By AA Patawaran
Without a doubt, this year’s Lent will be among the most historic, having begun on Feb. 26, just when, still unaware of the full impact of what we then called the novel coronavirus on our world, we started to modify perhaps the first of the many practices we have long considered our way of life.
On Feb. 22, four days before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season this year, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines announced that some modifications would need to be in place as a precaution against the insidious virus. Among these precautions was the placement of the repentance ash on top of the head instead of on The rebirth the forehead.
Today, Easter Sunday, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we are in the middle of a changed world. Four weeks into the ongoing Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), we may have begun to accept that life as we know it isn’t going to be the same for a long time, having spent all this time locked up in our homes or, on the few occasions we have ventured out on a supply run or a necessary errand, all covered up, face mask, face shield, hoodies, glasses or goggles, gloves, and all, in adherence to social distancing protocols in a collective effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Among the many lessons we have learned from this global crisis that in impact resembles or exceeds a world war is how vulnerable we all are.
Over the past few weeks, locked down from our everyday activities, such as going to work or school, going out to eat or play or meet with family and friends, or even sacred devotions, such as going to mass, we have stood witness to both the strengths and frailties of what we consider our comfort zone, our socio-political maturity, for example, or our economic infrastructure, our police forces, our healthcare system, even our bodies.
Every day, since the ECQ was implemented, we have been confronted by the rising number of COVID-19 positive cases and, more agonizingly by the increasing death toll, especially when, on more occasions than we are prepared to admit, the statistics turns into names we know or people we call friends or family.
But COVID-19, like any dark cloud, has its silver linings. It’s not only the many opportunities it gives us to come together and care for one another. It’s not only the revelation of our capacity to adapt and to do what must be done, sometimes only in a matter of days, such as the conversion of large public buildings, like the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), into quarantine facilities or isolation units.
It is also in the affirmation that, no matter how dire our straits, no matter how daunting the challenges, no matter how desperate the times, as a people, we never run out of hope.
In this Easter edition of The Manila Bulletin are informative, inspiring, and empowering stories of survival, such as those of celebrity Iza Calzado Wintle and healthcare entrepreneur Jojy Azurin, who both presented the worst symptoms of COVID-19, and who, after a weeks-long ordeal that brought them face to face with their mortality, emerged from the illness with a renewed zest for life, a quest for their life’s true purpose, and an experience they can latch onto as a testament to the power of faith.