Facing Mantle of Despair


There are moments when you or others who are tinkers of   things or ideas, in moments of exigency and faced to execute last moment decision to nagging problems will shrug heads and say, “Ahhhh! Nu kastoy nga desperado a problema ket desperate cases require desperate remedies.”

There never was time when the Cordillera and lowland inhabitants have been so overburdened by Covid-19 and longingly wish for a cure – a panacea to end this doggone virus of all viruses. This yearning is so obvious it scarce needs less explaining.

And whoever does not believe such yearning needs a tinkering of his/her head that requires desperate remedy for a desperate case.

Covid-19 had introduced us to the depths of the unknown; fear surrounds all, but without anguish. People feel rather a sensation of perplexity, often inwardly asking themselves, “Anya ketden aya daytoy nga kasasaad. Assinu ngata ti madamag kon tu nu bigat nga nadapuan ti Covid? Awan met kuma, apo, a! Iyad-adayom, panga-asim!”

Both highlanders and lowlanders continue to take the situation seriously. But some Filipinos – being what they are – known for not being punctual,  doing things the last minute or putting off later  what they can do earlier or today, are also known for their kalokohan or biruan, by blurting, “Tawanan mo ang inyong problema,” or singing such a phrase, anyway.

In the midst of this seriousness, Ah Kong happened to see the Filipino pranks in the midst of the foreboding:

Several months ago, at Burnham Park, a group stopped to engage talks with someone in sweatshirt they apparently knew personally. That someone happened to be jogging. One in the group said to the jogger,

“Hoy Robert (Robert was apparently his name), agdigos ka man, nakaang-angot ka! Kasla ka nai-tapa”

In repartee, Robert wisely answered the one who talked by saying, “Ay Salamat, saan ka a na-Covid. Ta ti maysa nga sintomas ti na-Covid ket saan nga maka-angot. Ket maka-angot ka met gayam nga nag-sida nak ti tinapa!”

Also last year, in a commercial store at Lakandula, Baguio City, where people had lined up to purchase, a person at the end of the line kept fidgeting, impatient at the long line.  Then a bulb of bright idea exploded in his brain.

He started to cough.  Apparently, the person entertained thoughts that by coughing, the people lined up would disperse. They didn’t budge. Instead, they looked at the end of the line and stared impassively at the person who coughed repeatedly.

One person in the line, disgusted at the antics of the coughing person, said, “Kabsat, nu pagarop mo ket ag-uyek-uyek ka ket agwawaras kami nga naka-linya, saan nga maa-aramid dayta. Nu ag-uy-uyek ka, ket umadayew ka ket din.”

Shamed, the coughing person slunk off and kept his distance from the lined crowd.

Laughing away covid happens to be a universal reaction by humanity trying to   overcome an accursed problem. Despite the laughter, however, apprehension remains and even those who have second thoughts of being vaccinated are presenting themselves before vaccination sites – out of despair.

Arrrah! That innate torture of deep despair lingering among Cordillera highlanders and Region 1 lowlanders, which is remorse without the fear, or, shall we say, this will pass away and be succeeded by an auspicious hope.

Surprisingly, the despair cloaking residents to go for vaccination is considered a “breakthrough” by the Baguio City Health Services Office (BCHSO) in its Covid-19 vaccination awareness and acceptability campaign which previously found out about the hesitancy on the part of residents to be vaccinated.

The risk communications team of BCHSO noted this shift of attitude on the part of residents, calling it “sense of hesitancy to sense of desperation,” as more and more residents have decided that the vaccine is, after all, the solution to root out their mantle of despair that had cast a pall of uncertainty in their lives.

Observing the change, BCHSO adjusted its plans by fine-tuning vaccination procedures while   satisfying the   increasing demand of vaccines.

People whom this columnist interviewed near and in vaccination sites, with the question, “if they have been vaccinated,” would usually put up the thumbs-up sign then proudly show their biceps where there, the BCHSO had stamped on the bicep part where the needle through, the sign saying, “I am vaccinated,” as proof of their  having undergone vaccination.

And they feel a sense of satisfaction and relief showing their “I am vaccinated,” mark plastered on their upper arm part. Others gave the bumps-up handshake with this columnist.

One vaccinee, who identified herself as Romalyn Tabigue, 26, and residing in Baguio narrated how she went sleeveless when she went out of their home to buy something at a store near their house. She said she did it on purpose to entice her neighbors to have themselves vaccinated.

“I became the actual information campaign on vaccination,” Tabigue narrated. And her ploy seemed to work.

Her neighbors, who saw the mark, “I am vaccinated,” rubbed on them, elicited wonders when they commented, “Hoy Roma (short for Romalyn), nakakainggit ka, nagpa-vaccinate ka na pala, di mo man lang sinabi para naman sumabay kami,” or comments like, “Hindi masakit maturokan sa vaccine?”

“Sometimes, in our neighborhood, somebody needs to lead to dispel the fears and apprehension related to the virus vaccine, by becoming the example,” Tabigue said.  Tabigue hopes to finish her course BS in Education.

In La Trinidad, Benguet, Jesse Ko Dorio, a Benguet entrepreneur, related how he accompanied members of his family to be vaccinated and how his family members said they felt the heavy cloud of despair lift from their shoulders the moment they were vaccinated.

Another, Loman Reyes, from Baguio City confessed he did not remove the “I was vaccinated” stamp on his arm for two days as show-off.  Asked why the plaster didn’t peel off when he took a bath he answered, “I was careful not to get it wet.”

Still another, Lydia Antero, who rents in a house in Baguio, funnily recalled how she peeled off the “I was vaccinated” stamp on her arm and plastered it on the communal door of the toilet where she rents so other renters would see it.

Antero’s unique way of sending her message across convinced other renters in the house to have themselves vaccinated.

Still, another, Paul Cuyopan, from La Trinidad, Benguet, proudly showed off his “I was vaccinated” stamp on facebook as a reminder to his buddies and acquaintances to stop being “couch potatoes and haul their butts” to the vaccination sites – and never mind the mild side effects.

The unique messaging done by those interviewed seemed to have grown out of urgency for others to submit themselves for vaccination.

Although the vaccine takes time to work and the two doses must be completed, the mere feeling after being vaccinated gives vaccinees a reason for assurance, they said. They see hope restored where once, there was none.

All of those who received their first dose told of their eagerness to return to their assigned vaccination centers to complete their second dose and complete their vaccination, further explaining, they did it, not because only for themselves but protecting other people, and it’s about obligation.

While the past vaccinees and soon-to-be injected with virus vaccine wag their heads in frustration at the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte ordering local governments to stop announcing in advance vaccine brands used in vaccination sites, they retorted that Filipinos are doing their homework, their research.

“They know about the vaccine brands and their efficacy rates,” a Baguio citizen tersely said.  “Difficult to fool the people,” this citizen added.

In the case of BCHSO, after experiencing a “slower-than-expected-start,” a glitch that’s understandable during its first days of its vaccination program, and now having noted how the sense of hesitancy of people turned to “sense of desperation,” the six teams conducting vaccination believe people are on the verge of vaccine acceptability.

So long as there is vaccine supply, BCHSO assured the public, it will ramp up its vaccination program and dispense quickly the needle shots needed for the population of the city.

As this columnist caught the observation of Dr. Andrew Martin from Apayao who believed, “Vaccinations are increasing in a glimmer of hope from the cloak of desperation.”