Malilong: Frontliners now

Frank Malilong

People are funny. Actually, there is a more appropriate but stronger description than that but the three summers that I spent as altar boy in the church in my hometown forbid me from using it. Besides, the feelings of fear—and helplessness—that have driven our irrational behavior during the last few weeks are mitigating factors that beg for a little more Christian charity.

We have been advised repeatedly, in fact, with irksome regularity to wear a mask, practice social distancing and personal hygiene, observe the curfew and avoid going out of our houses unless necessary in order to prevent the coronavirus from further spreading. We refused and continue to refuse to heed the advice and when, as feared, the contagion worsens, what do we do?

We go on our default mode which is to blame others, with government and government officials on top of the target list. They should have done something, we swear, instead of just waiting for the pandemic to blow over. And yet brighter and more competent as we pretend we are, we cannot say what exactly the government could have done but failed to do to contain the spread of the disease.

We ignore the fact that we’re dealing with a new scourge against which there is no vaccine or known cure, which was precisely why we were asked to please follow the precautionary measures that were clearly made known to us. But the mayor has the money, we solemnly protest, as if one billion pesos can buy off the coronavirus and persuade it to leave our land.

When what would have been ideal was for us to agree that we’re in this together, that when our boat sinks, we sink or swim together, we have preoccupied ourselves in disdain and, not so rarely, politicking. Because we are wiser, because we could have done better?

But why not blame the officials even if unfairly? That is why they are there, we believe, so that even if we brought our fate unto ourselves, we can have someone to lay the blame on or at least share with. Holy cow, did we elect public servants or punching bags? Like it or not, that—being unfairly held to account for something that you have nothing to do with—is part of the territory. I read that on Facebook and heard it from my friends: that the officials bargained for it when they offered themselves to the electorate. Warped as the reasoning is, we can let that pass. Public officials are fair game.

But medical workers are not and yet, they and the hospitals they work for have of late been getting as much flak from the irrational as the public officials have. Emergency room (ER) personnel are the most harassed, sometimes physically by relatives who want a Covid sufferer admitted. I can only pray that even in their anxiety, those accompanying the patients will receive the gift of a few lucid minutes during which they will realize that these doctors, nurses and other personnel in the ER do not decide who can or cannot be admitted.

I also pray that we come to our senses and understand that while hospitals may be able to provide more rooms, even an entire floor, for Covid patients, the personnel to be assigned there have to be specially trained and finding them is easier said than done.