Half a year & (who’s) counting: Our new abnormal (XIII)

Published September 12, 2020, 10:31 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Philip Cu Unjieng


Have you been keeping count? Or just letting the days, weeks, months slip by as one unfathomable continuum? Cause don’t look now; but on Tuesday, the 15th of September, it’s not only payday, but also Pay-the-Price day as we reach the 6-month mark of the longest continuous COVID-19 Community Quarantine/lockdown in the entire world. Even Ground Zero’s Wuharantine had a duration of 76 days; and while seemingly brutal and restrictive to the rest of the world, is now looked back as having been rather effective. Our’s has had all these levels, permutations, and sub-categories – but the inescapable fact is that it’s still Quarantine-time.

Do you remember when our government would throw it’s all-out support in creating and devising ways for the Philippines to get into the Guinness Book of World Records? How we’d even rally around some insipid, completely pointless world record such as the most “Lechons” in one fiesta, or the the most missing convicts and felons in one high-security prison? Well, don’t look now, but someone should be calling the United Kingdom Guinness headquarters to log in our request to be verified as 2020’s Longest Continuous COVID-19 National Lockdown. I’m certain our 184 days (on the 15th) and counting, will garner world record status.

As for the stipulated Guinness on-ground observation and verification process, good luck with our airports and hotels being open, or the Guinness representatives willing to risk being put in 14-day isolation upon their return to London. Perhaps we can appeal for online verification given the ongoing crisis, and put the trolls to good use, bombarding the Guinness HQ with evidentiary FB & IG posts, tweets – and GIF’s – all of which can be used as circumstantial proof that our lockdown commenced on March 16, and that we’re still under quarantine to this day.

I’m certain our Congress will be more than happy to get into the act; creating committees and sub-committees, public hearings, testimonials, allocating public funds, and other related brown-nosing gestures – even threatening to declare the Guinness Book officers personas-non-grata should they decline our request. No stone will be left unturned (or first stone NOT cast) in our efforts to make this happen, and get the Philippines into the Book of World Records.

Surely, the government will view this as the ‘silver lining’ to any kind of unfavorable analysis or evaluation of our official COVID-response since March. I vividly recall how in May of this year, the DOH admitted there was no real program of mass testing in place. The effort was even made of debunking the merits of such a program, with “Expanded Target Testing” the buzz-phrase used to justify the non-existence of said program. There was some kind of recapitulation made last month, in August, as we read reports of a promised 3.5 million to be tested within the ongoing month of September.

Am wondering how that’s coming along, as news of finally “flattening the curve” came out early last week, but no peep about the promised 3.5 million mass testing. At any rate, was it a case of ‘too little, too late’, or even let’s just feed the masses metaphorical “opium,” and they’ll forget in due time. So far, we’ve really just relied on quarantine and prayers; with a lot of the responsibility for testing or contract tracing thrown back to the private sector. I was overjoyed to read about the flattening, but keep reminding anyone who’ll listen that flattening does not mean it’s over. It means the tide has favorably turned; but any miscue or act of negligence, of over-confidence, can mean a resurgence or have dire results.

We see little steps of trying to bring some form of normalcy back. After the successful experimental drive-in theater in Pampanga by SM Cinemas, one opened at the MOA concert grounds last week. Gyms have reopened, and the ubiquitous Jose Mari Chan has been deployed and released, to usher in our “-ber” months – to remind us to have Christmas In Our Hearts, and keep hoping for that Perfect Christmas.

If 20-20 refers to perfect vision, the year 2020 can’t come to an end soon enough; and belong, with hindsight – to our rear-view mirror. That’s something we’d all like to see.