Malakas ang hangi’t madilim ang langit
Parating na bagyo handang humagupit
Kaya’t sa likod-bahay ika’y sumaglit
Pumasok ka’t silipin ang ‘yong kamalig.
May imbak ka bang palay na babayuhin,
Kapag naubos na bigas na pang-saing?
May sobra ba na puwede mong kalakalin,
Kung biglaang pera’y iyong kakaylanganin?
Sa kamalig ba ika’y may isinusksok
Upang kapag nagipit may madudukot
O nang umani ka lahat ay inubos
Pinagbilha’y winaldas, lahat ginastos.
Diskarte mo’y ayusin, huwag kang bulaksak
Sa kamalig mo matuto kang mag-imbak
Nang sa ganoon ay handa kang humarap
Kapag dumating pagsubok na mabigat.
Sana kung may panahon upang magtanim
Sikapin mong palagi lupa’y bungkalin
Batid mo namang ikaw ay may tungkulin
Tiyaking bukas may bigas kang isasaing.
Diligin ng pawis ang iyong pananim
Nang sa ganoon marami kang anihin
Maaani’y ‘wag kagyat lahat kainin
Magtira’t sa kamalig doo’y ipunin.
There’s no better time to discuss this subject – self-reliance – than now that a health crisis is fiercely challenging the indomitability of the human spirit. As I emphasized in a previous essay, humans have always been the apex predator. Then came COVID-19. These microbes predate on us and suddenly we are made to play an unfamiliar role – that of the prey. Much to our chagrin, we have become the game of these microscopic parasites.
The coronavirus has put us to a battery of tests. We miserably flunked the first one – the test of preparedness. We were not ready when this deadly pestilence came. The statistics on infections and deaths clearly show that. Not that nobody saw this current pandemic happening. Many did but the alarms they sounded were either not loud enough or fell on deaf ears. We are now paying the price of our unpreparedness. We now have to bear the consequences of our complacency.
The next test is adaptation. COVID-19 is also testing our ability to adapt. This we cannot afford to fail. To adapt is the only option we have now, at least until we have both cure and vaccine against the deadly pathogen. If we won’t, we perish.
Surviving the pandemic is the goal of adaptation. It is a personal responsibility. Each individual has to make a choice – take all the necessary precautions or naively say “come what may.” There are people who chose not to follow science-based protocols set by the authorities to prevent possible infection. Should they get infected, they only have themselves to blame. God forbid that in their stubbornness and ignorance, other people, particularly their loved ones, would also suffer.
Surviving means not only avoiding getting infected but staying afloat in the dire conditions created by the onslaught of the deadly virus. It is not only a matter of steering away from the deadly path of this infectious disease but also coping to the situations that emerged from its trail of destruction.
Overcoming the difficulties and challenges we are now facing because of the pandemic require all forms of toughness – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual (for those who, like me, believe in God). We may also need all the help we could get during these times.
But what if nobody would help? What if we only have ourselves to rely upon in order to survive? Can we shift our gear to self-reliance if we need to?
That’s the next test and perhaps the most crucial – the test on self-reliance.
When governments of affected countries had to implement extreme measures including declaring lockdowns, all socio-political and economic activities grinded to a halt. People were forced to stay at home and couldn’t go to work to earn a living. Many got worried, particularly the breadwinners, because they had mouths to feed and bills to pay. Lucky were the citizens of some countries who were given economic assistance by their governments. Some governments don’t have the capability to do the same. Luckier were those who live in very rich countries whose pockets are very deep. But were the dole outs provided by those holding the reins of government sufficient? Are the financial resources of even the wealthiest among nations unlimited that no matter how long it will take for the COVID-19 threats to dissipate they would be able to provide the needs of their people?
The next question we have to answer is – “Are we supposed to just rely on the relief package that our respective governments would provide?” Here’s another – “Are we going to put our fate and that of our families in the hands of other people when situations like the current health crisis occurs?”
What if the coffers of our governments run dry? What if the usually generous countries would decide not to send aids to other countries because they would want to prioritize the needs of their own citizens? What if the philanthropists and their charitable organizations have nothing more to give? What if we have no friends, relatives, and loved ones who would (and could) give us the assistance we need? What if we only have ourselves to rely upon because everyone else have their own problems and concerns?
Yes, when COVID-19 cases started to go down some countries lifted (or eased down) their quarantine measures, economic activities resumed, although in a limited scale only. But as soon as that happened, as soon as more people and more people ventured out of their houses and started moving to and fro for whatever reasons, statistics on infections and deaths started to surge again.
