a struggle to maintain consistently. But now that I have all the time, I get to really just sit down, reflect and seek inspiration.

Mike Gella: I still haven’t gotten really bored with this quarantine yet because I always found something to do with my time. I spent this time catching up with other friends I haven’t spoken to in a while, gave myself the ‘me’ time that I needed and just relaxed and watched some shows. I’ve been seeing some posts that after this quarantine that we were supposed to get a new skill, but instead of learning a new one, I decided to just enhance the one I already had.

Katarina Rodriguez: A lot! I’ve learned to play the ukulele, I’m singing, dancing, drawing again. I’ve written lists and lists of all things that have come to mind of goals and aspirations, inspirations and the sorts. 

/ESCAPE: Do you sometimes feel not being creative and productive enough?

Bea Marin: Yes, but I don’t see that as a problem. If my mind or body is calling me to rest, I will. We are going through a global crisis which is already tough on its own. It’s okay not to be productive. Rest and recuperation is also essential.

Derrick Monasterio: Actually for me, it’s the other way around it made me more creative and started getting back to painting.

Rigo Joseph: To be honest, I love staying at home, so it isn’t much of a problem for me. But yes, I admit that there’s a lot of wasted time when we’re stuck inside the house. But I aim to minimize that, so I’m pushing myself more to maintain a healthier lifestyle, eating the right food, alongside some good workouts.

Emil Khodaverdi: Some days I do catch myself staring at my phone too long, but it’s all a matter of self control and remembering what keeps you excited.

/ESCPAE: How do you stay creative and make sure you don’t lose your passion at a time like this?

Ashley Ortega: I bought a Ukulele and learned how to play a new instrument to keep me away from boredom.

Issa Pressman: I like keeping myself busy. I’ll always try to find something to do but hey, we get lazy days too! lol I still save my Sundays for a “do nothing stay in bed” day. And yeah, you gotta be in the mood & groove to create something, in doors or out. So whenever you don’t feel like it, rest! Resting is healthy too.

Alex Diaz: I don’t set limits for myself but I also don’t force myself into a productive or creative state. I also just feel better when I’m checking off to-do’s.

KC del Rosario: I’m on lockdown with my brother so we’ve been messing around shooting visuals. I also had Mark Nicdao send me some of his work so I could sketch them.

Katarina Rodriguez: I’d say this is one of the most challenging things to do, to keep inspired, to keep motivated, to feel passionate about life. It’s challenging because usually it’s people who spark my motivation and since I can’t be around other people, I’m currently working on staying creative and inspired on my own. It’s definitely easier to reach that being quarantined on the island than it would be in my apartment in Manila. But more often than not when I try to inspire myself here I end up daydreaming looking at the beautiful sky, or the ocean or the stars. It’s so easy to find your mind wandering into nature.

/ESCAPE: What’s a quarantine habit of yours that you would like to suggest to other people?

Ashley Ortega: Do something physically demanding! Doesnt have to be exercise per se! in my case, i do badminton! That way, i get to burn the calories whilst enjoying the process.

Bea Marin: Disconnect. I know that we have all the time to be on our phones and social media but disconnecting from time to time so you can “reconnect with yourself” is important too. It’s a habit I’ve had way before the quarantine and it has helped myself stay mentally and emotionally balanced.

Emil Khodaverdi:  With everything that’s going on and constant bad news left and right, I think the best thing to do is to create any positive energy you can give to others. In my case it’s making fitness content and sharing with my friends and followers on social media. It’s really a simple gesture but the positive effect it can bring to others is something we all need right now.

Issa Pressman: Man your kitchen! Check the expiry dates, the best befores, etc!! Plan your meals so that nothing gets spoiled or ruined. Plan which ones go out first to serve, which ones stay in. And if there are veggies or fruits which are close to getting over ripped, throw them in a blender so you can consume it all at once.

Katarina Rodriguez: Don’t touch your phone!!! I went a week without going online, on social media and really making an effort to leave my phone in my room or hidden somewhere. I went for two weeks not taking any photos or videos and it felt so good. I realized how almost every single day for the past 7 years my photo or video is being taken or I have to take photos or videos for collaborations and brands. This quarantine I saw made people more inclined to be on their photos to feel more connected to others, but I wanted to detach. 

/ESCAPE: How do you make sure that this quarantine doesn’t make you stop learning everyday?

Emil Khodaverdi: Well for me it’s important to learn something that excites you. Sometimes if I force myself to learn something new and it doesn’t interest me, I just forget about it. So choose something that you’re passionate about and you’ll never catch yourself daydreaming.

Issa Pressman: Actually one reason why I mentioned the kitchen just above was because I was never in the kitchen, I didn’t know anything and now I’m at the kitchen as if I’ve always been a part of it! Haha. The quarantine actually made me learn how to cook or mix recipes or learn something new to serve instead.

