Last weekend there was sunny weather across North America, but government officials and health authorities weren’t too happy because that resulted in crowds in parks and beaches, and people forgetting physical distancing.
The US and Canada have suffered terribly from the COVID-19 pandemic, the US more so with deaths approaching the 100,000 mark. Both countries too are “reopening,” the term they use for transitioning from various forms of community quarantine and lockdown, and health officials worry that the crowds last weekend could lead to a resurgence, or spikes, in infections.
The crowds remind us that Filipinos aren’t the only one who are “pasaway,” the term used to refer to a disregard for rules, with connotations of a lack of discipline. I was especially surprised with the Canadian crowds because they’re often teased, by Americans, for being too compliant with the law.
The North American sun worshippers do remind us we need to be prepared as our national government prepares to announce changes in quarantines. The largest area to transition is the National Capital Region and adjoining provinces like Laguna, moving from enhanced to general community quarantine, which would mean many businesses reopening, and fewer restrictions on people moving around.
A quick detour with some good news: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made an important modification in its list of preventive measures. It notes that research is showing very low risk for infection through contaminated surfaces (for example, table tops, elevator buttons, etc.). Initial fears came out of laboratory research that showed the virus living as long as three days on plastic, for example, but it seems that outside the laboratory, the virus doesn’t survive that long on surfaces of any kind.
That means we now need to concentrate on avoiding infectious droplets coming out from infected persons when they cough, sneeze, talk, even sing. Which takes us back to the most effective prevention methods: various face coverings (masks, shields), hand-washing, cough etiquette, physical distancing, and still staying home whenever necessary.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed high percentages of Filipinos following the advice on preventive measures, so it’s a matter of maintaining or even improving on observing those precautions.
It’s not about being pasaway here, as we’ve seen in the US and Canada. What’s happened is that we are emerging from one of the longest lockdowns in the world (even exceeding that of China). In some cases, it was literally locking in entire barangays, even whole families forced to stay inside their homes.
We’re talking about “cabin fever” and people “needing” to rush out to places like malls. Even more importantly, we’re talking about the prolonged separation of friends and relatives. The temptation will be there to rush into each other’s arms and embrace and “beso” and all that.
What I dread even more than people forgetting physical distancing will be the way officials will be threatening and scolding people, maybe even arresting them for the smallest transgressions of rules.
I hope we learn to use “pakiusap” more, a term with equivalents in most of our local languages: “maysidusidung ta atavu” in Ivatan, “maseg-ang tako” in Bontoc, several terms in Ilocano depending on formality (“idawat,” “makisao,” “makisarita,” “makipakpakaasi”), “micacasi” (an appeal) in Pangasinense, “makisabi ku pung mayap,” or, simpler, “pakisabi” in Kapampangan, “palihug” in most Visayan languages, “kapdi-pdi” in Maranao, “andu” in Tausug.That north to south quick survey shows we have polite ways of asking people for assistance. The terms also refer to talking, a way of reaching a consensus for cooperative endeavors.
Pakiusap is bound to be more effective than using threats and curse words, which can make people resort to “pasaway” as a form of angry resistance.
One of my friends had an amusing proposal: why not “parang awa”? I said, hey, why not. Parang awa asks for pity: Be merciful to others, and to yourself.
Let’s think of pakiusap as constant gentle reminders for the common good.
Finally, salamat to my informants across the country: Edwin Valientes for Ivatan (he’s in Batanes), Jerwin Agpaoa and Mel Ayon Ayon for Ilokano, Bonifacio Lacwasan for Bontoc, Dean Shirley Guevarra for Pangasinense, Anril Tiatco and Lourdes Nepomuceno for Kapampangan, Leo Quintilla for Visayan languages, and Dean Macrina Morados for Maranao and Tausug. Readers can jump in, too, with your information.
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