Heroism in the year 2020

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    ‘It just proves one thing: as individuals we may have little (and nothing against the resources of the entire government) but together, we can make quite a difference.’

    IF anybody told me back in December 2019 that the coming year would be one for the history books, perhaps I would not have paid it a lot of mind. Yet here we are, on the ninth month of community quarantine, set to celebrate Christmas in what is perhaps the most trying time we will see in our generation.

    There are those of us who have been hit harder by this pandemic. The grief over the loss of a loved one can never be quantified, and our hearts go out to those whose tables will have an empty seat this year. There are also many families who have a lot less — whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic, whose houses have been destroyed because of the calamities that hit us hard in the past months. This is perhaps the reason why a lot of folks I know have been consciously dialing back on the holiday revelry—it seems a little odd to overindulge knowing that many of our fellow Pinoys are struggling to find hope at such a difficult time.

    Despite all that has happened, I want to take time to appreciate those who have risen above and beyond the call of duty in order to keep our communities going. First, to our healthcare workers—the true heroes of 2020. To the doctors, nurses, medtechs, lab assistants, hospital and sanitation personnel who literally risk their lives day in and day out to care for strangers, clapping at 5 p.m. will never be enough. Letting you come through the line first will never be enough. At the end of this, we all must lobby government to increase the pay of our health workers, especially those in public hospitals. The same goes for private hospitals. While the value of our health workers can never be quantified in monetary terms, we must make sure that our healthcare workers make a decent and sustainable living for the service and care they render.

    The year 2020 has redefined what “essential worker” means. Jobs that were previously thought of as blue-collar ones are now viewed in a new light. This includes grocery personnel, delivery riders, and gas station attendants. Without these folks, everybody in lockdown would have been caught flatfooted, as it is nearly impossible to stock up food and essential supplies for more than two days, for most households. Yes, there are those than can afford and are able to stock up for a month, but the hard truth is most Filipino families buy food daily for a reason—money is hard to come by. Keeping food sources such as groceries, wet markets, and utility services remain vital to keep our communities going.

    Consider that public transportation was suspended for a long period and you’ll see all the more the sacrifice that essential workers made in order just to report for work. Several grocery employees I spoke to would bike for four hours a day just to get to their places of work; our health workers also experienced the same.

    While there are disturbing abuse cases that attracted national attention, our barangay workers also deserve our appreciation. If you think about it, they bore the brunt of implementing national government policies when it came to the quarantine, and had to deal with improperly communicated and ever-changing rules and guidelines. If you’re unhappy or satisfied with how your barangay officials and workers are dealing with these policies within your barangay, remember this the next time you are thinking of passing up voting in your barangay elections. The oft-heard excuse is “I don’t know anything about the candidates” at the barangay level should no longer be the norm; we all now know how these positions impact our lives, and should no longer shirk our responsibility of knowing who and what their platforms are at the next opportunity.

    Everybody who contributed tirelessly to donation drives, big or small, also deserves our appreciation. I am amazed by the countless organizations and individuals who stepped up to fill the gap left by the lack of foresight of our policy makers. These efforts went beyond the traditional relief donation drives – folks raised money for bicycles for frontline workers, musicians and artists streamed live sessions, those in the clothing industry fired up their sewing machines to make personal protective equipment…and the list goes on and on. It just proves one thing: as individuals we may have little (and nothing against the resources of the entire government) but together, we can make quite a difference.

    These are the true heroes of this year, and may we all live long to remember their heroism.

    And more importantly, beyond remembrance – may we all use our voices to ensure that their conditions become better than what it is now.