April 25, Sunday. Supposedly, the Lord’s Day. But waking up to two misfortunes around the city turned a new day as rather distressing. One, it has been announced, early in the morning, that a person has died of COVID-19. At a time when everybody was already somewhat relieved since Palawan was already ending the Enhanced Community Quarantine after more than a month of being clamped, the news of a positive case was deeply frustrating. Many exclaimed, sayang ang pinagpaguran. And two, the thought of peoples in a village near us whose houses were razed by fire made the already unfortunate situation all the more tormenting. The said tragedy left 112 families homeless and in anguish. Again, this was supposed to be the Lord’s Day.
On the news, a lot of questions (and exasperation) surround the issue on the second person who tested positive of COVID-19. How did he get infected since he had neither prior travel history nor exposure to peoples since he had already been convalescent for several months? Perhaps, in the hospital where he was confined? But how could it be in the hospital where there was nobody who was tested as positive just yet? Questions left unanswered usually breed exasperation. And at crisis time, dread. Ganun na ba kalayo ang Palawan na matagal talaga dumating ang result ng testing? On the other hand, not a few would assert to believe, hoping against hope, that the result was either just a mistake or inaccurate. Or, every Palaweño must have been praying for a miracle that indeed our island must remain as coronavirus-free. Pray and hope. But be prudent and wise, as well.
Another unfortunate calamitous occurrence that our city confronts right now is the fate of victims of fire now housed in a public school turned evacuation center. That day, we scheduled an outreach to them. What quickly caught my attention was the sight of the mountainous pile of clothing in the area. At the outset, it could be interpreted as an overflow of the generosity of everyone for the victims. On the contrary, on being informed of the real score, it is but natural for anybody to frown that those clothes actually fell short as a manifestation of concern. One volunteer has begged, “Wag na po sana mga damit. Sobrang dami na po. Ang iba hindi naman kailangan dahil lumang-luma na… at ang iba ay americana po”. True, beggars cannot be choosers. But those who give can have that respectable choice on what to actually share. The point of balancing would be- are these what the victims need or these are what we need to dispose? Masakip na ang damit, o kaya, nakasisikip na sa cabinet kaya ipamimigay na lang?
Needless to say, for these fire victims in their present situation is beyond what the human mind can comprehend. This is a crisis within a crisis. It is picturesque of a two-front war. What is always very telling during a crisis is that poor people are the most vulnerable. In this case, their houses were razed in no time due to the fact that they were of light materials. Madaling nilamon ng apoy. Then, it was also quite challenging for firefighters to get exactly into their place. They were settled on stilts above the seawater level. Suma total, it is not only a crisis within a crisis. Sadly, it is worse than a two-front war- the treacherous coronavirus, the tragedy of fire, and the reality of poverty.
At one point in the distribution, I happened to converse with one of the victims. He confided to me, “Okay lang po to kapag araw, Father, kasi narito kayo at maraming tao. Naaaliw kami. Pero kung gabi at madaling araw po doon dumadapo ang lungkot at sakit. Hindi na po ‘to pagsubok e, dagok po talaga ‘to.” Voila, as we have always been advocating- mental health. Thus far, relief operations are still directed to goods, clothes, wares, and the like. Sure, they are badly needed; they do satisfy physical hunger. But how do we address anxieties, worries, uncertainties, and even hopelessness? It is no secret that depression has also been described, even before this coronavirus era, as the epidemic itself. Let us do something. We must do something as a remedy and as part and parcel of every relief operations.
Going back, how could this be called the Lord’s Day? As it is, we could not fully rely on human capacity. Our intellect fails us that up until now no discovery of a treatment to stop COVID-19. Social structures falter and financial makeup nosedives. Perhaps, as has always been the case when push comes to shove, we call on the Lord. “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”(Ps147: 10-11). All said, Sunday must suppose to mean as letting the Lord take over.