By Christine Cortez
A little over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 98 medical frontliners have died battling an invisible enemy—modern-day Jose Rizals all, as President Rodrigo Duterte described the fallen heroes and their colleagues who continue to serve the nation and save lives.
“Crises test people and during a pandemic, we need heroes and want heroism to be relevant. But not in the old fashion sense like being shot in the back like Rizal,” said renowned Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo in a television interview Thursday.
“Heroes and heroism are not a thing of the past. They are in our midst in a different form or shape – like our medical frontliners,” he added.
Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero whose 160th birth anniversary is commemorated today (June 19), was a practicing physician who trained in ophthalmology.
And in 1888, he himself experienced quarantine for six days upon arriving in San Francisco aboard the SS Belgic at a time when the fifth cholera epidemic was wreaking havoc across the globe, including the United States.
“Nos pusieron en cuarentena (They quarantined us),” Rizal wrote in his diary.
He described his quarantine experience as “greatly troubling,” adding that the boredom was getting on his nerves – much like the way people are reacting to the quarantine protocols today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte earlier lauded COVID-19 frontliners who, like Rizal, are displaying heroism and love for the nation.
“Today, we see many ‘Rizals’ fighting for our people, this time against an unseen adversary — a pandemic. We have our brave frontliners who continue to serve the nation in their unique capacities notwithstanding the risks to life and limb. In them, we see a new expression of heroism that is truly inspiring,” the commander-in-chief said in his Rizal Day message last year.
“May we continue to celebrate Rizal and our modern-day heroes, to learn from their example, and to express the love and respect of a grateful nation,” he added.
As of June 14, the Department of Health reported 19,470 healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19. Of the total, 19,235 (98.8%) have recovered, 98 (0.5%) have died and 137 (0.7%) were active cases.
Duterte earlier announced the construction of a “Wall of Heroes” monument at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City dedicated to medical frontliners who died battling the virus.
“Those who perished – our doctors, our nurses, our medical attendants – will be honored. Their names will be inscribed on that wall,” the President said.