Watching, learning, and preparing

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

So many strange things are happening. After two and a half months of lockdown, the quarantine rules are easing up. This was totally expected, a no-brainer for lack of any viable option.

But no planning for society opening can ever anticipate most everything. It is still a first-time situation that we are cautiously stepping into, and nobody is that sure of anything.

I know that the challenge for us is extremely difficult. There are some who would like to tell us that the whole Covid thing was a hoax.

A hoax? By whom? On whom? No country, no people, escaped the ravages of the deadly virus that emerged from Wuhan, China. What hoax can totally paralyze humanity? I can understand the stupid being fooled, but every nation and its population? As if to show how it was not a hoax, not a media hype (although media was forced by global interest to stay on the subject for two months), and whatever contrived scenario that conspiracy theorists are speculating on, the world does not know how to walk straight and confidently in a post-Covid era. Maybe because it is technically not post-Covid with Covid still very much around. The panic of February and March has definitely waned, but still nobody walks as though they know where they are going.

I can hardly monitor everything I want to keep tabs on because it seems everything is new and experimental. It is easier to see and understand patterns more than random acts, but there is not yet enough to establish clear patterns. I like it when I read how some countries, the United States in particular, are trying to rise above their fears to brave the outside, with Covid there as a co-citizen. I like it because we can watch and learn as the Philippines is also starting to re-open society to its business-as-usual format.

I like it when I read how some countries, the United States in particular, are trying to rise above their fears to brave the outside, with Covid there as a co-citizen. I like it because we can watch and learn as the Philippines is also starting to re-open society to its business-as-usual format.

In late February, from just daily reading about the then Wuhan virus turned Covid-19, it seemed the odds were greatly stacked in favor of a second wave. It also seemed the second wave would be worse because the starting point would not just be Wuhan but every country in the world this time. Anticipating a second wave, therefore, my monitoring and measuring how many countries are faring today are not entirely meant to only move forward but also to prepare for a repeat of a very recent past.

The assistance of government in the last two and a half months tried to cover 18 million families. That is the equivalent of 80% of the national population of families. From the perception of government, many families needed food or food money just in two and a half months. That effectively translates to government’s conclusion that 80% of Filipinos could not afford to be on lockdown for a few months without going hungry. No matter how it is explained, I see only one thing – 80% of Filipinos simply did not have the capacity from their resources to take care of their families.

Poverty, then, has taken on a completely new way of being measured – by its incapacity to feed its victims. It seems all the intricate, or fancy, statistics and terminology of economics were tested by that super measure – food.

My anticipation and psychological preparation for a second wave must consequently be centered on food. Let the medical experts and scientists worry about vaccines or treatments, but we must worry about food.

My anticipation and psychological preparation for a second wave must consequently be centered on food. Let the medical experts and scientists worry about vaccines or treatments, but we must worry about food. The greater concern is productivity with production of food in the center of it all. Our communities are advised to put food supply and accessibility as the priority in their planning. Businesses are too preoccupied with starting up again in an unpredictable environment; society in general and communities must take on the most basic of physical needs.

Families are not prepared, and neither is the DepEd, in addressing the uninterrupted academic education of their children. There seem to be many meetings by the many regions and agencies within the DepEd ambit but no unified and public plan. A schedule for enrollment is not a plan, even if it is a mixture of digital and physical. It is not a plan because up to half of students cannot go on eLearning without the proper devices and Internet connection. And others who may possibly have cannot afford to do so. Except maybe the top 10% on the economic ladder.

This is a serious question that remains unanswered except for a few progressive cities in Metro Manila, if at all. Education is a psychological concern for both parents and children. Who knows how to raise their children without schools? This sounds simple but I assure you it is not. But now, it is not even a national conversation. It is a hot topic inside the homes of families who can afford or barely so, but DepEd must take the lead to bring light to the subject. Or ask others who may have more ideas than their own.

“… with preparation, with government’s Plant-Plant-Plant program, can generate food within their reach. It takes planning, it takes coordinating, it takes networking – but it can be done.”

Nobody wants a second wave, but nobody must assume there will be none. Because government cannot feed 18 million families again, and again. But 18 million families, with preparation, with government’s Plant-Plant-Plant program, can generate food within their reach. It takes planning, it takes coordinating, it takes networking – but it can be done. Thank God it can be done.

All communities, too, must organize themselves as though a second wave of Covid is a sure thing. When there is not enough food or money that will come from government, what benefit would barangay, town, or provincial officials be able to give? When they are not the answer, who can we run to?

No one. Except ourselves. And we, so many of us, will add to chaos, not functionality unless we are organized to help one another. This might yet be Covid-19’s best gift to us. It may have put us in a corner where we cannot run or hide, but where we can and must take care of one another.

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