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Clinging on to faith

Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon issued a circular yesterday urging the faithful to go through a 40-day process of “making sense in faith of the whole COVID 19 experience.” 40 speaks of “graced time” to allow us to reflect, repent, and be renewed.

Honestly, I’m not a regular churchgoer and have had my share of conflict with priests in the past. But when COVID struck, I clung to my faith and frequented online masses. Oftentimes I found myself in tears especially when the future looks so bleak and realizing the disarray we are in.

Some members of our family are in the medical world and the danger they face day in, day out scares me. Our two youngest siblings are nurses in Canada and Ireland. They went through the COVID crisis as well but now, they are over it and one even went to Italy for a short respite after months of endless duties.

We here, started much later and last month I thought that we are over hard times until two weeks ago when reality kicked in that we are in for a long haul. We have five family members working here as doctors, nurses and medical technician and admittedly, while no one has yet given up on their vow to serve, they are scared.

I am worried for my eldest son who lives in Quezon City which also has a high rate of COVID cases, and who now belongs to the unemployed after the company he works for, folded.

I am less scared for my younger son who lives in Singapore as they have opened up and he is back working. Singapore may have a high number of cases vis-à-vis the population – 56,000 cases out of 5.8 million people –only 27 deaths were recorded.

In Southeast Asia, Laos has the best COVID-resilient figure with only 22 cases out of 7.2 million population and zero death. Philippines meanwhile has the highest figure at over 200,000 and more than 3,000 deaths. Indonesia has higher fatalities at 7,216 but have lesser cases than us at 169,000 cases even if their population is more than double than our country.

An article in Business Mirror studied the countries’ responses to the pandemic and those who have very low cases had similar approaches – they immediately locked down their country from travellers as early as January.

The Philippines, though known throughout the world for having the longest period of lockdowns implemented, started late in the game in closing the borders, even when we recorded the first COVID death outside of China.

Now, as parts of the country are easing up in their quarantine status, including Cebu which was the epicenter in the Visayas, our city has been elevated back to the General Community Quarantine state because of the rising cases, particularly locally transmitted ones.

But while we submit to the national directive to go on GCQ and apply stricter measures, it confounds me that the national government also ordered the no testing and no quarantine for Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) which includes overseas workers and returning residents from abroad. It’s like padlocking the gates, but cutting a passageway along the fence.

Some say it may be because OWWA does not have funds anymore to pay for the testing and hotel quarantines of our OFWs. Returning overseas residents pay for their own swabs and accommodations.

I read some comments about this announcement which is again divisive. Some are saying it’s about time that this new directive is implemented because all OFWs are tested and quarantined in Metro Manila before being sent home to their provinces. However, we should also take note that before local transmission set in and are now higher in numbers than the OFWs and LSIs, we have had cases wherein some OFWs carried negative results in their return but ended up positive when re-swabbed here.

We cannot also blame the OFWs and the LSIs since there are many of them who overstayed their quarantine period because of the delay in test results. But when it comes to ultimate safety for all, it is still prudent that we re-test them (if we have the resources) and to ensure that strict home quarantine, not only for them but for their entire family, be seriously enforced.

This is not to discriminate them as we also need to enforce strict quarantine for households with locally transmitted positives in their midst.

We cannot afford to continue with these lockdowns. So many businesses have folded up and so many workers have been retrenched.

The only way to get out of this is to contain the spread and core to this is enforcement of quarantine and self-discipline of the people. Our barangays may not have enough work force to follow through with monitoring, especially in densely populated areas. As such, make it each Bacolodnon’s responsibility to be on the lookout for violations of quarantine and protocols in your neighbourhood.

The call to reflect is timely and I hope we make this our advocacy. Because at the end of the day it is really up to us, coupled with the grace of faith.*

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June 2022

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