As of 5:30 pm Friday, some 1.48 million Filipinos have reserved slots for their names to be on board future missions to the planet Mars, according to the Send Your Name to Mars site of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The number represents three fifths of total reservations of 2.54 million. Reservations from the United States came a poor second at 150,643, and India placed third at 134,369.
The send-your-name program serves no grand purpose than to allow individuals to let NASA fly their names to Mars in future flights. One gets a neat, downloadable boarding pass to mark the slot.
In a span of over 24 hours, however, the number of Filipinos who had signed up for future trips grew fivefold. This may of course merely indicate an adventurous spirit—and we know how we can get caught up in online trends.
But the surge in names could be interpreted as a gesture of desperation and exasperation over the government handling of COVID-19.
On Thursday, the Department of Health recorded 3,954 new cases but re-classified mild and asymptomatic patients among “recovered” cases—38,075 miraculous recoveries in a single day.
On Friday, the new cases record was breached anew with 4,063 additional individuals testing positive for the virus. One hundred sixty-five people recovered.
In his recorded address to the nation Friday morning, the President said a vaccine from China would soon be available and that his military and his police would administer these first to the poorest Filipinos.
Metro Manila continues to be under General Community Quarantine, which means economic activity continues even in the face of greater risk of community contagion.
The President’s faith in uniformed personnel is no secret—many wonder why in the midst of a public health emergency, it is soldiers and cops who are in charge. Unfortunately recent acts of the police and pronouncements by their leaders do little to assure us that they will wield their authority to protect the people, not punish those who are critical of them.
There is something to be said for those desperate enough to contemplate life on another planet—or at least send their names to it. It's hyperbole, of course, but the way this pandemic has beaten all of us into submission, some more brutally than others, makes us desperate in our plea that our leaders demonstrate both excellence and compassion as we battle this virus which is still so alien to us all.