Finally, a memorial for COVID-19 victims

Published May 8, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

For the past few weeks, Facebook has become a sea of black-and-white photos, plain black profile pics, eulogies and announcements of deaths of relatives and friends due to COVID-19. The pandemic has reached our inner circles, and can no longer be denied as a deadly threat to our lives and those of our loved ones.

For more than a year, we have lost many doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers  —  led by valiant generals of what we ought to consider our real army in this war against the coronavirus. They were among the first to fall, in the initial surge of severe cases. Our country paid dearly for the questionable policies adopted by the national government or brought about by their criminal negligence and incompetence: we have lost many of our best and brightest medical and healthcare practitioners.

For more than a year, many Filipinos have lost grandparents, parents, siblings, sons and daughters, cousins, uncles and aunts, neighbors, classmates, officemates, and friends. Coronavirus took them away from us, like a thief in the night. Some terribly quickly, some rather slowly and painfully. There are many stories, but perhaps no more painful than that of the wife who was sent by her husband to the hospital to deliver their baby, only to find out later that in the time she was giving birth, she had lost her husband to coronavirus. She woke up to the news that he had quickly died and his remains swiftly cremated.

The quarantines and lockdowns have denied us any opportunity to duly honor our dead. Those in Manila have not been able to go to the provinces to mourn relatives and friends. OFWs too could only mourn via videoconference. Meanwhile, tourism and travel have been repeatedly allowed to resume, and many top officials and celebrities freely enjoy vacations out of town.

Regardless of our many differences, I think we could all agree that we need to honor our dead, even as we continue to confront the pandemic.

Enter “Damay at Dangal” which is set to held on May 9, 5 p.m., online and everywhere there is a Filipino ready and willing to mourn a relative or friend lost to COVID-19.

To be live-streamed on the Facebook Page, “Damay at Dangal” will honor the dead through ecumenical and interfaith prayers, songs, and a litany of the names of the fallen.

It will also be streamed on Facebook Pages by co-organizers Cure Covid, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, and Promotion of Church Peoples Response.

How can one join? Organizers are calling on people to: Build and show photos of “solidarity altars” and “memorials” in their homes or offices; submit names, photo and dates of death, and life stories of departed relatives and friends so these could be included in the recital of the names of the deceased; and witness and share the May 9 event.

This won’t be a one-time memorial. After May 9, “Damay at Dangal” will be held every 9th day of the month until April 9, 2022.

Government has reported that we have lost 17,000 of our people to COVID-19, and over a million positive cases.

“We have lost thousands more due to inaccessible medical care, human rights violations, and suicides. The numbers of the fallen continue to rise,” according to “Damay at Dangal” organizers.

The past few weeks, and the past year, families and friends have mourned deaths quietly and by themselves. “Damay at Dangal” invites us to mourn each person we have lost as one nation and as one people. One family’s loss is a loss to us all. One doctor’s death due to COVID-19 is already an immeasurable loss to a family, to patients and to the nation. How much more if we knew how many doctors, nurses and healthcare workers have died while battling the pandemic.

May “Damay at Dangal” unite us in mourning and honoring our fallen. They are not just numbers. They are people. We did not lose them and they did not die only to be blamed for their own deaths. May their individual and collective memories inspire us to see beyond our petty differences and to see the more important things that unite us: taking care of our family and friends, prioritizing public health, making government work for us and not just a few.