OF TREES AND FOREST
Do you still remember the “Panatang Makabayan”? There is a new version but I have always liked the old version. In particular, I have taken to heart the last part of the pledge:
“Bilang ganti, diringgin ko ang payo ng aking mga magulang,
Susundin ko ang mga tuntunin ng aking paaralan,
Tutuparin ko ang mga tungkulin ng isang mamamayang makabayan at masunurin sa batas,
Paglilingkuran ko ang aking bayan nang walang pag-iimbot at nang buong katapatan,
Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.” (Underscoring mine)
I thought it was so simple and elegant. It is essentially a handbook on patriotism. And so the question is: Sa panahon ngayon, paano ba “maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa?” There are many ways of course, but given that we are in the middle of a pandemic that has caused so much pain, death and destruction the past two years, our civic duty is do everything we can to contribute so our country can defeat COVID-19.
In my mind this consists of two things: (1) get vaccinated, and, (2) follow health protocols. This means that when you go out be courageous and protect yourself, the family you are going home to and your neighbors. That valor is encapsulated in simply wearing your masks properly, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing. Our national heroes fought wars in order to secure our freedom. That freedom (freedom to move and enjoy life, freedom to work and earn a living) is now threatened by this coronavirus. Defending that freedom entails three simple things — mask, wash and distance.
But more importantly, get vaccinated. As we face this crisis, getting vaccinated is our civic duty. Ang pagpapabakuna laban sa COVID-19 ay isang paraan ng paglilingkod sa bayan, ng pagiging isang tunay na Pilipino. The good news is that our patriotic Filipinos, as always, are rising to the challenge.
A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey reported that only eight percent of adult Filipinos are unwilling to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This number is down from 18 percent in September 2021, and 33 percent in May 2021. The Social Weather Survey conducted on Dec. 12–16, 2021, also showed good numbers in areas outside Metro Manila. In particular, the number of vaccine hesitant Filipinos fell in the Visayas, from 24 percent to 15 percent; and in Mindanao, from 25 percent to eight percent.
This also means that vaccine hesitancy should never be used again as an excuse for our low vaccination rate. Most recently, the World Bank Philippine office noted that the combination of higher mobility among Filipinos during the holidays and the slow vaccination rate of the country during the same period “are the likely causes why the Philippines is one of the first to experience an Omicron variant surge in the region.”
Our Asian neighbors have been ramping up the inoculation of their people. According to January 2022 data from a Goldman Sachs study, China has a vaccination rate of 90 percent; Singapore, 89 percent; South Korea, 87 percent; Australia, Japan, and Vietnam, 80 percent; Malaysia and Taiwan, 79 percent; New Zealand, 78 percent; Thailand, 73 percent; Hong Kong, 67 percent; India, 65 percent, and Indonesia, 63 percent. The Philippines has so far vaccinated only 51.8 percent of the population, which is equivalent to 57.5 million fully inoculated individuals. At this rate, we are estimated to reach a rate of 70 percent by March 2022. We have also given more than 6.2 million booster shots.
It is a good thing that the government has procured millions of doses of vaccines for our people. Some local governments are now starting the pre-registration of kids aged 5-11 for vaccination. I sincerely hope that all levels of government step up their game in terms of the administration and logistics of getting all these vaccines to our people, especially those in the provinces.
We commend our health care workers and all the frontliners for their contributions to this fight against COVID-19. But even those who are not in the trenches fighting this war can become heroes. So simple: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance and get vaccinated. So elegant — “sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.”
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