Coronavirus: Lockdown brings out the best even from those with the least in the Philippines
MANILA – It’s the small things that get magnified a thousandfold when the world that you have come to know so well suddenly stops.
Will someone come to pick up the garbage in the morning? Will the plumbing hold? What if the stove or the refrigerator breaks down? Where will I get a haircut now?
Since a third of the Philippines was put in lockdown this week to check an onslaught by a very contagious coronavirus, it is slowly becoming apparent that, at least for the next 30 days, we will have to make it through mostly on our own.
This is when it pays to have attended to mundane chores that you’ve been putting off, thinking there will still be time to finish them. Well, time’s up.
Private offices, factories, shops, hardware stores, car repair shops and malls have closed.
Every tradesman we have come to rely on to keep our houses and cars together – plumbers, electricians, mechanics – are staying home.
Most doctors, nurses and other health workers who work in clinics are themselves on enforced holidays. Those still working in hospitals have their hands full dealing with the outbreak.
A web of checkpoints, barricades and roving enforcers all across Luzon island – home to over 50 million, and the size of South Korea – are making sure half the Philippines’ population stay put.
Our vulnerabilities are suddenly exposed. That, in turn, is making us more empathetic. We realise we need each other. So we offer to help in any way we can. Those without so much in life are offering the only resource they can spare: their time.
A cashier at a grocery near where I live told me she now walks 6km a day just to get to work because there are not any more buses, jeepneys, ride-sharing cars and motorcycles, and even motorised rickshaws on the road because of the lockdown. Riding pillion is now prohibited.
She said her boss told her she did not have to come in if she was not able to get a ride. But she said she walks because she wanted to help out.
A housewife with a nursing degree said she has been helping intubate a neighbour while looking after another neighbour who has had a stroke.
A college classmate who now runs a towing service told me he would be giving his employees a weekly allowance of 2,500 pesos (S$71) each while they are on furlough rather than let them go.
He would have to dip into his savings, even as no money will be coming in for at least a month.
“Sometimes you are asked upon to help. I’m just doing my part, however small,” he said.
There has been no shortage of heroes on the front line either.
A soldier, with his thick camouflage, helmet and rifle, stands for hours under a searing sun, so he can man a checkpoint at a major highway leading to the capital, Manila.
He and his platoon have been there for days. They have not been home. They sleep in bunk beds, with cartons for cushion.
He said he does not know how long he will be at the checkpoint. All he knows is that he is there to seal the border for everyone’s sake.
Personally, I have to admit I am terrified.
I took my daughter to a clinic the other day because she had been coughing for days and was already running a fever.
The doctor said she probably had the flu, gave her a prescription and told us to return the next day for a blood test. But when we got back the next day, the clinic was closed.
My daughter’s fever broke two days later. But when her coughing persisted, I took her to a hospital, and I readied myself for the worst. The signs were there. She could be positive for the coronavirus.
After about two hours of tests, the doctor said it was likely just her allergies.
So it has come to this. A cough is no longer “just a cough”.
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