| Photo by Armed Services Blood Program via Flickr/Commons CC PDM 1.0
More than a year and a half since the COVID-19 outbreak, five million people all around the world are gone from this earth. Not since a century ago has the world seen such a high death toll due to a pandemic. Perhaps even more due to other illnesses such as heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death.
We can see the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic in heartbreaking images: Such as medical frontliners sitting tired and helpless in hospital corridors as they continue the battle against an unseen enemy, patients breathing through ventilators, hospital emergency rooms crammed with patients waiting for admission, and families are weeping at the passing of loved ones. So many photos also shocked the world, like the bodies lined up before cremation in India, coffins inside a church in Italy, and mass graves in Brazil.
Rich or poor, this virus does not discriminate – affecting everyone regardless of age, race, gender, wealth, social status, culture, or religion.
To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and caused untold anguish and suffering would be an understatement. People have lost jobs, businesses have gone under, and the toll on mental and emotional health has been tremendous due to many reasons. Last year, a couple from Denver started a howling ritual outside their home every 8 p.m. to ease the pain of isolation – and this spread not only among their neighbors and the state of Colorado but also in California, New York, and Georgia. People also howled to show their gratitude to health workers and other frontliners thick in the fight against COVID-19.
The struggle is real, with people trying their best to financially survive, coping with the frustration that comes along due to the inability to do things people may have taken for granted: going out for a walk, attending birthday parties, eating with friends in a restaurant, traveling to a favorite spot. Some even admitted that opening social media has become stressful because they keep seeing posts about friends or relatives getting sick or dying.
“There is absolutely no doubt that any act of generosity will come back a hundredfold, perhaps not necessarily in terms of material wealth but in some other form like a peace of mind, health, and possibly true happiness. That, in the end, is what a true and meaningful life should be.”
Tomorrow is Nov. 1, the day we remember the dead – but all of us are staring at the face of death, knowing that all of us can be vulnerable to the coronavirus or any other illness that may come along. Yet this time of great loss also teaches us what life is all about, making us reflect on the things that matter most. One realization is that material wealth is not the be-all and end-all. What’s more important than anything else is your relationship with your family and loved ones because you never know when God will call your number.
The worst of times have also allowed us to see the best in people, with kindness, compassion, and generosity coming to the fore. We have seen it in the community pantries that provide items for free – from rice to eggs, milk, vegetables, canned goods, etc. that anybody who needs to tide his hunger over can get from.
We are also seeing a great sense of solidarity among nations, helping other countries struggling to keep the pandemic under control by donating protective equipment, hospital beds, and, most of all, life-saving vaccines. We have to admit that the United States has been extremely generous, having distributed over 200 million vaccines to more than 100 countries with large volumes going to lower-income nations. The US has committed to donating more than one billion vaccines and perhaps even more – proving that it is indeed the world’s best arsenal of vaccines.
During our engagements with officials here in the US, my message is that they are blessed because their country is generous, helping people and saving lives worldwide through their vaccine donations.
There is absolutely no doubt that any act of generosity will come back a hundredfold, perhaps not necessarily in terms of material wealth but in some other form like a peace of mind, health, and possibly true happiness. That, in the end, is what a true and meaningful life should be.
ASEAN economic rebound
UK-based IHS Markit expects positive growth for the ASEAN region in 2022, with the Philippines projected to post the most robust growth at around 7.2 percent. It is a very encouraging piece of good news because our primary focus is on economic recovery to help businesses recover and create jobs for people. According to IHS Markit, ASEAN will be one of the three main growth engines of Asia Pacific over the next decade, along with China and India.
“Filipinos are very encouraged by positive developments in the country, such as the continued downtrend in the number of new infections due mainly to the vaccination rollout.”
We’re also glad to hear that the Asian Development Bank has reaffirmed its support for ASEAN’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that such recovery will be strong and lasting.
Filipinos are very encouraged by positive developments in the country, such as the continued downtrend in the number of new infections due mainly to the vaccination rollout. To date, the Philippines has secured over 100 million total vaccine doses since the first batch arrived in February.
According to NEDA Secretary Karl Chua, Philippine economic growth has begun to recover in this year’s first three quarters. If Metro Manila’s current Alert Level 3 downgrades to Level 2, the economy will gain at least P3.6 billion a week – which would reduce unemployment. He also stressed the importance of accelerating the vaccination rollout and the safe reopening of the economy while strictly adhering to health protocols to ensure strong recovery in 2022.