Land of the mourning

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - May 10, 2021 - 12:00am

COVID-19 has hit my home and the grief that follows comes in paroxysms, waves of emotions that weaken the knees and blurs the heart.

The message I received from the hospital said it all: “You will not be able to see the body off for cremation. No one is allowed to go near. The body bag will not be opened.”

There are many similar stories, and those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 know this well.

There is no chance for a proper farewell, no moments for a send-off. The bereaved are left to whisper their own goodbyes to the skies, to the wind or to the setting sun.

As I always say, one death is already one death too many. Yet, here we are with 17,000 deaths and counting.

At night, loud sounds of ambulance sirens slice through the eerie silence, blare after blare. Whoever hears it is not spared from the agony as thoughts race in one’s head – will the patient make it or will he be another statistic?

The past days, we’ve heard of so many people who have died of COVID-19 – journalists, friends, people in high places, top executives, etc. People are dying left and right.

All these deaths will be doubly hard when this pandemic ends and we start to get back to normal. For many of us, things will never be the same because the loved ones we thought would be there, just like before, have died because of the virus.

There’s no telling how or when this will end.


This harsh reality today underscores even more the importance of accelerating the rollout of vaccines.

To achieve this, we need to have more confidence in the vaccines. Many people are hesitant and there are a host of factors to blame on this – the Dengvaxia scandal is just one.

There was also not enough effort to educate the masses on the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-10. It’s as if Filipinos just woke up one day and were told to go to the vaccination centers.

In the provinces, the hesitation runs deep. People in poor communities rely instead on old wives’ tales to protect them from the evil corona. Some put their fate on quack doctors.

Thus, some of those who signed up don’t show up on the day of their vaccination schedules.

This needs to be addressed. Barangay health workers should step up their information drive on the benefits of getting vaccinated.

More vaccination sites

We also need to have more vaccination sites and more health workers to administer the doses.

In the US, vaccines are available in the pharmacies. You can book your appointment via ride-hailing apps.

It’s good that mall owners have repurposed portions of their establishments as vaccination sites. Makati City, for instance, tapped Ayala Malls Circuit to establish the first on-the-go vaccination site on the Circuit Makati Estates grounds.

This was in response to numerous requests from persons with disabilities and families with a bedridden member, Mayor Abby said.

Dragonflies or humans?

But we need more sites which is why I wonder why the Nayong Pilipino Foundation is opposing efforts to transform portions of its lot inside the Entertainment City in Paranaque into a vaccination site.

The lot has a thriving urban forest that needs to be protected, the NPF said, to the dismay of tycoon Ricky Razon, who is bringing in the Moderna vaccines into the country.

He wonders why NPF wants to protect a park over getting people vaccinated when we are in the midst of our biggest crisis ever.

Longer vaccine hours

Could it also help if we make the vaccination hours round the clock? It would reduce the concentration of people in vaccination sites during the day.

We should also allow all qualified healthcare providers, regardless of specialty, to administer the vaccine.

The Department of Health said 320,586 Filipinos are now fully protected against COVID-19 but this is just 0.46 percent of the government’s vaccine target of 70 million by yearend.

Note that in the US, millions are inoculated a day – more than four million was the highest daily record.

Crazy rich Filipinos

It’s been an excruciating wait here, but lucky are the ones who can easily fly out to the US to get their jabs.

We’ve heard about uber rich Filipinos going on inoculation trips, like a young tycoon and his wife who are in Los Angeles now for their vaccines.

A Forbes-listed billionaire, who is a deal-maker, corporate executive and former government official, also went on an inoculation trip to the US. There are many others quietly flying out to get vaccinated.

One would have to spend at least a million pesos for a month-long stay in the US to wait for the two doses.

Rich or poor, we need to get more people to take the vaccines.

This is the only way we can achieve herd immunity and hopefully, this would put an end to all the deaths so that when tomorrow comes, there will be no new reasons to mourn and we can again embrace the light of hope and dreams, and go back to how it used to be here in this land of the morning.



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

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