Tracing Magalong

Published October 16, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Y. Daza

Do you remember what you did four days ago, where you went and whom you met?

In a nutshell, that’s the problem of a contact tracer trying to jog the memory of someone whose task is to tick off their answers to a list of questions designed not for an individual person but a mass of people who might have come in contact with a COVID-positive suspect.

As “the lead” rather than contact tracing czar — the title makes him uncomfortable — Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong has his own frustrations. The way to do it, he said, is to investigate, “like a detective investigating a crime,” rather than just contacting and tracing. Forthwith, he has designed a matrix which, with one push of a button, lights up the screen and tells him what he should know.

The general has other frustrations fighting the COVID menace; for example, how literally some people interpret the rules on who may avail of the city’s own P8-million stock of Remdesivir. Fortunately his main job as mayor energizes him to run a tight ship (on an annual budget of P2.2 billion), beautify what is already a vacation city, and build sustainable dreams for the future of the youth and the underprivileged.

“Just a few days ago,” he announced to his lunchmate Anthony de Leon, GM of Baguio Country Club, “we signed the contract to construct 10 buildings in Irisan.”

Irisan, I was told, is the home of the very poor who live off Baguio’s garbage. If Manila has  Tondominium and Binondominium, soon Baguio will see a new Irisan rising, each building to house 60 families. They will be trained for jobs and how to live with nature, agriculture, the ecosystem, what Mayor Benjie calls permaculture.

Pulling out his phone to show Irisan as it looked three months ago, he said engineers from Adamson University were consulted in the smelly task of burying the garbage before clearing the land. While waiting for actual construction to begin, the intrepid mayor held office at the site for 18 days, “to show my staff how the poor live.”

What was once a twin of Payatas has since been converted, unbelievably, into a temporary park. With no smell to lace one’s hair.