Cordillera Administrative Region – Every time Gina Dizon steps out of their home in barangay Dagdag, in Sagada, Mountain Province, she pats her hair to make sure it’s combed right, looks critically at the mask in her hand and, satisfied, plasters it on her face.
She then gingerly adjusts her face shield then pats her hair again.
She had been using these safety nets for how long she said she could hardly remember the first day she slapped on a face mask. But she began using a mask by diligently heeding authorities call to wear masks and adhere to health rules.
And when she happens to be near “kailyan” (provincemates) friends who forgot to carry a mask, she would gaily remind them, by saying, “Ay, men face mask tako adi!” (Let us wear a mask).
To Dizon and others who diligently heed health protocols, and despite roll out of vaccination against covid-19, wearing a face mask and face shield had become, indeed, a newly-acquired social and health habit that may be difficult to do away.
Dizon explained Sunday this habit about the face mask as the “ever reliable kalasag,” which is a must that she religiously utilizes “most especially when she is forced to wade into crowds or go to other places.”
Dizon and other CAR inhabitants are a reflection of a steady faith in an unassuming piece of cloth and a square-like plastic as the smallest changes in daily highland routine that have created plausible effects and widening people’s vision of what is possible with little things often taken for granted in the midst of trouble.
And that is, to hang faith on the face mask and face shield that bring a sense of balance and perspective in life until CAR authorities may, in the future officially announce the covid threat is under control.
Until such time arrives, they are not inclined to abandon the mask and shield and they tell, “It stays put.”
For those already vaccinated, most of them think “they are not in a hurry,” to throw away the mask and shield and still intend to use them as added layer for protection for their well-being.
“Why should I be in a hurry to put aside my face mask and shield. No, hurry, will still will use them despite being vaccinated.” sums up in a nutshell their answer after being queried whether they will part with these.
Accustomed to using the masks for months and glad for the extra safety these provide, they also predicted that the signs on the wall of the times for a “mask-free life” is virtually on hold or frozen – possibly for a very long time.
“I do not have a problem being one of those who would want to use a mask and face shield, after being vaccinated” said Perlita Esquerra of Baguio City.
Pamela Daguioan, from Benguet said, “Wearing a mask whether you are sick or not, at this time, vaccinated or not, is socially acceptable and considerate.
Ronata Agpiwas, from Mountain Province, likened using mask and shield as a “love-hate relationship,” or “husband and wife relationship,” where spats are sometime unavoidable, further explaining, “I hate using face mask or shield; sometimes I get annoyed by these. But I have to live with them peacefully or else I get nowhere.”
Allen Balsite from Abra explained, “Saan narigat ti ag-usar ti face mask, vaccinated ka man wenno saan. Saan narigat nga talaga.” Anya ti didigra nu usarem nu adda uyek mo, kasparigan? Awan! (There’s no harm in wearing mask, either vaccinated or not. No harm at all. What’s the harm in wearing it if one has the common cold? None!).
Lomar Nakitdang from Benguet gleefully said, “Kaman adi din panang-usar din face mask ya na-Levis ka.” (Using face mask is like you are donned in Levis). Benguet gents and other highlanders happen to be addicted to the famous Levis pants and jacket, a reflection of their cowboy spirit.
Dizon, Esquerra, Daguioan, Balsite and Nakitdang personify the thousands of CAR inhabitants who, either injected with vaccine or not yet, happily intend to keep their faces covered in public indefinitely and don’t intend to toss away the newly-acquired habit.
For the ladies who are masked up, they are bothered less if masks hide their make-up. As for Gina Dizon, who told this column, “I do not use make-up,” she has no problem at all buying cosmetics for beauty at this time of hiked commodity prices and she intends to keep herself that simple yet adorable, – pandemic or no pandemic.
In fact, vaccination is no guarantee one cannot be infected later. This medical authority view totally proves mask and shield are very relevant – even with vaccine entry.
Face coverings has become a bone of contention particularly by many uncooperative Filipinos in areas like Manila and other regions who defy authorities. There is also a smattering of people in CAR visually seen without masks, of if they do have the masks, are tugged down below their chins.
They argue contrarily when told to put on masks or to use them properly, forcing authorities to detain them.
In effect, “they don’t use it properly, becoming merely decoration on the face,” according to Laila Galadis, from La Trinidad, Benguet.
Arabelle Sevilla Comides, from Baguio City, tried to instill humor to those who put their masks below their chins by saying, “Nu ngay imbes nga naka-kabil diay mask da idiay chin da ket ikabil da la idiay sango ti mata da, a.”
Even as a combination of vaccination rollouts strategies have started to grind in cities and municipalities in CAR, many residents have chosen to continue covering their faces and glad for the extra safety the mask and shield provide.
Many highland residents explained it comes as a surprise to them that they seem to feel naked in public when they remove their masks and they have grown to enjoy the feeling of their faces half-hidden.
For the number of so-called “permanent-maskers, they gleefully pointed out: “With face mask, we can remain anonymous, expressionless or smiling or smirking unseen,” as Constancio Alawas, from Mountain Province worded it out for them.
Apparently, according to those interviewed, a blend of smoky information about the emerging covid variant, anxiety even when vaccinated, and the notion of majority that politics has crept into the vaccine picture dictating what vaccine Filipinos will use. Instead of the other way around of “medicine choice preference of people,” have resulted in the emergence of an unbending and sizable part of the population bent on masking up even after vaccination.
CAR medical authorities cite important reasons why people need to mask up, vaccinated or not.
While vaccines are tested in controlled clinical trials, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. Presuming a vaccine is 95 percent capable of preventing illnesses caused by a certain disease, that leaves 1 in 20 persons left unprotected.
And that one could be you.
Second, vaccines do not provide immediate protection once injected in a human body. It will take weeks for human’s immune system to create antibodies that block viral infection.
Third, covid vaccines may not prevent someone from spreading the disease. Medical authorities are not dead sure that the vaccine protects against infection, or only against illness. In other words, a vaccinated person may still be able to spread covid even if such person does not feel ill.
Fourth, masks protect people with compromised immune system. People suffering from certain diseases like cancer are particularly vulnerable in multiple ways from covid because of weakened immunity. This is one reason which makes it harder for people with compromised immunity to fight covid.
Last but not least, masks protect any strain of covid, in spite of genetic mutation. So far, public health measures like avoiding crowds, physical distancing and masking up have proven that contracting respiratory diseases have been reduced since authorities asked the citizenry to stay home and wear masks.