Olsim: September ends

IT HAS been six months. Just like many other things in these extraordinary times, the muse was quarantined -- unable to process thoughts and even whispers. The hands worked, of course, but were unable to punch the keys.

Throughout those months, we served as relief packers, delivery boys, call center agents, and monitoring lizards (safety protocols monitoring members) -- any task that would give us purpose in said seemingly apocalyptic trance...

except that this is reality.

But September ends in some few dragging days. Green day's song has become more than an anthem for the dark-eyed emo generation. In modern pop culture, "Wake me up when September ends" has become associated with disasters and crisis, and to wake up someone when these undesirable events are over. The song exudes both tragedy and hope -- that even in these uncertain and difficult times, things will always get better.

September 2020 is also the specific month in which our experts from UP determined as the peak month for CoViD19 cases in our locality (Benguet-Baguio). Our partners from the academe considered the risk involved from the opening of the economy in general and the easing of the community quarantine, our vegetable trading industry, and the weary community's tendency to deviate from safety protocols, specifically on social distancing (because we are all eager to visit our families and friends). September is a challenging month in this health crisis, but it is also a month for re-evaluating government response for future actions.

Coincidentally, September is also the month of Tourism and Travel, capped with the annual celebration of the UN-WTO International Tourism Day celebration every September 27th. In the country, this is supposedly a month for tourism weeks, local travels and expos, and conventions. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic happened, and all these plans went down the drain -- is this the "September End" for tourism? "Tourism will have to wait" said our leaders. Nevertheless, we have to believe and plan for the future; believe that tourism is still a tool for future economic recovery, and plan for a more sustainable and resilient tourism that considers safety and security, not only for tourists, but more importantly for the community.

The national government, acknowledging that the country cannot be on lockdown forever, is preparing for the gradual opening of travel and tourism but with attention to strict health safety protocols. On how to do that, there must be clear and responsive system from the top, and a strong messaging that we can only open up and live with the virus when we are responsible enough to do so. For our locality, the MIATF insisted that we are not yet ready; that we are still lacking facilities, funding, personnel, a trusted system, etcetera -- with that, tourism will have to wait... at least for us.

The last article I wrote earlier this March 2020, before the nationwide lockdown, underlined the socio-economic effects of this pandemic -- the inevitable crash of the global economy, loss of life and livelihood, and the social problems that may arise. It may sound prophetic that the things we wrote happened perfectly, but it is just so obvious from the start. It is difficult to stay positive today when even the word "positive" is now a negative thing. But just like September which will eventually come to pass, all these challenges and crisis will also end. That hopefully sooner than later, things will get better.


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