Saturday, September 25, 2021

Editorial: A year since ‘gahi’g ulo’

Editorial Cartoon by Enrico Santisas

A YEAR passes since President Rodrigo Duterte’s swipe at the Cebuanos for being “gahi’g ulo” (hard-headed) after seeing footage of “nonchalant” citizens’ movement in the time of quarantine. A supposed minion echoed the strike in a press conference later, and the Cebuanos had it, the backlash burst forth on social media.

To recall, in June of 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), represented by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as Visayas Overseer, had to take front seat in controlling the Cebu crisis. You can see from the seating arrangement in that first major press conference that the national was taking over, the local executives on second row.

And what did the IATF discover in the days after? Well, that there was no coherence in the hodgepodge of data from the agencies—“a lack of coordination,” simply put. We found that beyond the alleged density of the Cebuano head, crisis management or the lack of it was simply all over the place.

We have since then set in place a wider system of contact tracing, no small thanks to Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong who lent his method to Cebu. More isolation centers were set up and granular community lockdowns were implemented. Far from perfect, but they certainly helped in, yes, flattening the curve, a learned phrase that suddenly became pop by-word.

Recently, Google’s Covid-19 Community Mobility Report for Metro Cebu in July showed that a vast majority of the populace had confined most of their movement in their immediate communities. That, despite the more liberal quarantine status we had while we take steps into animating our economy. Much of the movement apparently refers to workers traffic, which probably explains that in Cebu City’s Emergency Operations Center’s tracer figure, the recent transmissions happened mostly in workplaces. Coming second are residential areas, which also confirms Google’s mobility report that most citizens are mostly in their homes.

Since our cities were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), it was as though some big arm swept an entire populace off the table. All too suddenly, one can feel the radical reduction of movement in the city streets, except in rush hours. In most times of the day, the streets are almost deserted. The erstwhile vibrant malls are suddenly muffled with fewer people.

If anything, there is palpable cooperation from the Cebuanos this time, a more hopeful antithesis to the “gahi’g ulo” rock that knocked our heads last year. Large numbers are trooping into vaccination centers, and still a good number of willing individuals beyond the priority list try their luck by walking in anyway.

There is nothing wrong with the Cebuanos, really. The protocol violations among bus and jeepney drivers don’t even count; the motivations apparently are honest enough. There are ocassional inebriates in restobars, but they’re a trickle.

This is precisely why we wonder that despite a largely cooperative populace, political noise somehow plays out a different tune. “The trouble with Cebu is that there is too much politics. You can quote me on that,” said a national official in one of the media forums. We need not name him though, but the message was heard, loud and clear. Our Covid crisis seems fought via publicity stunts, power-flexing apparently towards an election year. Raise your hand if you heard of a large coalition of leaders passionately pushing for vaccination more than the rate that they are setting up tarpaulins. “Gahi’g ulo” shouldn’t refer to the citizens.


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