We have been told to stay at home so as to save lives. Some people, however, were not home yet at the time of the announcement. Ergo, lockdown. After more than 80 days (and counting) of being stuck anywhere other than home, sweeper flights would be made available. Raring to finally go home, “yung feeling na hindi ka pala welcome sa iyong home(town).” Or at worst, pinandidirihan ka kasi umuwi ka pa. Where can a true home be right here and right now?

Noises, not voices, flood social media and petty talks alike. “Okay na sana tayo sa Palawan e. Bakit magpapasok pa?” Over time, the province was COVID free until the influx of those who were not yet home in Palawan. In no time, a game ensued to be played, the so-called “The Blame Game”. OFW or LGU? LSI or DOH? The game gets even baffling when you got these – APOR, ROF, IATF-EID, ECQ, GCQ, MGCQ,.. what else are there? Not only is coronavirus, but we ourselves have become harmful to each other with this kind of game. With the culture of impunity prevailing, one can already doubt whether heads will eventually roll with all the glitches and witches bewailing impoverished Filipinos. The flagrant, and at times blatant lies, comments actually contribute nothing except bad blood. Maraming matatalino, walang matino.

What had happened to “We heal as one”? At crunch time, the Filipino malignant tumor of “kanya-kanya” would also resurface, shamefully. Healing is a point of destination. How to get there necessitates too that we shall be one. We heal as one, but are we also feeling the pain as one?
Going back to staying at home, old houses, especially “bahay-kubo”, usually had “silong”. It is a space below the house or an area underneath the floor of the house. In there, children would also play “bahay-bahayan”. On stormy weather or when the sun is scorching, “makikisilong” becomes most-heartwarming of all words. There is nothing more virtuous than being a shelter to a person in time of dire danger – “I was a stranger, and you gave me welcome.” Sadly, figuratively and literally, there is not much of “silong” in houses nowadays. In its stead, “bakod” (fence) is making a fancy.

Culturally, home, to Filipinos, necessarily means being family-oriented. Being together in one place is what is supposedly ideal. Subculturally though, Filipinos do not only speak of “bahay”, but also of “kapitbahay”. Hence, flying back home actually entails too “pasalubong” to “kapitbahay”, even to “kabarangay” (village people). While not related by kinship, a typical kapitbahay is customarily considered as “parang pamilya na rin.” With the imposition of lockdown, coupled with curfew, this terrific social functioning has turned indeed into social distancing. One returnee begged decryingly to their kapitbahays, “‘Wag nyo naman kaming pandirihan. Hindi din namin gusto ang COVID. Gusto rin lang naming makauwi.” Somewhere, heartless individuals even threw stones at houses of neighbors heard to be infected of coronavirus.

And on the way home, flights cancelled. In the news, people found themselves jampacked in the airport. Those who do not much of luck got their “silong” along the streets under the flyover. Out of this sorry circumstance, they have transformed as homeless, until further notice (read: until government gets organized and their acts coordinated). Meanwhile, these “homeless” continue to bear the brunt of confusion, indecision and inaction of the powers-that-be.

Seriously, where is home now? How can one go back home? If staying at home means saving lives, what makes of the multitude who are virtually homeless under the flyover? And finally, in the eventuality of being at home, how would one feel having no welcome at all, let alone be stoned…. Pray tell.