What we can do instead

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Goodbye, July, and hello, August. From one Covid-19 month to another. July has not been a good month. Covid-19 cases shot up, making any mention of “flattening the curve” a joke. At least, Filipinos can still find time to joke about a pandemic, but most of all that curve which defies flattening.

In one IATF meeting that was conducted live and public, Secretary Duque was saying that the USA was hitting 10% of its population in the testing for Covid-19 – over 50 million already. Duque compared this with a Philippine target – the 10% of Filipinos to be tested by DOH by 2021. I wonder if he was aware that it is July of 2020 and “by 2021” can mean 17 months in between? Comparing it with the US figures of more than 10% of the population ALREADY tested simply shows that the DOH Secretary should just avoid mentioning statistics that can embarrass him.

“Comparing it with the US figures of more than 10% of the population ALREADY tested simply shows that the DOH Secretary should just avoid mentioning statistics that can embarrass him.”

I believe we should just forget about figures regarding Covid-19 if we will end up being even more confused. For the general public, we may just report the number of deaths, new ones, and the running total. And to keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, let us simply monitor the furious race of countries and companies racing to develop effective and safe vaccines and cures. That would be more hope-giving to Filipinos rather than a climbing curve and confusing statistics.

Specific details of infections and where, how late, or current, would best be directed to LGUs for their guidance and their basis for easing or tightening quarantine efforts. What would be more interesting to Filipinos everywhere would be an accounting of how much, in food or money, had already given to each barangay, municipality, or city. And how much more is being allocated for the near future considering the curve is not flattening and stricter quarantine measures may probably come. That financial or food support is more relevant to the tens of millions in need.

What can also be of good use would be information on what businesses have closed and how many employees are now jobless. If there are running totals of these, government and businesses would be alerted where help is most needed, or where workers are most available because they are now jobless. Job fairs on the new kinds of work that may be expanding during the pandemic times would be great. These will show job seekers where their opportunities lie. It will also show government who they can push towards small and medium businesses with technical and financial assistance.

“What can also be of good use would be information on what businesses have closed and how many employees are now jobless. If there are running totals of these, government and businesses would be alerted where help is most needed, or where workers are most available because they are now jobless.”

Home-based education is an important subject that can be openly discussed daily. Many parents are resigned to the fact that the old school normal is gone for at least this school year. Yet, they want so much for their children to continue learning albeit in new ways which do not require face-to-face gatherings. I believe that this school year, since it is already severely disrupted in its traditional format, should immediately set aside the old curriculum, and allow the evolution of a new one. It does not mean throwing away the old one. We can still use some and defer others while putting more practical subjects onboard the new curriculum.

For most families, whose children were studying in public schools, the pandemic has somewhat crippled even their incomes and posing new challenges aside from their children’s education. Maybe, they can combine both concerns and address their basic needs with their children being taught how to plant, cook, process food, sew clothes, and other productive activities that they can utilize all their lives. Vocational and a la Tesda subjects can be useful to students who cannot be in classrooms today.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to plant trees and not just vegetables. People, especially children, need their exercise, and they might as well expend energy on productive activities. Planting trees, cleaning the environment of plastics, developing community projects to build good manners and right conduct – all these can be part of the new curriculum. It does not only have to be the way we teach in school; it can very well also be what we teach in school. If the old normal is gone, believe me, many traditional subjects are fast becoming obsolete in Philippine life.

It is understandable that fear has been the dominant influence on us since March of this year. It is just as understandable that we cannot just dismiss fear. Addressing, resolving, and transcending fear can be the most difficult part of maturity. Many do die without even achieving it. Instead of some just telling most others not to let fear define our lives today, it may be more effective if we tell people what to do that takes their attention farther away from fear. Let us give ourselves, all of us, little tasks we can do under the present circumstances, tasks that build our capacities instead of just wasting our energies in a locked-down position.

“It is not our genius that I am afraid of. It is unthinkable to me that humanity will collapse.”

Covid-19 is out there. We may not realize that we are already adapting to its presence in our environment. In other words, we are doing good things to keep the odds in our favor versus how Covid-19 attack our health. We wash our hands, we wear masks outside our homes, we avoid crowded and enclosed places, we practice physical distancing and most of all, we keep ourselves healthy and strong, enough even to survive an infection. We know the death rate of Covid-19 is low and all we must do is keep the infection rate low as well.

It is not our genius that I am afraid of. It is unthinkable to me that humanity will collapse. But it is time to consider the weak and the poor. We must not assume government can reach them all. Whatever we must spare, money or food, let us prepare to give it. If we must open food banks, why not?

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