So, in light of the aforementioned, what should the governments of concerned countries be doing? Would they choose to preserve the lives of their citizens or resuscitate their dying economies? Should our leaders choose the former, we go back to square one. We go back to being confined in our homes and not capable of earning a living. We go back to relying solely on the support from our governments. That is, if they still have the resources to distribute to us. But what if they have nothing more to give?
It is our moral obligation to put ourselves in a position that when everything else fail, we can at least have ourselves to rely upon and that we have sufficient resources to draw from come rain or shine. We should be thankful if our government, our neighbors, our friends, or our relatives would offer help during difficult times but it is our duty as a person with dignity to work smart and hard enough to ensure that even without the help from anybody we (and those who rely on us) will survive.
We have all spring, summer, and fall to prepare for the winter. We should not spend the first three seasons just watching the buds in branches of trees become leaves until they become dry and shriveled then fall to the ground. Till the land. Sow the seeds of the kind of crop you want to reap. After the harvest, don’t eat everything. Save some for the winter. Make sure that you saved enough in your barn in case the winter gets longer than usual.
The coronavirus is still wreaking havoc and there are no signs it’s stopping soon. Humanity’s resilience is being tested to the hilt.
The deadly pathogen arrived swiftly and stealthily like the proverbial thief in the night stealing lives and ruining dreams. Like a powerful earthquake, the COVID-19 crisis struck violently and shook the foundations of our socio-political and economic institutions. If the shaking does not stop soon, the said institutions might collapse with us trapped under the rubbles.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unfolding tragedy affecting the whole world. Pandemics, like other disasters and tragedies, natural or man-made, are inevitable. They happen when they happen. Some of them can be predicted by science, but some are hard (if not impossible) to predict.
Like an earthquake, a pandemic cannot be predicted. We know that both may occur but it is difficult (if not impossible) to predict when or where. All that humanity can do is to prepare in case they do happen. The question we should ask now is – Were we ready when the current health crisis broke out? Unfortunately we were not! The coronavirus caught the world with its pants down.
We were sufficiently warned by scientists and epidemiologists. Papers were published and books were written about the possibility of a pandemic as deadly as the coronavirus occurring. The Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, and SARS, all happening during the first 20 years of the 21st century were telltale signs that outbreaks of infectious and deadly diseases are happening more frequently. They were all ignored and humanity is now paying the price for not heeding the warnings.
It wasn’t information we lacked but something very basic for surviving calamities (or at least lessen their damage) – preparation.
For earthquakes, we usually conduct earthquake drills to at least learn what we should do should an unpredictable earthquake occurs. What about with pandemics? What preparations did countries put in place for infectious and deadly diseases? With the way the coronavirus events unfolded in different parts of the world, it is accurate to say that not a semblance of preparation was made… except probably in South Korea.
Experts explained that South Korea’s efficient response to the coronavirus crisis was informed by their experiences and the data they gathered from the country’s MERS outbreak in 2015. The National Geographic reported that in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak aforementioned, the country’s lawmakers laid out the legal foundation for a comprehensive strategy for contact tracing. This is crucial in containing the virus and in preventing further spread. They amended an existing law that gave their health authorities the power to collect private data from both confirmed and suspected patients even without warrant. They also built up their diagnostic testing capabilities.
The South Koreans were, somehow, prepared. They had a plan should another MERS occur. Probably, the rest of the world had none. The South Koreans and their leaders knew what to do while the rest of the world was clueless as to how to deal effectively with the pestilence.
The South Koreans learned their lessons from a previous disease outbreak (MERS). This time they were prepared. Conversely, the US and most European countries have seemingly forgotten about the 1918 Spanish flu. Perhaps because that was a century ago. They (and other countries) assumed that just like the Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, and SARS, any other outbreaks could easily be put under control. They were all wrong. The coronavirus is a testament that “assumption is the mother of all f*** ups.”
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The citizens and leaders of his country learned this the hard way. The US owns the dubious distinction of the country with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The US and other wealthy European nations being rendered seemingly helpless by this deadly pestilence is an irony. The said countries are among the wealthiest in the world (with the US on top). They also have the most advance science and technology and the most number of Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Chemistry. So, what happened?
The answer is simple – they were not ready for the onslaught of the coronavirus.
The deaths and sufferings we are witnessing in different parts of the world are the price we pay for our unpreparedness.