Thursday, June 24, 2021

Malilong: One Cebu, why not One Philippines?

The Other Side

The other week, a friend was having dinner with his family at his home in Lapu-Lapu when he suddenly passed out, his face resting on the table. He never woke up, succumbing to a massive heart attack.

Upon learning of their father’s death, his children who were living abroad flew home in haste, arriving in time to attend his wake and interment.

A couple of months earlier, another friend asked her two sisters who were working abroad to come home immediately as their ailing mother’s condition had turned for the worse. They arrived three days after the call but never got to see their mother nor attend her burial. They were cooling their heels in isolation in a quarantine hotel while their mother was breathing her last.

The difference between the two cases is that when my late friend’s daughters arrived, the quarantine protocol being enforced at the Mactan airport was the one ordered by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. In the case of the two sisters, the prevailing quarantine regime at the time of their arrival was the stricter one ordered by the IATF.

It is easy to see then why Garcia’s preferred mode — swab test upon arrival, stay in isolation for two days while waiting for the results and immediate release when the test result is negative — is more popular than the IATF version of testing for the coronavirus only on the seventh day after arrival and mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the test result.

Being cooped up in a hotel room for two weeks, knowing that your loved ones whom you have not seen for a long time are waiting anxiously or excitedly at home can be terribly frustrating. It is doubly so when the person you came home for and whom you wanted to see for the last time may not be there anymore when you’re finally cleared to come out of quarantine because interment could no longer wait for even a grief-stricken daughter.

Then, there’s the matter of the quarantine expenses. A 14-day stay even in the cheapest hotel can be substantial. Only the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are spared from this burden; returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) are not as they do not enjoy government subsidy. A friend who went to the United States with her family last December to attend her father’s birthday learned this lesson the hard way, spending quite a fortune for hotel expenses when they came back.

Note, however that the IATF guidelines are not specific to Cebu; they are enforced in every part of the country where there is an international airport.

What makes us so special that we should not be subjected to the same rules that govern the conduct of everybody else? This is the question a doctor friend, who now lives in the US, asked in reaction to my column last week. The IATF rules are not intended to oppress; they are meant to protect us from an enemy that is invisible and unpredictable.

Is it because our numbers are low, proof that we can handle the Covid-19 threat on our own, without interference from Imperial Manila? But are we really safe from another surge while other parts of the country are still struggling to cope with rising infections?

We take pride in our being One Cebu, my friend said. Why can’t we embrace the idea of a One Philippines?


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