What can we do to flatten the curve?
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - April 2, 2020 - 12:00am

It’s easy to lose one’s mind these days. We can’t help it. It’s as if our dystopian future descended on us in the wink of an eye. Our everyday lives have been so rudely interrupted, no thanks to the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.

Our contact with other people has been limited to virtual interactions. We can only laugh with those tiny yellow smileys or tear up with crying emoticons. Our meetings are on Zoom and in chat groups. We’ve become detached from the outside world. But then again, the outside world has disappeared, too. There is nothing out there, but a giant empty city.

There’s no telling when this will end.

Bayanihan

But isolated and detached as we are, there is a way we can help and I am encouraged by the stories of people reaching out to others.

The bayanihan spirit is very much alive these days. Derived from the Filipino word “bayan,” which means  town or community, the term bayanihan refers to the spirit of communal unity to achieve a particular goal. It stems from the age-old practice of villagers working together to help a family relocate by moving their entire bahay kubo to another part of the village.

There’s no english word that captures bayanihan perfectly because I believe the custom itself is uniquely Filipino and I am happy to see it so strong nowadays as the country grapples with this pandemic.

I hear about stories of strangers helping each other and pooling resources to help frontliners. Individuals are raising funds to help health workers – and strangers are responding to these calls.

From my own circle, one chat group alone has already raised funds to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) for UP frontliners. We were able to look for suppliers with just a few texts, calls, and posts here and there despite our respective isolated existence.

Big business

Conglomerates have rallied their own troops, leading the private sector’s response to the crisis.

Lucio Tan-owned LT Group Inc. and Ramon Ang-led San Miguel Corp., for instance, have repurposed their facilities to produce much-needed ethyl alcohol for our frontline health workers.

The Sy-owned SM Foundation has also donated P170 million worth of full protective suits and other equipment to hospitals, while the MVP Group contributed virus specimen collection kits and other supplies needed by medical frontliners.

The Consunji Group’s DMCI, with the help of Bloomberry Foundation, also helped retrofit two wards of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to handle COVID-19 cases. The wards have negative pressure rooms that prevent contaminated air from going out.

From the food sector, Bounty Fresh donated a whopping 105,000 kilograms of fresh, dressed chicken to different areas in Luzon.

Some of these donations are for police frontliners in Bamban, Tarlac and Sta. Maria, Bulacan and frontliners in the cities of Pasig and Taguig through various community kitchens.

Bounty Fresh has also started donating 1,200 Adobo Connection packed meals for the healthcare workers of different hospitals, including the University of the East – Ramon Magsaysay (UERM) Memorial Medical Center, San Juan de Dios Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center and PGH.

The company also pledged 45,000 kilograms of fresh, dressed chickens as support to its merchandisers across Luzon and to its employees who are continuously in service.

Pilipinas Shell

Oil giant Pilipinas Shell is also doing its part to help, I was told when I asked about their response.

It has already endorsed P4 million to the Philippine Businesses for Social Progress (PBSP) for the purchase of family packs containing food and protection kits for displaced workers.

In addition, it donated more than 10,000 face masks and complete PPE sets to the Department of Health and the PGH.

Shell is also providing fuel support to BGC Bus, Ceres Bus and Ube Transport to help medical frontliners get to where they need to go.

As Pilipinas Shell country chairman Cesar Romero said, “this is an unprecedented time that demands compassion, respect, and kindness from all of us.”

Let’s do our share

There are many more companies and individuals joining in the collective effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The greater your capacity to help, the bigger support you can and you must give.

I hope there will be more. We all need to do our part to flatten the infection curve. We can help even from our own homes.

As one tycoon said to me, “this is not a battle, but a war.” Indeed, let’s all give our best and join the fight because it’s the right thing to do. Respond to calls for help or think of new ways to help. Let’s focus on saving Filipino lives.

Whether by sewing an improvised face mask or pooling funds for ventilators, we all can do something. Let the bayanihan spirit live on in each of us. In it, we see our dignity and with it, we are able to rise against all odds.

May we always remember that it is always an honor to help our fellow Filipinos. Let us do it today because as this virus has taught us, tomorrow may never come.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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