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Long day’s journey

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2020 - 12:00am

Merry Christmas, fellow punch-drunk inmates! Welcome to our last column for 2020. If only we could turn the corner and be welcomed by a joyous rebirth in 2021. What a gift that would be after this annus maximus horibilis.

But gifts did come year-round and we are grateful. Topping the list will always be our frontline health care workers. They’ve given, and given up, so much to face an opponent no one was trained to confront. And the toll to them has been devastating. For every life of a health care worker lost or their time sacrificed, loved ones are left carrying an equal or heavier burden.

Noblest of all. As of Dec. 13, 2020, more than 13,000 of them have been infected here at home. 76 deaths. 31 doctors. 18 nurses. Of health worker deaths, more than 40 percent are physicians. The attrition is particularly harsh on our overseas health workers. The statistics tell the morbid truth. In the US, Filipinos comprise only 4 percent of total nurses but in total fatalities, 30 percent of the fallen are Filipino.

A CNN report shares research done by a team with members from University of California at Berkeley and Brown University, among others, on this disturbing phenomenon. There are at least four reasons. (1) Our nurses are disproportionately assigned to the toughest jobs: emergency rooms, intensive care units, nursing homes. They really are the first and the last line; (2) They are often the breadwinners supporting multi-generational families residing with them in the US and left here at home. Hence, the bite-the-bullet attitude (kapit sa patalim) inducing them to stick with these high stress duties; (3) Filipino nurses tend to have significant health disparities: higher prevalence of poor health, obesity, high blood, asthma and diabetes.

The report quotes Zenei Cortez, co-president of the largest nurses’ union in the US, National Nurses United, who says that Filipino nurses are less likely to complain or to speak up when they feel treatment to be less than fair. When you come to the US on a work visa, you’re always afraid to cross your employer for fear of being sent back.

We can never thank them enough.

Born yesterday who? Another Christmas present is the new lens through which we see things. Take, for instance, technology. It used to be one of the largest contributors to the widening generation gap. A favorite meme on social media is one that shows a 60s era TV set with manual dial for changing channels. And the caption reads: “My parents had a TV like this. I remember because I was the remote.”

Before the pandemic, we had already become our parents and our kids became us. They are now the remotes, operating our gadgets and helping us navigate through the accelerated obsolescence. But now, we ourselves have become quick studies as dictated by necessity. That complicated contraption we couldn’t be bothered to master? It wasn’t so daunting after all. The concept of “woke” in the context of old dogs and new tricks.

The silver lining is that technology has promoted a bridging of the communication gap between their generation and ours. Many who felt that culture shock are now starting to adjust and find comfort in social media. Zoom, Facebook and other platforms have made it possible for us not just to communicate but to understand each other better. There is no such thing as social distancing on the virtual plane.

Hi Mom! Another great gift for many has been that family upgrade we now find time to install. All the to-dos fueling the “I’m too busy” mindset have been scaled back and we realize they were also there to numb us from back stories we chose not to deal with. Now, the de-numbing has us in a better place. The empathy for others’ experiences, the deeper connection with friends, spirituality.

For some, the time together has magnified existing tears in the fabric of relations. We also wrote in the past of spikes in exploitation and abuse occasioned by the forced hunker in your bunker. But for many, the chance at familial intimacy is already its own reward. I know that for parents with college age children (like myself), the lockdowns have been a blessing in that we see more of them.

We also appreciate the gift of friendship. The ayudas, the unexpected gestures, the welcome call or the unexpected text. Presence warms the heart. And also the gift of laughter. Today, everyone is a comic.

Keep the faith. “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.”

Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. The Metro Manila Film Festival is a gift that the Philippine film industry worked hard for, in collaboration with stakeholders like the national government, local governments and theater owners, to provide the moviegoing public with homegrown entertainment at this, the most lucrative week for exhibitors. The Christmas to New Year playdates are the domain of Hollywood “roadshow” presentations in major film markets in the world. In the Philippines, that stretch is dedicated to local movies and it has proved to be equally lucrative for theater owners. Through the years, the MMDA has ably presided over blockbuster festival weeks in a sustainable combination of movies selected with a balance of critical and commercial values.

Movies have been called the highest form of art, given what it takes to make them. The Filipino movie industry does not fall too far behind Hollywood and their streaming service transformation. At this time of pandemic, the festival has gone digital. Just as new movies are released on Netflix, the MMFF as well has premiered on online platforms (see https://www.facebook.com/mmffofficial/) making it easier for everyone to access.

The MMFF has evolved from being an “affirmative action” equalizer to becoming such an ingrained part of Metro Manila culture. Like the best in ourselves, it has survived the Pandemic. Let’s all continue to support Filipino movies!

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