Once more, heart-wrenching scenes were unfolding on the TV screens — people besieging the vax sites, not by the hundreds but by the thousands, lining up in scores of queues that snaked through the available spaces, people on their foot since 2 early morning till the gates were shut down, after having inched through the lines.
These are tear-drenching scenes that would never be missed in ol’ movies when movies were movies, enough to drown even the hardened of hearts, simply because lining up for the sought after vax should never be this burdensome, should never have been allowed to take place in the first place, if only better queueing systems were in place. But, no, there they endured, all of 10 to 12 hours, just to be ahead of the rest, first in line, just to get a numbered stub and allowed in for the usual turns to be registered, to be validated, to be pre-examined for any adverse condition, nd finally to hear your name announced for the precious jab.
In previous days and weeks, just about a thousand would-be vaccinees would suffice for eyebrows to be raised. This time though, the Metro Manila siege had carbon copies from Antipolo to Las Pinas to Bacoor to Manila and other populous urban places. In a snap, the usual a thousand crowd gallopped into 10,000 bodies inching closer to Eden despite the hellish conditions. Social distancing? Not to this throng whose bodies were practically abreast — the young competing with the once young, the women jostling with the men.
Not soon after, the boisterous chants were drowned out by a singular booming voice, practically reprimanding the folks for taking in the canard hook, line and sinker. Not true at all, the fake news that the unvaccinated would not get the precious ayuda, the P1,000 per person and P4,000 per family that the government, pressed from all sides, had to scrounge from agency to agency so that every individual direly affected by the impening ECQ would have the moolah to sustain him and his family during the restricting days.
Indeed, the challenge all week was for the Delta variant to be halted, no matter what. Nearly 300 cases have already been detected — probably more if only the Gnome facility were quick enough in their sampling procedures. Indeed, extreme care has always been a primordial task for everyone. And yet, as the continuing task had gone on, the super fear emerges, loud and clear enough. This is a super variant that’s unlike its parental forms, deadlier, quicker, and expectedly disrespectful of age, sex, status, and aspiration. The realization that it had reached Pinoy shores came so sudden like a bolt of lightning that has let loose streaks of illumination across the darkening skies.
True, these days for the past two to three weeks now, we’ve been having moonsoon weather like no other, nearly a sordid bombardment of unprecedented off-and-on rains, of wind chills blowing here and there. But the ever-vigilant watchers, undeniably concerned time and again, just couldn’t take the vigil suppressed. Braving the rains, daunting the odds of having to catch cold (and even the dreaded disease), the people just couldn’t be denied. All hesitance, all reluctance, all wait-and-see nonchalance dissipating in a snap just by the mere casual mention of the lethal Delta.
In an unexpected surge, the numbers were simply on the verge of heaving up, spiking numbers of every possible factor that signifies all’s not yet well. Just when everyone had thought we’d be just cruising along fine into the next world of lessening restrictions, just when all souls had been so high-spirited to gear up fully for the mighty entry into a new dimension, the so-called New Normal that has been up there in everyone’s mindset, enough to get us readying up. The surge may not yet be there, but local transmissions of late have indeed been on the upside, too discernible in the numbers confronting the experts.
Lo and behold, the numbers just couldn’t tell a lie, unyielding to a stare-down, simply because they were real, daunting, forbidding even. Over the weekend, the populace woke up to a strange reality: transmissions in varied levels of risk potential from mild to moderate to severe to critical. Anyhow one look at it, the number of new cases is sending shivers down the spine. Never have local cases throughout these benighted islands been listed up this high in so few a days.
It’s the variant — the Delta type that has been scaringly portrayed as 60% faster in transmissibility, the latest mutated life form of a virus that seems to repel by sheer replication all the might and force of a vaccination drive, the one single viral form that has been leap-frogging all this time from coast to coast, country to country. First, it was India; then, in a flash, in proximal countries; then, just to scare the bejesus in all of us, right down under in Indonesia.
All through the night, health authorities were still senselessly arguing over the use of “surge”, as if determining what it is would change what’s gallopping across communities, as if by calling it in any other way would make hospital capacity turn better than what it already is, as if already laying down the premise that mere watching over the number spikes would give further substance to what has already been feared. Make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen of fine repute, all it takes is some heavy stuff called “action”, or is that something one has become to weary to be wily about?