Katarina Rodriguez: Reading. All those books I’ve been wanting to read. I’ll read them all. And journaling, about the things I learn each day. Whether is from what I’ve read, or my own personal theories on life, or the witty things that the 5 year old boy staying with us says, I write it all down. I’m learning Siargonan even! 

Alex Diaz: I sit down and study everyday.

Bea Marin: Whether it’s in work, values, politics, personal life or hobbies, I’ve used this as an opportunity to expand on what I already know and what I’ve yet to learn.

/ESCAPE: In these trying times, with the global crisis and political unsettledness, how does staying creative and constant creating help you?

Issa Pressman: It keeps me sane. Being creative goes deep down, and it’s nice to dig in sometimes, especially alone or in your own space at least. It helps me not to feel bored. There’s a lot of self-discovery & self-improvement involved.

Rigo Joseph: There’s always something new to learn everyday. I just gotta make sure I control intake and outtake. Feed off constructive knowledge, and practice it however I can.

Derrick Monasterio: ECQ for me is all about self enhancement. Sharpen your skills so that you’ll be ready to go to “war” outside when all of this is done. 

Mike Gella: Well for me, I work as a photographer professionally so doing all those things such as learning and practicing will all be applied to my professional work. I even tried doing some photo manipulation which is new to me and it made some of my photos different and more creative. It’s basically me creating a different look for my artwork.

Katarina Rodriguez: This might sound strange, but being creative has helped me become more vulnerable despite all the uncertainty. Most people would build shields to protect themselves, but I’ve become more empathetic. I want to feel. And I’ve let myself feel sad, I allow myself to feel longing, longing for my family, my grandparents especially, even writing this my heart hurts and wow I can’t even imagine how much I’ll cry when I see them again. I appreciate them so much more. I wish I could have them here on the island with me. But then I’d be too lucky. My Lola taught me my love for drawing, so I draw to calm myself. My lolo loves music, so I listen to new and old music every day and that feeling of missing a person has never been so distinct in my chest when I sing walking around the beach thinking of him. Being vulnerable is like liberating yourself from whatever feelings you fear. And when you recognize all these different emotions you begin to really listen to your mind, your heart and your soul, this is how you get to really know yourself. 

Alex Diaz: It is a good distraction from the constant back and fourth of social media and its sometimes and more often than not radical and extreme keyboard warriors.

/ESCAPE: What do you miss most about going to The Palace?

Ashley Ortega: Having fun with my friends and meeting new people.

Bea Marin: The fun parties and concerts!

Rigo Joseph: As much as I love staying in or getting out of town. I definitely also miss being able to enjoy a little escape in the city with friends, drinks and music. I’ve had memorable nights in the Palace with friends and made new friends. Nothing like a little good energy and beats to vibe to.

Emil Khodaverdi: Good music and great company! It’s always a crazy experience when you’re together with friends.

Issa Pressman: Gotta admit, I do miss just losing myself on the dance floor, going crazy with friends, singing out loud to whatever the DJs at Revel play and oh! Screaming “this is my soong” all the time. But all again in the right time! For now, let’s pray & obey. Sunshines, we’ll get thru this cloudy cloudy day! 

Katarina Rodriguez: The people!! I miss the good vibes, and all the smiles. You know when you’re heading to The Palace it’s going to be a night of dancing, laughing, and pure fun with your friends. I miss that the most.

KC del Rosario: Vani Altomonte.

Alex Diaz: Not having to worry if high fiving someone is going to get me sick!


The Palace Manila is bringing together the country’s top DJs for a two-week special live series entitled, United at The Palace, to raise funds to aid the frontliners at the battle against COVID-19. Starting April 17, The Palace Manila will be hosting Facebook Live sessions of their resident DJs of their different outlets showcasing their personalized produced shows to give viewers the full virtual party experience. DJ Ace Ramos, Marc Naval, Martin Pulgar, KAT DJ, Luane, and Supmerman will have their sets in Xylo with MC Pao, DJ Euric and Adrian Legarda in Revel, and DJ Mohit in B.A.D.  

The Facebook Live fundraising online show series, in partnership with UNICEF through a special donate button during each show, will be shown on The Palace Manila’s official Facebook page ( The event aims to gather financial aid from viewers and the patrons of The Palace Manila to be able to support our COVID-19 frontliners.


Produced and edited by Vani Altomonte

Creative Direction and Photography by Mike Gella

Art Direction by Nigel Garcia

Words by Angelu Zafe

Cover layout by Fran Lagmay

Insida layout for KC, Derrick, and Katarina by Fran Lagmay

Inside layout for Alex, Issa, Bea, Ashley, Emil, and Rigo by Ripley Abrea
Shoot Coordination by Stevie Eigenmann 


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