Saturday, September 18, 2021

Tabada: ‘Sa amoa’


TWO months of staying put in Silang helped me grow a few vegetables, calluses, and some certainties about “amoa.”

After the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) closed the laundry shop outside the village, the husband and I washed our clothes by hand. In the afternoon, we pulled weeds and planted the seeds of vegetables he turned into our meals.

Then the authorities borrowed again from the alphabet and came up with new acronyms. Cavite, where we currently live, was placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting May 16; Metro Manila, under modified ECQ (MECQ).

Scrabble players may be familiar with the mini-storm stirred when a player comes up with a strange combination of letters that just happens to hit double- or triple-the-points squares.

Comprehension of meaning became a lower priority than establishing the existence of novel acronyms reorganizing the new normal after the lifting of the ECQ.

In four days of GCQ, the Cavite governor opened and then closed all malls for violating safety protocols. More than 3,000 citizens were arrested for violating one or a combination of the five measures aimed at containing the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic: leaving home with a quarantine pass, wearing a mask in public, maintaining physical distancing, observing the curfew, and following the liquor ban.

In the alphabet soup stirred up by the latest acronyms, Covid-19 was shunted aside as families trooped to the malls and clogged highways. What happened to fears of a second or a third wave of the pandemic reinforcing the indisputable logic of staying home?

Unless one needs to report to work, “home” remains the best one-syllable arrangement of letters responding to Covid-19. Acronym soups calibrate but also obfuscate official responses.

I prefer the easier-to-understand logic of survival, sanity, and community embedded in the slogans charting the pandemic timeline: from “Stay home, stay safe” to #HealthyAtHome and #TravelTomorrow.

Among Bisdaks (native Cebuanos), “sa amoa” is a phrase that captures the self-possession of being in the sanctum sanctorum that is one’s home. In my generation, one did not treat guests to eat out in restaurants. “Kaon ta sa amoa” invites a stranger to more than a home-cooked meal; it means to be with the family.

Perhaps because Cebu, my home, remains under the ECQ status that stringently restricts people movement, I am immune to the temptation of misreading GCQ and MECQ. I promise four puppies born here in Silang, though, that when it will be safe to travel, “uli mi sa amoa (we go home).”


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