When less is more

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Developing events on the pandemic situation appear to be sporadically providing glimmers of hope getting messed up by indications of prolonged anguish, given the up-and-down, here-and-there escalation of numbers. Today, it would be gladsome; in just a matter of hours, things would worsen just as fast. It has been that way since three months back, when the virus had been deeply entrenched and ferociously striking at will, disrespecting age, sex, gender inclination, whether at work or in play, or merely coasting along in an undirected drift.

So till when will this pandemic persist, this virus that’s here and everywhere, this anguish that’s building up and down, this affliction that seems without end? For the hopeful in us, soon enough. After all, even in our neck of the woods north of where the viral strain has been on the rampage, it’s been more than two months since quarantine levels here had been downgraded to MGCQ, and what’s another two weeks of waiting for the golden light?

And just when things appear headed northside, in terms of improvement, local outbursts happened, as if in a flash, erupting in places where hard lockdowns had been imposed and sternly followed. The communities have in fact dominated netizens’ all-knowing comments, ranging from the sublime to the sobering to the “sobra na”, indicating just how deep the anguish had been, how strong hopes have been developing, how petulant the skittish had become. Where before, daily case incidence was in the single-digit, now the erupting numbers have been hovering in the 30s to 40s, rising steeply in a day’s time to 77.

If it’s been a consoling thought, the steep climb in infections has been taking place when tourists from distant places have yet to look Baguio-side, despite the re-opened borders October first. Meaning, the incidences are very local, and therefore localized, and transmitted within the community. Meaning, it’s us folks who are the super-spreaders for the moment, it’s all within us, it’s all coming from us. Pray tell, what more when the tourists up North are coming in, in full enjoyable gears? Pray tell, what more when travelers are finally given the go-ahead, anywhere coming from Luzon and other parts of the country? Pray tell, will the incidences rise even further, in the hundreds even?

There’s no arguing the need to open up Baguio to places other than to the Ilocos provinces including La Union and Pangasinan. The deal had been done, after all. But just 4 travellers in two weekends? But look around, as we’ve been doing. Who are these folks who aren’t typically the tight-fisted Northerner, who speak in funny accents, often in decibels akin to college-raised teens? Obviously, these are travelers from outside Region 1, maybe on legit business, as it were, are here on staycation for a weekend tryst, or lodging up in homes they own, or have relatives taking care of local needs.

Getting the numbers down — as far as the viral spread is concerned — is admittedly a tough task at this stage, when close to 75% of the economy is inching up to full revival, when full-scale testing at reduced costs, are being done, when the infected undergo treatment like no other, when tracing others in close contact becomes a an everyday till night affair.
As repeatedly intoned by Mayor Benjie, health and safety are imperatives that brook no compromise. What is real, as he now reassures every chance he gets, is the reality of knowing how entrenched the virus has become, how deadly it can strike, and how deceptive it can be, to make the struggle even more arduous.

A fine, becalming assurance, this one from our top honcho. It’s a concerning situation alright, but we’re not just soaked deep in viral immersion. For as long as early detection takes place, for as long as the infected gets isolated and treated as best as our health protocols work, for as long as those in contact gets tracked down, traced just as fast, and are similarly swept into isolation.

As a re-opened business, tourism gets to be drawn into much social conversation, indicating how polarizing the issue has become even before pandemic times. Remember the last city-run Christmas program? Recall how vituperative citizen complaints have been, when park foliage got so trampled upon, when environmental laws got flicked every chance irresponsible trash throwers got into the act, when downtown traffic messed up into bedlam in just a jiffy?

This time, tourist planners are misty-eyed in optimistic expectation that the new thrust, Reef to Ridge wrapped up in a tourism corridors linking us up with our Northern compatriots, will jump-start the revival that had been planned since way, way back, even before the Panagbenga festival got the red light from even seeing the light of day.

As tourism begins to activate, so do other small businesses dependent on tourist arrivals. True, much damage has been so inflicted on a once robust enterprise, many jobs have either disappeared or dis-materialized, while those able to stay on had to bear cutbacks on income potential. There is no stepping back now, when the gauntlet had been flung; no turning back the tide of hope that grew on the backbone of gutsiness, like no other.

A numbers narrative that goes northside is all it takes at any day’s end. When less — positives in the viral setting any day — is actually more to bank on, to get us by, and to get us through.

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