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Normal?

Last week, my wife and I took the kids to my Lola’s house where we had a great view of the Silay City Good Friday procession.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been two years since the last proper procession. But this year, because of the falling alert levels (which used to be called community quarantine restrictions a long time ago), the community was finally able to organize the return of the tradition.

The pandemic has not yet been officially declared over and we are all aware that we are expecting another surge, probably within the next month or so, so these past few weeks have been a weird sort of new normal. We’ve been trying to live life as normally as possible but with a lot of caution thrown in. We now go out more but most of us still try to wear masks and keep distance from strangers. Some are more reckless than others, but from what we’ve seen, majority of us try to keep behaving and cooperating so we can finally put this pandemic behind us.

The good thing about last Friday’s procession was that it actually felt normal. Yes, most of the people who joined the procession were wearing masks and it was honestly still a strange feeling to see the crowds come back to the traditions they have missed, but it didn’t feel as scary any more.

As long as the surge that we are trying to put at the back of our minds and yet the same time actively bracing ourselves for doesn’t give us the variant that will force us to go into lockdowns once more, it looks like that the end of this pandemic is finally in sight.

A successful Good Friday procession, already getting to travel and go on trips, and seeing a few jam-packed campaign rallies might make us think that we have already beaten the coronavirus and can just coast to the finish line. However, we have to be realistic and remind ourselves that there can still be some surprise twist and turns that we will have to be prepared for.

The current lull in infections and the general feeling of normalcy has made many of us forget the importance of being vaccinated and boosted. We seem to be forgetting that strength in numbers is still the most critical factor when it comes to beating back a pandemic through vaccination. However the sad fact is that although we finally have the supply of jabs available, many of us are conveniently forgetting to finish what we collectively started and must end together. We cannot end this pandemic with a half-baked vaccination effort.

I know that we are all hoping for a weak final surge, akin to the Omicron-fueled one that our homes and communities were generally able to absorb at the start of 2022. But as we rediscover and enjoy  the freedoms and traditions that we missed over the past two years, let us prepare for the worst because if we don’t, we could lose everything we worked for to a coronavirus variant that refuses to cooperate with our idea of the end of the pandemic.

The recently concluded Holy Week is the most normal of the big holidays we’ve had in a while. If our democracy is lucky, we might make it to Election Day. But after that, we don’t know what will happen. Will we go through a tolerable Omicron-like surge or will a variant nastier than Delta emerges and expose the weakness of our COVID response that might look successful thus far, but if you come to think of it, remains totally half-baked?

2022 is looking like the year we get our lives back. The Good Friday procession is back. Families are taking the risk and reconstituting long-delayed travel plans. My kids might see the grandparents they haven’t seen in 2 years in Manila during the “summer” break. When they get back, there should be some form of face to face school in the upcoming schoolyear.

We have had enough of this pandemic and we are determined to get our lives back. How quickly we can do it if that surge we have been bracing for comes at us will depend on how prepared our society is for it. Those who have achieved herd immunity will bounce back faster, while those who are not yet ready after all this time and all the vaccines that have arrived will take a bit longer to fully recover.

It’s the final stretch. We’ve already been through so much. Let’s not waste all the sacrifices and lessons we’ve learned the hard way over the past 2 years.*

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