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Saving Patient Tiña
The members of the Sunday Writing Class rise to the occasion in saving the life of their classmate, Kristoffer Aaron Tiña, by raising funds for his fight against COVID-19. The artists in the group, like Junjie Ocharan, Hersam Sato and Nathaniel Musngi (whose respective illustrations of Tiña and his battle with the virus are shown above), help by accepting commissioned work. All proceeds go to Tiña’s medication.

Saving Patient Tiña

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2020 - 12:00am

How far will you go to help a friend battling COVID-19?

For my Sunday Writing Class (SWC) students in Gulod, it means moving heaven and earth, stopping their world many times to help save the life of 24-year-old Kristoffer Aaron Tiña. The artists in the group accepted — and are still accepting — commissioned work. The proceeds will go to Tiña. The bookworms are selling their prized collection. The proceeds, still, will go to Tiña. Others continue to knock on the hearts of generous souls. All for the love of Tiña.

The poets in our class serenade him on the phone with their geniuses on nights when he can’t sleep because of fear, or because his dry cough parches his spirit. Other kind souls, armed like cosmonauts in their PPEs, buy his medication and food supply and drop them in front of Tiña’s home in Calamba City.

Tiña, a college instructor, is alone at home. His mother is in the hospital in Laguna being treated also for COVID-19. His elder sister shuttles between the hospital and their home to look after the two patients, all this while maintaining ultimate safety precaution. Their house is ample enough for two people to observe proper social distancing.

“My case is not as ‘bad’ as my mom’s. She has other conditions that are further complicated by her comorbidity. So, the doctor advised me to do home quarantine,” he says.

At home, he sees stars when his fever sizzles and when his chest constricts as he gasps for air. But he chooses to heal at home rather than in the hospital “because we cannot afford anymore the bill of my mother.” His mind goes haywire thinking how on earth can they foot the ballooning bill (almost half a million pesos for more than a week of confinement) incurred by his mother’s hospitalization. But he’s trying to take everything in stride while keeping in mind and reminding others that COVID is also a serious financial threat.

“Sadly, the four months of the pandemic swept away our savings. I have resigned from my old workplace and I am just about to start my job in a city college. My sister, on the other hand, works as a freelance writer,” he says, stressing how grateful he is for the help he gets from his friends.

Tiña says having COVID “is a very tough experience.” It is a battle not just of the body but also of the soul. The two battles are intertwined. They collide and make him forlorn at times. But he’s a fighter and he will march on.

He adds, “Also, you have your neighbors panicking. Of course, you want to tell them that their anxiety is not helping you at all. But you also have to acknowledge that you cannot invalidate what they feel especially because of the nature of the virus.”

‘We are not pasaway’

Amidst his battle with the virus, Tiña, genius and good-natured, still has time to philosophize. It helps him get by. It’s his gift. In our Sunday Writing Class (which is open to high school and college students as well as working people who want to learn to write or continue their love for writing), he’s simply known as Tiña, the shortest appellation we can all give him for the length of his knowledge and the reach of his imagination. He finished magna cum laude in the BA Communication Arts program of UPLB. Just recently, he submitted two digital articles for the anniversary special of The STAR. And a few weeks before that, he published his essay that he originally wrote in our Sunday Writing Class (now being conducted online via Google Classroom) for the Young Blood section of Inquirer.

“My mom and I are not what many would label COVID patients as ‘pasaway.’ We are not ‘pasaway.’ In fact, my mom was just working and I was just securing my work requirements. We were normal citizens trying to get by. The pasaway narrative on COVID patients is very problematic. It makes the infected ones (feel) morally accountable and blameworthy. I think it is a convenient scapegoat to divert our attention away from the larger narrative of state accountability,” he says.

Thankful still

Tiña is confident he will get well. Despite being infected by the virus, he is still grateful — for friends who never leave his side, for friends who fight the battle for him. He’s grateful for the artists in the SWC like Nathaniel Musngi, Junjie Ocharan and Hersam Sato, also their friend Jimz Bryan Abecilla. He’s thankful to Nadine Gaton, PJ Morante, JC Lipa, Jeradine Operaña, Ace Gimutao, Joshua Lumbera, Aaron Ramilo, Clark Constantino among others for parting with their treasured books and selling them for his medication. He’s thankful for everyone in our small community of writers at the Sunday Writing Class for all the help and prayers extended to him. Also for his former colleagues and students in Collegio de Los Baños, where he was an instructor for three years. In all of them he sees the handiwork of God.

“Upon recovery, I suppose  I have to defer or delay the dream of finishing my master’s degree. After all, a classmate in master’s told me that it is not a race. I have my own narrative to write,” he says.

He says battling COVID is painful — to the body, to the spirit, to the pocket. It’s also painful for one’s pride because people already have their judgment on people with COVID. But he has let go of that pride because stenciled on his core now is the desire to heal.

“It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. But it is also true that it takes a community to cure the sick,” he ends.

As his teacher, I have a personal request. Please drop Tiña a note or a poem at kgtina@up.edu.ph. It will help him heal. Thank you. Take care. *

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and IG @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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