OUR place, Sitio Kawayan in Barangay Sambag 2 in Cebu City, is now among the frontlines in the war against the coronavirus with some infections already reported there. This is a difficult war for barangay officials and the villagers but the experience in dealing with an invisible foe is priceless. It will also prove the inherent difficulty in waging this kind of war in a major urban center.
The cities of Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu can be considered the urban center in Cebu and to a certain extent the entire Central Visayas. Most communities here are cramped with people including those from neighboring localities and provinces. The common denominator is the work that can be had here by these people or their relatives.
The setup in the communities here is what makes it difficult to prevent the spread of the virus once somebody is infected. Unlike in gated communities, fences do not enclose dwellings here but rather the dwellings stand close to each other. The cramped setup means that members of families mostly spend their time outside their dwellings and go home only to sleep or stay there for a few hours.
That setup is not conducive for the “stay-at-home” diktat to prevent the spread of the virus. In this sense, I say that hardheadedness is not the sole reason why people in these communities violate lockdown restrictions. The physical setup in the communities where these people live prods them, too, to violate the restrictions.
The setup in Cebu Province is different. The geographical setup there allows dwellings to breathe. Even in town centers where the population is relatively dense, dwellings are not cramped and families can stay at home in comfort. In the upperlands, houses are separated by wide vacant lots or farms.
On this, barangay officials in the urban centers know better. City officials mostly live in gated communities but many barangay officials don't. So barangay officials know the terrain better. And they know their constituents better too. I will therefore pat on the back the officials in Barangay Sambag 2 and the other frontliners there for courageously manning the barricades, sort of, despite the dangers of them catching the disease.
The son of former city councilor Noel Wenceslao, Keith Noel or KN, is currently among the active members of the Sambag 2 barangay council. He told me through a text message that Sitio Kawayan has two infections, one of whom has died and the other still in isolation at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. He mentioned the financial help provided by the City that they used to purchase personal protective equipment for the frontliners and rice for those affected by the restrictions they imposed.
There are, after all, positives in all of these. Ordinary folks are taught the value of following rules and of staying at home. The old saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is also being reiterated. For government officials, eyes are being opened to the need to redesign communities, especially in cramped areas. Even the transport sector has things to learn from the lockdown.