Break point

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - February 28, 2021 - 12:00am

It is nearly March 2021, and Filipinos have managed to obtain not a single order of the vaccine against the coronavirus.

Well, there were some smuggled vaccines, and these are technically “drugs” which should therefore trigger the attention of our Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, but given their dismal performance as well as that disastrous shootout with a fellow government agency, there really isn’t much we should expect from that quarter. And frankly, perhaps smuggled vaccines might save more lives than the anti-drug crusade could ever hope to accomplish.

The entire world seems to have managed to already get their hands on vaccines, and I see not just VIPs being shot in the arm, but also friends who are just regular joes in other countries, boasting about getting jabbed. Indonesian ladies. Singapore bartenders. Even fashion merchandisers in New York, for Christ’s sake.

Meanwhile, in our dear sweet motherland, we have zilch. Nothing to show to the infuriated intelligentsia, nothing to share with the suffering Filipinos, who are en route to suffering an entire year’s lockdown (and more!) dictated by an unresponsive government.

Much has been written about the incompetence of the authorities, those political characters who occupy the highest positions in the land, and their failure to discharge the simplest and most basic of their duties to their constituents (by that, I mean, keeping us alive). I am sure many more incendiary commentary, if not abusive language, will be thrown in their direction. But what amazes me is how the Filipinos manage to tolerate this.

What’s going to be the straw that will break the carabao’s back?

We’re such beasts of burden, that our government just keeps on piling on hardship upon hardship, and still here the Filipinos are, tolerating it. Every single excruciating, jobless, hungry, exhausting, and even physically painful minute of it. Until the virus strikes, and there is no more corpus to tolerate any of it.

The Filipinos didn’t revolt at the harsh lockdown measures imposed last year. Perhaps, everyone was scared then of the unknown disease, when no testing kits were available yet, no treatments were known, and medical personnel were dying in the hospitals.

The Filipinos didn’t revolt when they couldn’t get to their jobs and earn their wages. They didn’t revolt despite the many weird restrictions about leaving their homes and entering establishments that were imposed, including shared quarantine passes and checkpoints.

They didn’t revolt when they were prohibited from exercising or accessing their relatives, and once allowed to step out, when they were forced to buy Chinese face shields, which they had to wear while on motorcycles or driving vehicles.

They didn’t revolt when students were sent home, malls were shuttered, and airports were closed.

They didn’t revolt when they were arrested for gathering in small groups, even as they could see that policemen could celebrate birthdays and celebrities could throw fancy events.

Now, despite passing trillions in emergency funds to purportedly procure vaccines, despite being promises given of shots by mid-February, despite the staging of mock-drills for the transport of the vials, we are told there is not a single signed contract for the procurement of the vaccine, and no start date for the implementation of the vaccination program.

Meanwhile, new variants of the virus are being detected, threatening to undermine the efficacy of the first batch of these vaccines.

So, dearest countrymen, perhaps you can still swallow this? You are still able to smile and be supportive of your dearest leaders, who are playing hide and seek with those emergency funds, even as we draw our last painful breath?

The Filipino is resilient, we proudly proclaim. That is, until he is wiped out by a pandemic.

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