A suffering, grieving nation

"Not even the assurance-through-selfie that the country still has a president is helping."


I have lost count of the number of times I have sent messages of condolences to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 and other illnesses that could not be attended to. I am finding it more and more difficult to send notes of encouragement to friends with family members battling this deadly virus.

Our health system is ill-prepared for this pandemic, and our healthcare workers are more than overburdened and exhausted. Hospitals are full and hospital beds are premium commodities now. Patients stay in tents outside of hospitals because they have nowhere else to go. Medicines for COVID-19 are not only super-expensive, they have also begun disappearing.

Government has once again proven its incompetence in dealing with this problem despite the presence of several czars in our midst, and the sticks-that-get-bigger-by-the-day carried by the Health Secretary as he goes around the metro. Not even the assurance-through-selfie that the country still has a president is helping.

The feeling of being abandoned by government during this most challenging time is pervasive. As expressed by many, we are now left to our own devices. “Matira ang matibay,” because it looks like we cannot expect anything from government but posturing, ever-changing guidelines that have become hard to follow and understand, delays in action, and even more delays.

Filipinos are grieving. Filipinos are desperate. Social media has become a huge obituary. Facebook and Twitter are full of posts of people in grief over the loss of family, sometimes, several family members. I cannot imagine being in their shoes, yet, there is no assurance that I or you will not get the virus despite all the precautions we and our family members are doing.

Not a few are furious and blame this administration for their loss. They feel that their loved ones could have had better chances of surviving if only government is responsible enough and truly cares for Filipinos. Many others vent their anger and frustration because of the extreme difficulty in finding care for their suffering loved ones.

Gone are those days when it was fun to banter with friends online. Social media has become a funeral of sorts.

COVID-19 ravages entire families and it gets nearer and nearer to us. Three houses away from ours, a friend’s entire family is recuperating and their house remains on lockdown. While it is a welcome development that they are now over the worst, it still feels sad knowing that they are alone in dealing with this horror.

People die in their homes without being seen by doctors. People die ALONE, without any of their loved ones around. Those left behind cannot even properly mourn and honor their dead. How do we deal with the fact that one of our people, Lyle Parreño, who chose to self-isolate in his car because he was COVID-19 positive, died? Knowing that hospitals are full, and perhaps because he wanted to keep his family safe, he decided to suffer alone in his car. He was found almost dead and passed shortly after. Can anything be sadder? In this age of modern science and all, can there be a more miserable death? Only those without any conscience will not be troubled by Parreño’s passing.

Beyond COVID-19, many also die of other serious illnesses. And this is because we neither have the facilities nor the human resources to treat them. A good number of my friend’s relatives passed because of stroke, heart, and other diseases. Their families all failed to find hospitals to admit them in time. I will not be surprised if the number of those who passed during this period is more than double the government count. Shame on this government’s ineptitude!

Beyond the big numbers of Filipinos contracting the virus, let us not forget that more and more Filipinos are losing jobs as businesses are forced to close shop. The re-imposition of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces means that more people are unable to go to work OR find ways to at least earn some.

I know for a fact that families are going hungry. In poor communities, people are trying to survive with only rice and whatever they can find. I have heard of families rationing the rice among family members with either “asin” or “patis” to add taste. It is also common to borrow money from usurers to tide them over. As one mother said, they are already neck-deep in debt and they do not know where they will get the money to pay these off.

Those of us who are “lucky” are not really worry-free. Any news of a family member having the slightest of fever or cough is enough to make us panic and think of the worst. An exposure to a COVID-19 positive person, the testing, and waiting for the test results make us doubly scared. We constantly monitor everyone to make sure that they are all right. Going out for the most important of errands makes us anxious to the point that we no longer find joy in things that used to be fun.

This is the worst time of my entire life, and I am sure the same is true for many Filipinos. Yet, we cannot afford to give up in defeat. Amidst the grief and desperation, we must remain steadfast in keeping safe and making sure to hold accountable those whose irresponsibility and incompetence brought us to where we are now.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: COVID-19 , Social media , Enhanced Community Quarantine , Metro Manila
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