After two years of letting her anxiety over the pandemic overrule her life by not going out at all, Belle, 26, is banking on twin protections from a past infection and full vaccination to finally put herself out there this summer and do what a woman in her 20s ought to be doing — live life to the fullest (or at least, to the extent a lurking, evolving virus could allow).
"Admittedly, hindi na ako as scared as I was before," Belle said, sharing how she felt some form of relief after catching Omicron during the last surge in January. Seeing fellow workers return to the office, friends dine out and party, and even attend rallies to support their candidates for the 2022 elections, she figured, it's now okay for her to succumb to the "normalcy of the current situation".
Having finally gotten two doses or three of the COVID-19 vaccines that came here later than they did in Western countries, young Filipinos are finally making long-delayed plans happen for this year's warmest season—from traveling, to partying in bars, to casual dating and yes, casual sex.
What ‘hot vax summer’ means
"No one wants to say it out loud, but everyone's just tired of this pandemic," Kyle, a 23-year-old medical student, said. During our video interview for this story, he shared that a hookup was actually in the room with him, listening to him share his plans to go out and date as much as he can with no strings attached.
For Kyle, armed with the knowledge that the pandemic is far from over and that a looming varient could very well ruin the party, the surge in social activities among his peers and even that of his parents' is more about releasing two years worth of pent-up frustration and anxiety due to being forced to stay at home.
"It's really not that we're learning to live with the virus, it's more of, we're just waiting for the next variant," he said, admitting to feeling resigned that he's committed to letting himself loose if a post-election surge was really in the horizon.
Kyle said as much as possible, he prefers socializing outdoors by going on beach or hike trips with his friends. But many times he also found himself free of COVID-induced inhibitions.
The day before, Kyle said he was at the gym sweating so hard from lifting weights that he was smothering himself with his wet mask. "If this were 2020, I would have left the gym to get a new mask, but now, parang it's just wear a mask when you can," he said, noting that the same carefree behavior is usually at work when people are out for drinks these days.
"Even the most careful people are tired," he says, noting that while these feelings people have been having can never fully justify careless behavior, it also the case that people's fears are "already being chipped away at, replaced by fatigue due to the pandemic in general, and fatigue from the reactive nature of this government when it comes to containing the virus."
This country "cannot quarantine [its] way out of a violently changing disease," he said, noting how even proactive governments are failing and falling to variants. And since the Philippines has yet to have a truly scientific pandemic recovery plan, Filipinos have been scrambling for their own means to survival, he said.
Currently in La Union in her first solo beach trip, Tisha, 22, said she is "super single" and is "open to dating". Though she isn't really actively looking and prefers do it organically without the help of dating apps like Bumble or Tinder this time, like get introduced by a common friend. She's not after anything long-term this summer. "Luh, fling yern?" she joked.
How to join this year's hottest season
There's no ticket to secure for the Hot Vax Summer party, but a true "hot girl" is one who knows better than put themselves, or anyone they're hanging out with in harm.
For hookups, Kyle, despite saying he's close to giving up, says this has always been a non-negotiable, noting how it's a must from him that the other person is vaccinated, tested negative for sexually transmitted diseases, and can confidently say that they've been responsibly following public health protocols.
"There is what you call self-responsibility. It’s anchored on the notion about enjoying freedom with accountability," life coach Myke Celis told reportr, reminding that embedded in the concept of "hot vax summer" is the principle of having safe fun by getting yourself vaccinated, at the very least.
"Know that while it’s important to explore and experience the outside world, one must take in consideration one’s health and safety all throughout. We must also note that at the end of the day, the objective is to make and restore genuine connections, not just short term enjoyments," he said.