Where do we go from here?
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2020 - 12:00am

The outlook for the rest of 2020 certainly looks bleak. It seems that Murphy’s Law remains in full effect. Over the weekend, while quarantine was still in full effect, a medical flight crashed on the runway in NAIA killing eight people. At this point, we often find ourselves praying and wondering if the year is planning on giving us any respite at all moving forward?

March is over and we move into April both worried and careful. If the first three months of the year have taught us anything it’s that we can no longer use the old adage “well, it can’t get any worse”, because apparently it can. We were barely starting to stand up again from the Taal eruption when the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 hit and as far as we can tell, we are still smack in the middle of the crisis. There may be an end in sight (optimistically speaking), but it’s still well off in the distance.

So what do we do now? We are three weeks into the enhanced quarantine period and, for some, it’s beginning to settle into the new normal. Not that there is anything normal about it. But routines are being made and habits are being formed. For those of us lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and food on the table, we are trying to do our best to stay put and do our share in flattening the curve. After all, it’s the least we can do.

But we also worry about those left out in the cold with no savings and no way of taking care of themselves. After all, we have to realize it’s not as simple for others to just “stay home”. Many don’t have homes to stay in and many others who may be able to “stay indoors” don’t have anything to eat or feed their families with. It’s a bleak situation for so many Filipinos and we can’t even predict when the end will be.

Many local government units (LGUs) are doing their best to provide for the underprivileged Filipinos in their areas, but it’s impossible to do enough in such a short amount of time. Plus, these are unprecedented waters and everyone is doing their best   given the circumstances. Some are performing better than others. Honestly, during this time when things are so hard I believe we need to put the regular politics aside and go with what works.

There was a meme circulating about how less productive LGUs need to copy those that are doing more. It was funny, but it was also true. Best practices are being developed as the days go by and now is not the time for trying to “one up” each other. It is, instead, the time for adapting what works and implementing it. We don’t have time to try and make new ways – we need to swiftly implement ways that are already working and move quickly. So many lives depend on it.

As we move deeper into the quarantine period, even more Filipinos are going to feel the pinch. While some are blessed to be able to work from home, so many other small and medium enterprises do not have that luxury. Even those who do are finding their clients are also feeling the bind and pulling out business or slowing it down. While funds may last for a little while longer, these aren’t infinite and will run out unless some form of resolution happens soon.

In so many ways, this all feels like a race against time. We need to flatten the curve, lower the infections, save those who are already infected, and somehow find a way to emerge from the whole crisis somewhat whole. It doesn’t seem possible – and for many it won’t be. We’ve already lost so many lives to this pandemic and the entire impact won’t even be felt until we emerge from the other side.

At the end of the day, lives are going to be changed. The whole world is going to be changed. And what will this new world look like? Your guess is as good as mine, but hopefully it will be a kinder world. Hopefully we realize during these dark times that we really have to rely on each other. There is no one else.

Whenever I ask myself where do we go from here, the answer remains the same. We just try to think one day at a time and do the best we can with what we have. Considering how many people are in need – the poor, our frontliners, and so many who are out of work – it has really been the people, rising up and banding together, that have provided the most hope in these bleak times. We need to continue helping one another, any way we can, if we hope to come out of this intact.

Once it is possible to do so, it will be up to us to help bring our businesses and our people back to life. We need to reinvest in our own economy. Support local businesses, invest in Filipinos, and put what we can back into the country. I believe that together we can revive our businesses if we are willing to do so. Focus on SMEs because they are going to be hit the hardest and once we begin reinvigorating the economy from the ground up, hopefully things will slowly heal and improve.

In the meantime, it’s up to the business still running to help provide a sense of “normalcy” and stability. We need that now more than ever. To know that despite all of this, there are still businesses running, working, and pushing us forward. It’s heartening to think that there is still a world that we will eventually be able to go back to.

It’s wonderful to think that the “earth is getting a break” or that “we have time to reset and slow down”, but the fact remains that privilege remains a big part of our current situation. Lockdown is not the same for all people. If it were then, by all means, give the earth as much time as she needs. But there are people starving and dying not from the virus, but from lack of money, food, and shelter and we need to remember them too.

Are we going to be okay? I believe so. But it won’t be easy. We need to work together if we are going to get to that brighter tomorrow. Recently, my son-in-law, Nino, got involved in a project I thought was incredibly uplifting. As an entertainer, he was hit particularly hard by this crisis because events, gigs, and shows completely stopped. Creatives in general were out of work. So he and friends from the theatre community united everyone in a beautiful version of the classic “Umagang Kay Ganda” to help raise funds for those who lost their livelihoods in the wake of this tragedy.

The lyrics are especially poignant now… “basta tayo’y magkasama, laging mayroong umagang kayganda… haharapin natin.” That’s where we are now. We need to stick together if we want to make it to a brighter morning.

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