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LOVE. LIFE.

Why I cannot quarantine my mouth

/ 08:30 AM May 15, 2020
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Everyone was excited upon celebrating the beginning of the new decade, 2020. For most of us, it has been a norm to welcome each new year with optimism and gratefulness, hoping that it would bring us prosperity and better lives. I assume that nobody in their wildest dreams thought that 2020 would be a difficult year due to the deadly coronavirus. There is no way of knowing, especially when you’re being positive.

I turned 30 under the enhanced community quarantine. I was alone with the company of my two beloved dogs – Daenerys and Zwytle. There was no celebration as we were all obliged to stay inside our home. As much as I wanted to have a birthday cake, the circumstances under ECQ made it impossible. Instead, I celebrated my birthday in contemplation.

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At 30, I realized that I am not afraid to die. In fact, there were times I wished to die for some reason. What I feared most is seeing those whom I love suffer every day just to survive, and seeing people around me losing their dignity in the game of survival. I believe life can be inherently cruel, as it has always been the case with me, but I continue to persevere to live in the quest for some meaning.

At 30, despite everything, I am hopeful. I have plans, goals and dreams I want to fulfill in the future. I want to get married, have children, finish my master’s degree, and travel to places I have never been to before. However, all those things I planned turned to be absurd in the presence of the COVID-19 crisis. Under the pandemic, the future is bleak and everything seems uncertain, exacerbated by the way our government is responding to the crisis. At 30, my hope for a better future for us, Filipinos under the Duterte administration, is on the verge of collapsing, every single day of ECQ.

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I feel deeply saddened that a lot of people bury themselves into the culture of silence perpetuated by the ways of the current regime. At one point, I was enraged when I saw a Facebook post that goes, “In this time of crisis, if you cannot help, just quarantine your mouth,” which I saw in my feed. Even more sadly, most of my colleagues at the office shared it, and I can’t help but be agitated by their lack of empathy.

I cannot quarantine my mouth because I am not blinded by the delusion of positivity that the best thing we could do right now is to shut up and mind our own business; to stay positive and to spread love, otherwise you spread hate. Speaking up against wickedness is the least we could do right now under ECQ. I joined others through online activism in condemning the national government’s ubiquitous incompetence in handling the COVID-19 crisis day by day, which at the beginning could have been mitigated with concrete plans and actions, good governance and strong leadership.

We are in this crisis not because Filipinos lack discipline but because our government downplayed the seriousness and threat of the virus, given the fact that our first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded way back in Jan. 30, 2020. That is the truth we need to admit. That is the truth we need to face until this pandemic is over. It has been said, “there is no counter-argument to the truth,” and I can only surmise that this is the very reason why the government prefers us to be uncritical and to be still.

We need to speak so we could receive the utmost needed solutions, immediately, such as mass testing which now must include our frontliners, especially health workers, along with PUIs, and PUMs. We need procurement of reliable PPE for our health workers as we know for a fact that the lack of such has killed several doctors and nurses. We need the urgent and efficient release of socio-economic help such as food packages and financial assistance, especially to those severely affected by the lockdown, the daily wage earners, the poor. And we need courageous and truthful government officers to stay on, such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine director who exposed instances of VIP testing. If we quarantine our mouths, none of these would be exposed. We speak in this time of crisis to call for transparency, consistency, accountability and responsiveness, more than positivity. It’s because more than being positive, our everyday survival is also dependent on the decisions and actions of the government.

We speak to denounce the unjust actions of government officials such as Sen. Koko Pimentel for violating the quarantine rules and putting others at risk. We strongly question the summoning of Pasig mayor Vico Sotto and the call to probe Vice President Leni Robredo, both for petty allegations. We condemn the murder of activist Jory Porquia in Iloilo City even amid this time of the pandemic. We raise our voices against the red-tagging and arrest of volunteers of progressive groups, whose intention is to help the poor. We denounce how a student, for being critical of the government’s actions, was compelled last April to apologize publicly.

But I don’t just speak. Aside from using my voice in calling out unjust government actions, I do my part in helping others, within my limited means and resources. I ran errands for a neighbor who could not go to the grocery store because of discrimination. I have gone to the remittance center to send money to someone’s family so they could buy food. I have done what I could to help three senior citizens begging in the street for food, and I asked them to go home, explaining to them that they are highly at risk of getting infected.

These efforts are not grand like the ones you might see on national TV and social media, they are just manual labor I extend to our community. However, this is not to say that me speaking up should depend on the help I give. Speaking up against injustice is our moral responsibility. Therefore, I cannot quarantine my mouth.

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If you prefer plain positivity, go ahead – you can indulge in it. If you happen to be privileged along with being positive, I hope you think about whether you are really seeing the plight of our poorest brothers and sisters, barely surviving each day of this ECQ. I plead that we do not impose the call to “quarantine your mouth” to those who cannot tame the hunger in their stomachs, to those who cannot hold back tears as they line up for hours, under extreme heat, for measly aid and a little sustenance. Let them speak, and those who speak for and with them continue to speak, since you will not speak for them anyway.

Silence is never an option. Silence is a sin we must not commit, especially during this time of the pandemic, when the poorest suffer and remain voiceless. By speaking up instead, we allow empathy and compassion to be manifest.

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Raquel Pablo of Laguna is a government employee who reads, writes, makes art, enjoys music, and believes that “lack of empathy is another virus we should avoid.”

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Posted by INQUIRER.net on Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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