Once more, there are calls to restrict entry and exit for commonplace needs allowed by market passes, but just a bit ajar for very pressing essential reasons. Once more, the strident pleas are raised, for contact tracing work to be back to work, with the teams of police investigators, health officials, and technical support personnel scurrying about in places of residence, employment and other convergence sites where contacts have been determined to have takenplace.
Over and over again our own Mayor Benjie had to mince no words in a broadcast interview that while the numbers had telltale signs of concern, there had to be more pro-active, pre-emptive moves undertaken at the LGU level, without anyone having to await national clearances. Here in Baguio, he ordered a betteer system of rolling out the vaccines, whatever was available on-site. The situation may be concerning, but absolutely no reason to be jumpy, if proper action steps are taken.
Once more, the national contact tracing chief that he is came forcefully, as he bewailed the malady afflicting localities country-wide. “Much of the LGUs nationwide had to be content for contract tracing to simply scour the most proximate intimates of positive cases,” he asserts. The ideal ratio, as long observed locally in our midst, has always been 1:37; the acceptable level has even gone down to 1:15. Amazingly, what has been practised, as a matter of course — no doubt, due to funding issues — is 1:6.
The noticeably steep ascent has all the opportunities to be that upward way, considering the influx of people on the road, compressed in public transport, scurrying here and there to work places. Count in the returning OFWs suddenly out of jobs, the local cargo handlers on return trip from places to and fro, especially virus-gripped Metro Manila, and you’d think it’s one expanded graveyard waiting for the death toll. The chances of getting infected, from one human to the next, have been simply part of the normal order of transmissions, especially so that just one individual can be the primary source of secondary (about 10), tertiary (100, and so much so in an outward push.
As reiterated by our good Mayor, nothing beats identifying the people with whom the positive individuals had been in contact with, including others within the physical range of the expanded landscape. Clearly, as over a year of struggling through the pandemic, the contact tracing work pays of, reason why the our local numbers have not gone through the roof.
* * *
QUICK TAKES: Congratulations to the newly elected officers and members — some 30 souls — of the ordinance-created Creative Baguio City Council who were inducted into their offices of the singular body entrusted to provide leadership in bolstering the creative initiatives, both public and private, in keeping with Baguio’s being a pioneering Philippine city elected by the UNESCO to be part of the 200-plus creative cities network.
Best wishes to mayor Benjie, the council chair; retired UOP-Baguio chancellor Raymundo Rovillos, co-chair; city planning development coordinator Donna Tabangin, vice-chair; Councilors Valdimir Cayabas and Elaine Sembrano; city tourism officer Aloysius Mapalo, secretariat head;
City budget officer Atty. Leticia Clemente, RD-DOT-CAR Jovi Ganongan; RD-DTI-CAR Fr. Pres. Gilbert Sales of SLU, Chancellor Corazon Abansi; the Chair’s executive support service providers Ferdie Balanag and Noly Balatero, who pooled efforts in organizing this year’s creative force that is expected to unleash unprecedented but relentless dynamism to get creativity going.Kudos too to all the private sectoral representatives who came in full force to lend the energy, optimism, and elan for planned events, projects and programs.
Not to be outdone, the Baguio Tourism Council, led by its tireless Chairperson Gladys Vergara, is itself engaged in giving bone and flesh into an ambitious rousing project to re-brand the city in a bid to spark off economic revitalization.Some strategic developments are underway to make the city’s tourism be on track as efforts continue to enhance readiness towards the NN.
First, from the creative community, Baguio has just been identified as a pilot area in fleshing out culture and arts practices that are, by UN standards, thematic indicators for a sustainable push towards 2030. Second, from the tourism council, a re-branding strategy is up and coming, precisely conceived to make Baguio’s image some kind of a breathe in, breathe out experience characteristic of what Baguio has been a notable legend through the years.
Make no mistake about it: for Baguio to be Angat, it has to be raised from the platform of Ingat and Dapat. While the variant continues to linger — thankfully not yet into our borders — being safe, at work, outdoor, and wherever one goes, remains an utmost need. Buhay and Kabuhayan — these are the pillars of any recovery.
As our winning Olympic athletes are proving loud and clear, led by the first gold medalist in the global sporting event, Hidilyn Diaz, it takes grit and go, talent in full splendor, training beyond limits, and a heart and mind in a magnificent blend of oneness, to get the triumph long strived for. Winning as one race — the Filipino race.