Malilong: That day one year ago

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

EXACTLY a year ago last Tuesday, we lost control of our freedom to travel. Life has not been the same ever since.

Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella said at that time that he was ordering a quarantine, not a lockdown, and people were merely advised to stay at home. There were no confirmed cases in Cebu City then, just PUIs (patients under investigation) and PUMs (persons under monitoring). In the Central Visayas itself, only one case was reported, that of a Chinese tourist who eventually died.

“We have to be preemptive and precautionary, rather than reactive,” Labella said, explaining what looked then to be unnecessary restrictions.

The week earlier, the mayor and I found ourselves on the same flight to Manila, he, to attend a meeting of city mayors with President Duterte in Malacañang and I, for a seminar in Quezon City. At breakfast after arrival, hosted by Councilor Raymond Garcia, the mayor said there was growing noise among the mayors of Metro Manila supporting a lockdown.

OPAV Secretary Michael Dino said as much when we met him later in the evening at the BGC after their Malacañang meeting. A lockdown was imminent.

I had planned on spending the whole week with my daughter in Manila to have time with my grandchildren. But on my second night I felt a strange sense of foreboding, so I called my wife to tell her not to join me in Manila anymore as planned because I was taking the first available return flight the next morning.

It turned out to be a wise decision as bedlam erupted in the conference room that very same morning because the lecturer turned out to have had contact with somebody who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Back in Cebu a week later, not too many seriously took Labella’s advice for them to stay at home, avoiding travel unless it was essential. We hadn’t yet felt the wrath of the virus and found the quarantine quite inconvenient.

And then, 139 new Covid-19 cases were reported in sitio Zapatera, Brgy. Luz and in the city jail. That would be followed by the discovery of a cluster of cases in Labangon, Mambaling and other barangays.

And all of a sudden, people, most probably including those who defied Labella’s advice, were cursing him for his supposed inability to contain the spread of the virus. Blaming Labella (and Dino) became the favorite pastime with a little help from his political enemies and so-called friends until Duterte stepped in and told us what was ailing us: We were hardheaded.

The spread of the virus eventually subsided and by October and November, we were recording fewer than 10 Covid cases. The incidence rose briefly in November because of people movements related to the All Saints’ and All Souls’ days. In December, we attended dawn masses and gathered for Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.

The numbers are up again without any signs of abating. It’s worse in Manila where coronavirus infections are raging. It’s almost depressing but for the fact that we have gotten used to, even comfortable with, the quarantine. That’s the only bright spot. Seriously.