A COVID 19 ironic view
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - October 26, 2020 - 12:00am

The book of Dean Jeremias Montemayor entitled “Ours to Share” continues to be relevant despite the passage of about half a century. For those who would desire to understand the gamut of the social problem of dense population, reading his book will be enlightening. Dean Montemayor saw migration as a seemingly irreversible social problem. With highest respect to the eminent scholar, let me dramatize what the dean wrote in philosophical lingo. A young son of a grizzled farmer would not anymore want to toil under the blistering sun like his forebears. To him, the lure of the city was irresistible. He dreamt of working as a janitor in an air-conditioned city office. At the earliest opportunity. He put his clothing in a neat carton and rushed into an uncertain life in the city.

COVID-19, in an ironic twist of circumstance, offers us a unique glimpse into a viable solution of overpopulation in urban centers. It is sad that, no thanks to the pandemic, bad economy has forced the closure of many companies. Thousands of workers, mostly the blue-collar jobbers, have been displaced. Even the steel-heeled ones have found the exercise of their profession rather challenging. Their lives in the city are no longer the same as the heydays prior to the coronavirus. Their better option is to go back to their home provinces.

If Montemayor were alive today, he would, perhaps, be happy to re-write his book and dwell on the topic of reverse migration. In a manner of speaking, the virus has opened the chance for people to hurry back home. But, I am sure the dean himself will acknowledge that it will not be easy. For one, there is the stigma of failure attached to anyone home bound. The label of a city misadventure is a disturbing baggage. Worse than the emotional burden is the real financial problem. The cost of travel for someone’s who has been jobless the last few months is huge. Add it to the expense of starting something and the horizon is bleak for those who are not stout-hearted.

This is where government can come in. It has agencies that can make the idea of going home attractive. Government has to reformulate policies and spend where money is more relevant. Example. Funds needed for someone who takes off his security guard uniform to don a farmer’s garb is bound to be more productive than the SAP dole-out. If instead of spending more than P300 million to bring dolomite to cover the garbage in Manila shorelines, government gave it to shelter those going back to the provinces, the taxes would not have been thrown to utter waste.

Yet, from the leadership squabbles in Congress, I did not discern anything that would have shown any reformulation of policies. Had legislators taken advantage of the ironic opportunity presented by COVID, we would have cushioned the impact the virus wrought on our lives. Sayang.

  

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