After Delta and Omicron – what’s next?

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

You think it’s over?  Well, think again! As the old proverb goes, “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” How can we assume that the end of something will soon happen when it still exists in our midst? When we find a solution or a cure for the COVID-19 virus, only then can we achieve peace of mind. Right now, we need to burn the midnight oil, create more efficient and practical guidelines because we need to learn to live with the virus.

Why rely on government alone? Everyone should be proactive in resolving their own COVID-19 related issues, whether at work or at home. The goal is to survive. Let’s admit it, somewhere along our holiday break even before Omicron arrived, we ignored the most important COVID-19 protocols. As a result, many families were hit hard by the virus. And even while many say that most were mild cases, some still died. In the first week of January, a sudden surge occurred and every week thereafter, the numbers continued rise. Don’t forget the unreported cases as well.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that Omicron, the highly infectious variant, continues to sweep the world. Our Department of Health reported that Omicron cases have been recorded in 13 out of 17 regions in the country. It is also the predominant variant in NCR but the most common lineage in the country is still the Delta variant.

With the way this virus spreads and morphs from one variant to another, it can be easily concluded that a new one will develop. So, let’s remain vigilant but most important, wise.

In my opinion, lockdowns are a thing of the past. It will hurt the economy badly and the citizens who need to work and put food on their table. Our government has already given all it can. They have also squeezed out the juices from the poor taxpayers. Not to mention, corruption issues such as Pharmally expenditures have also drained our coffers. We should move on and know what to do. Government must strictly implement the rules. They should assign men in uniform to man strategic areas especially marketplaces, public transportation terminals, malls and churches. If the IATF and LGU are clear and maintain a simple rule, then they can punish those who defy and move on. Private entities must be given some leeway to call the shots to achieve the sustainability of their enterprises. Government must be careful not to impose too much on them unless they break the rules. The Department of Labor (DOLE) must be straightforward but fair to both the employer and the employee. DOLE has a tendency to bully the employers and demand too much from them. If you continue to do so, you will force companies to shut down, resulting in a rise of the unemployed.

*      *      *

In memoriam of the late F. Sionil Jose, our National Artist for Literature (2001).

My father, the late Maximo V. Soliven, was once asked who he considers the greatest contemporary Filipino writer and novelist. He gave two names – the late Nick Joaquin (alias Quijano de Manila, also a National Artist) and of course the late Francisco Sionil Jose. A third one came to mind, Greg Brillantes, whom he considered a fine writer who could have written the “the great Filipino novel.”

Being a “saluyot” himself, my father could have been biased in favoring Manong Frankie (as he was fondly called by those close to him). But such is the truth. According to him, F. Sionil Jose and his novels have been the most persistent in telling, in epic-style, the story of the Filipino, warts and all.

In one of his Philippine STAR columns, By the Way, my father wrote:

Having fought his own way from poverty, it is clear that Frankie is obsessed with the dilemma of poverty. Even his latest opus, which I received by messenger from him a few weeks ago, is a collection of his typically pungent essays and speeches, entitled (how else?) ‘Why We Are Poor,’ instead of a subtitle, he puts on the cover a pre-title: ‘Heroes in the Attic, Termites in the Sala…’ I found the collection, on perusal, vintage Frankie. Full of compassion, of humor and tenderness and of rage.

Frankie, who founded that wonderful bookshop La Solidaridad on Padre Faura street in dusty Manila, has seen his novels translated into 28 languages, including our native Ilokano. Sionil Jose is a veteran journalist, who started out in the ’40s – more than 64 years ago! We were buddies in the old Manila Times during that great daily’s glory days on Florentino Torres street in the TVT building, up till he quit the newspaper in 1960.

His essays on social issues and agrarian reform won him many awards. In 1980, Frankie received the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Award for Literature and Journalism. In 2001, he was named National Artist for Literature and, in 2004, he received the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award. What an irony the latter award was for Frankie Sionil Jose, a lifetime anti-Communist! He won the prestigious prize dedicated in honor of the great Chilean poet and leading Communist, the late Nobel Prize laureate Pablo Neruda!

Frankie, now coasting alone to retirement (he’ll never quit, though) has begun to look, with his shaved head, like a benign Buddha. Don’t be fooled. Fires of anger and wisdom continue to blaze within his soul and erupt from his fingertips onto his pen.

Yesterday, I received, posthaste, the following reaction from Frankie. I published it without further comment: Maximo V. Soliven, I hope you have perused my latest book, Why We Are Poor. That book is an endorsement of your column today on nationalism. I always have had great affection for you, knowing you for years, your opposition to a fellow Ilokano – Marcos – that took some doing! Also, I recall only too well that rousing extemporaneous lecture on Rizal in Baguio some years back, and etc., etc.

Max – I am older than you but we have seen together our country sink deeper into poverty and corruption. And now, you have pointed a finger at the real cause of it all – the fact that we are not a nation although we are already a state. And why not? Because the rich Filipinos – the mestizos, the taipans, the Indio oligarchs – did not modernize this country. Being anti-Filipino, they send their money to Europe, to the United States and Switzerland, and to China. And for this reason, we are poor and our women go abroad to work as servants and prostitutes. Max, how do we build a nation? How do we redeem our people?

Lakayac unayen. Nabannogac nga agririawen (I’m already too old and too tired to argue). Like Bertold Brecht said, ‘Shouting about injustice hoarsens the voice.’ I hope your voice will never hoarsen. Agbiag ka! – Frank

After my father died in 2006, I was formally introduced to Manong Frankie and Tita Tessie. I started visiting his bookshop, joining his literary and socio-political discussions almost every other week, attending the PEN conferences and also supporting him on his endeavor with the late Ed Angara in forming Akademyang Filipino. He told me that he was getting too old already and was concerned for our country’s future and that having this group of national artists and scientists may help in the modernization and progress of the country.

Manong Frankie died on Jan. 6, 2022, aged 97, at the Makati Medical Center, where he was scheduled for an angioplasty the next day. He was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Dios ti kumuyog, Manong. It’s time to rest and be at peace!

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with