Survivors (not) ready!

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    ‘And so it goes—we will be left to care for ourselves until such time that a safe vaccine is developed to kill COVID-19. Until then, we will all be contestants on Survivor Pilipinas, with only our wits and own devices at our disposal in order to stay safe in these times.’

    WELCOME to Survivor Pilipinas, COVID-19 edition. 

    If you’ve had occasion to browse through any social media platform this past week, chances are you’ve seen a meme that simply says “Survivor Pilipinas” in reference to the recently implemented general community quarantine in Metro Manila and other regions around the country. 

    “Survivor Pilipinas” is a play on the reality TV series called Survivor, where contestants are left to their own devices in different remote locations around the world. It became wildly popular in 2000, when its maiden series kicked off in Pulau Tiga, Malaysia. The idea is that contestants must outwit, outplay, and outlast each other in order to become the sole survivor, and therefore the winner of the series. Each week, contestants battle it out in challenges against the other tribe, with the losing group going to the Tribal Council where they would vote out one of their own off the island. 

    And so it will go, week after week, until there is only the sole survivor left. 

    Sound familiar? 

    Seeing, listening, and watching government in these past weeks feels more and more like folks have been left on their own, with little to no help from government. The Social Amelioration Program, meant to provide relief to families who could not earn a livelihood during lockdown, was wracked with many problems, from the confusing lists of beneficiaries, slow distribution, reports of kickbacks by local officials. The DOLE’s relief program for employees was also short-lived due to lack of budget, and loan programs from SSS and other similar agencies, hard to access. 

    And now, judging by the first day of the general community quarantine, people who had to go back to work were largely left to fend for themselves in terms of public transportation, as buses and jeeps are still not allowed to operate. It was disheartening to see scores of people waiting by the roadside, hoping to catch a ride to work. Some took matters into their own hands, and tried to bike to work, without the previously promised bike lane along EDSA. For many, walking was the only option—and it makes me angry to hear that some essential workers have to walk from Makati to Parañaque (and back) every day just to get to work. 

    These are the same people that government was singing praises about a month ago—how important they are, how they are modern-day heroes in light of the pandemic. But that’s it. Just words. The simplest kind of assistance that government can provide—reliable public transportation—is denied to our essential workers because they are apparently still figuring things out. What were they doing these last two-and-a-half months? Zoom e-numan? Making Dalgona coffee? Baking ube cheese pandesal? Whatever it was, it’s apparent that a thorough plan of what reopening the cities would require wasn’t part of the agenda. As CNN anchor Chris Cuomo said: “We elect people to lead. To do the job for you.” 

    Snark aside, more disturbing is the attempt to gaslight the populace when it comes to the data about how many COVID-19 cases and deaths we really have. Three days leading up to the implementation of the GCQ, cases were still going up. And what were we told? “Oh, those are old cases. Fresh cases are down.” What? Are we talking about vegetables here? Meat? Until now, we are still quibbling about mass testing. It’s not necessary, they say. We can’t do it, one admitted. “Oh we are doing targeted testing!” one boasted. Yeah, right. Tell that to the OFWs who have been stuck in quarantine facilities for over a month, waiting for a paper certification, until media shone a light on their situation. 

    And so it goes—we will be left to care for ourselves until such time that a safe vaccine is developed to kill COVID-19. Until then, we will all be contestants on Survivor Pilipinas, with only our wits and own devices at our disposal in order to stay safe in these times. May we all remain safe and healthy even as we plunge headlong into the danger posed by COVID-19.

    Remember: Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. We all need to survive so we can vote in 2022. 

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