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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, May 22, 2020
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OPINIONS

Let them come home

Ninfa Leonardia

My heart swells everytime we receive advertisements, many of them unsolicited, greeting the DAILY STAR on its 38th anniversary. The day has gone past, it was April 12, but we still hear from our readers and advertisers who share our happiness at having reached this grand old age! Why are we so thrilled by that? Those who have kept up with the history of this newspaper, the first daily to thrive in this province, and in the island, naturally, share with us this milestone.

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We can never forget an incident when we were working on our very first issue, and one of our board members went to see an official of the city, asking for a subscription. Unknown to the official, a companion of our member was within hearing distance when he whispered to his aide “Just give him a subscription for six months, it will not even last that long”. I wish he were still alive, so we could taunt him with our 38th anniversary issue. Indeed, that was also true during pre-COVID-19 days, but your STAR never missed a day, only we published it on line then. That’s how stubborn we are!

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Enough of the back-patting, nothing is more newsworthy now than the ongoing pandemic that has encompassed the whole of humanity. As I write this, a bigwig from the movie industry was being interviewed on TV, and when questioned about the state and future of his project came up, he said that the government should step in and help it, by which, I understood, he meant, subsidize it. I hope, and I believe all other publishers and writers join me in asserting that, if the government is ever going to set up a fund for media, it should prioritize the print media, I mean, the news reporting part of it. I don’t have anything against movies, but while news media informs, movies mostly entertain, or, at least, give moral lessons.

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What does Singapore know that the rest of the world does not? A report the other day said that country has zero casualties, despite the raging pandemic that I thought has not spared any country. But it’s too late now that we are already swamped with it, and with experts predicting a second wave, too. Should we take a cue from American President Donald Trump who has prescribed for himself the medicine that allegedly conquered SARS? He claims he has been taking it for weeks and he is still there. I hope he has not given a bad example to his people.

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All over the world reports are showing that tourism is one industry that is among the hardest hit. So it is very optimistic, and, I think, impractical of our incumbent tourism secretary to announce that she is about to “jumpstart” it. Me, I am sure the last thing people all over the world are thinking about now is going on tours, especially to other countries. As for “jump-starting”, it could be a jump from the fat into the fire, as the old maxim goes.

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How would you like to go a-touring these days? Ah, you might find yourself singing that elementary school song with your own version, like “Yesterday, I met upon the way, The bad old virus that has hit our country”. Those who were my contemporaries in the elementary grades, must remember that song which was originally about “The Three Kings”, or the Magi, the first to visit Jesus Christ after he was born in the manger in Bethlehem. But who would think of touring when signs everywhere you turn, say “Stay Home, Stay SAFE”?

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That is why we cannot refuse those overseas workers who want to go home to their provinces and towns now. I agree with the “Balik Probinsya Program” of the government, because, where else can one feel safest than at home? And let us not discriminate against province, town and city mates who want to come home. Quarantine them, if need be, but let us welcome them. Remember the poem of Robert Frost where he says, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”. We have to take them in.

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By the way, the latest news about the Balik Probinsya project is that the government is providing P110,000 to P250,000 each to Balik Probinsya applicants to help them settle in. I hope the funding will be monitored closely, because even those who are permanently located in Manila may take advantage of it and have an opportunity for a vacation. Within two days after it was announced, more than 10,000 had already applied for the funding. How can their real intentions be monitored? Let us see how the government will resolve that.*

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