Chuck Baclagon


Who would have thought that things could go from bad to worse in less than a week?

It was only last Thursday, March 12, when a nonchalant afternoon in the office was disrupted by a broadcast of Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement imposing drastic measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Metro Manila, the national capital region which is home to 12 million people, entered a month-long lockdown on Sunday followed by an imposition of a curfew.

To date, the total number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to 142 and 12 people have died after contracting the virus. Officials said they are also limiting services at the state-run Philippine Heart Center after 13 personnel were exposed to a an infected person.

Photos on social media showed crowds lining up in bus stations since Friday, while supermarkets in the capital were emptied of groceries, with some shoppers hoarding goods amid the uncertainty.

As I write this, schools, most work, and public transportation are suspended, and establishments will be closed as drastic government measures expand to the whole of mainland Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” to contain the spread of the virus.

The newest measure also constitutes the “heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.”

All this has brought confusion and anxiety upon the population of a metropolis suddenly disrupted by a military response to a public health emergency.

It is in these uncertain times that we realize the fragility of many of the systems we currently depend on, and much like the climate crisis, the outbreak challenges us to exercise radical empathy and greater social solidarity. 

Especially in these times, when those who benefit from the status quo are using the outbreak as a means to contain dissent and free thought.

Understand that the forces of tyranny only win by making us feel alone.

For too long we have been taught to live in fear. To not step out. To constantly dwell in the tension of depression and helplessness.

It is in the midst of this uncertainty that we must assert that:

Facts are greater than fear.

Social solidarity should be greater than social distancing.

A culture of sharing is the best antidote to hoarding.

And that our communities are stronger than the coronavirus.

The selfless acts of our healthcare workers, the voluntary acts of kindness in the city, the informed suggestions of experts on the Internet and the constant calling out for government accountability of activists show that we cannot merely rely on the State, on corporations and on individual larger-than-life saviors.

But we can rely on each other.

We can go beyond ourselves, and fight for something bigger than ourselves.

Grounded on science and justice, we must face tomorrow with a renewed commitment to face the coming days with hope and resistance.