CEBU CITY Mayor Edgardo Labella underwent surgery to remove rogue stones from his gallbladder last Thursday. He has had episodes of joint and abdominal pains during the last five months, he said, but had chosen to ignore them because he did not want any distraction while the city was battling to cope with a raging pandemic.
The city’s Covid-19 numbers are down with only 14 new cases reported on Friday, according to the Department of Health Region 7. There are currently 330 active cases out of the total 9,667 tallied so far, the latter number reflecting how bad the situation was in June and July when, at one stretch, the average daily number of new cases was in triple figures.
If Labella had, at that time, surrendered to physical pain and had its cause removed, it would have been demoralizing to the people especially the frontliners. It would have been seen as a cop out and his critics would have had a field day lambasting him for abandoning the city at a very crucial time.
Not that the latter would have mattered to him anyway. He had been at the receiving end of the harshest criticism since the coronavirus surfaced in Cebu City. And when reports came out of people dying of Covid-19 and of hospitals swamped with coronavirus victims, the attacks reached fever pitch, a few out of genuine concern over the pandemic, and the others driven mostly by malice.
It was as if Labella had introduced the coronavirus to Cebu City and, like Frankenstein, was helpless to control the monster that he had created. People said the vilest things about him, including one from a former politician who wrote in the comment section of a digital newspaper that the mayor was suffering from a disease that affected his acuity and impaired his decision-making, “so will somebody please check the hospital that he went to last night?”
Maybe, Labella did go to the hospital that night but not for any brain-impairing disease that the writer wished. Those who used to suffer from gallbladder stones will tell you how excruciating the pain can be especially after a fatty meal. Any self-respecting person would have made even the feeblest attempt at inquiry before spreading the gossip but he spread it anyway.
Labella chose to ignore these comments to the consternation of his friends, one of whom sent him a long message urging him to fight back instead of remaining silent. He, however, replied that he had been in the government service for 40 years, including stints in Malacañang, which he described as a snakepit, and in the Ombudsman and has gotten used to being unfairly condemned. “There is a God,” he said, “and in the end I will get my vindication.”
Labella’s surgery was successful. He will bear a scar from the incision his doctor made to remove the stones but that is minor compared to the bruises he sustained from the mostly low blows that he received from his enemies in June and July (their behavior is eerily similar to that of the virus, quiet now while waiting for the right season to strike).
We’re not over the hump yet; the unseen enemy has not been vanquished. Labella has indicated that he will be reporting to the office tomorrow, worrying his staff who felt that it is too soon for him to get back to work. Of course, they know better than to tell him that. He did not hide when the coronavirus was raging, infecting many of his people. The little, though fresh, wound will not change him. Because there is a God.