A Tale of Two Cities
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This Dickens novel is one of the finest examples of historical fiction in western literature. We, at least, know the opening lines. The start juxtaposes the theme of duality that informs his great work on the cities of London and Paris as seen against the background of the Terror.

It is easier to comprehend ideas by contrast and comparison. This is precisely why we don’t feel good about our overall COVID-19 performance relative to our ASEAN neighbors. But this curse can also be our deliverance. If not performing as well, we see where we’ve messed up and we take remedial action.

And we needn’t look beyond borders for that. Metro Manila has been ground zero from Day 1, its world leading population density and its porousness as an urban center rendering it impervious even to harsh lockdowns. Yet in June, both NTF Chief Implementor Carlito Galvez and DILG Secretary Eduardo Año declared Cebu City to have overrun even the Metro Manila cities as the new epicenter. It registered the highest number of infections nationwide, far outpacing the rest of the highly urbanized cities. On June 28, Cebu City had 4,562. Quezon City had 3,161, Manila with 2,290 and Makati at 961.

Cebu City did not roost long at the top. In less than two months, they had reversed the spikes. Only 400 active cases as of Oct. 7. Last Sept. 28, the city recorded just three new infections. The DOH is even talking about herd immunity being achieved. And the city has sustained this even without barangay or sitio level quarantines.

Cebu’s secret. In addition to the loose enforcement of protocols, the city was allowing positives to quarantine at home which was spreading the virus in households and communities. To counter this, they immediately added isolation centers and required positives to quarantine there. These same isolation centers are closing down this week. They also beefed up their contact tracing teams, from five to 423 and sped up the RT-PCR swab process. Where suspect cases once had to wait up to a week, unmonitored, for test results, now the wait is up to four days, max.

We know this in Metro Manila and we are doing it slowly. Our numbers are on the wane even as we continue to lead the way in infections. Last Thursday we had 566 in Metro Manila where once we would hit up to 2,669 in a day. It has been a longer journey but we are surely getting there.

We wrote last week that we should relish the breaks we get: “We are one of the few countries in that milestone top 20 list with a decelerating infection rate. Countries behind us are catching up.” Well, we hit as high as 18th but we’ve now dropped back to 19th, with Indonesia officially reclaiming its spot as highest in ASEAN.

Who needs Halloween? The premise of the hit horror/terror movie “The Purge” is that for one 12-hour period in each year, all crime including murder is legalized. Catharsis is supposed to be therapeutic. Purgation for purification. In two more weeks, it will be Halloween. But we have used up all our scare quota as we survived our own version of The Purge. In the 12 days of Cayetano vs. Velasco, everything was fair game and congressmen taught the nation how to get away with murder.

Even as we’ve settled back down into governing and we’re expecting a House version of the budget anytime now, we’re still recovering from the suspension of disbelief at how COVID-19 was all but forgotten in the run up to the change of leadership.

The boys and girls in the plastic bubble. The Los Angeles Lakers, the Filipinos’ co-favorite NBA team (with the Golden State Warriors), beat the Filipinos’ all-time favorite NBA coach, Erik Celino Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, in the NBA finals.

Filipino sports fans were not starved of international spectator fare, what with Alexandra “Alex” Eala’s rise to the top in Junior women’s tennis and Bianca Pagdanganan carrying our flag in women’s golf. Like Alex who competed in a Grand Slam event, the French Open, Bianca contended in one of the women’s majors, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. We were captivated watching her compete with the best in the world, and shooting two straight rounds of 65! She ended up finishing 9th, more than respectable for a rookie and bought herself and her country a ticket to the next major, the US Women’s Open.

Her top 10 finish was worth P4 million. Also, Bianca has established a record for greatest single jump in world ranking: from 712th she is now 234th. Compatriot Yuka Saso, two-time winner on the Japan Tour, is already ranked 74th in the world.

In our hearts. Yesterday our family celebrated mass for our beloved Marichu Vera-Perez Maceda, the 40th day since her passing. We extend our sincerest thank you’s to all who were with us as we mourned her. From President Duterte who warmly consoled us, to the nameless many who secretly sought to defray as much of our mother’s hospital expenses as payback for her help at the lowest points in their life. To all who sent their prayers and their flowers and those who obliged our request to donate instead to MOWELFUND. We know that where she is, Mom’s cup is overflowing.

MOWELFUND has reported that we have hit over P1.6 million as of yesterday, the same to be used as a trust fund for projects close to Mom’s heart like webinars on the craft of moviemaking, scholarships for children of movie workers, etc. Chair Boots Anson Roa Rodrigo referred to this as Mom’s coup de grace – managing to have a fundraiser from beyond.

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