Lessons from the virus | Inquirer Opinion

Lessons from the virus

We have been exposed to so much fear, uncertainty, and hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Will this experience leave lasting imprints on our traits as a people? Will these lead to permanent changes in our personality as individuals? Those among us who grew up with parents or grandparents who experienced World War II notice a peculiar character attribute among them. They’re frugal to an extent that you feel they’re constantly preparing for a crisis. They have food stashed in the cabinet and they’re solicitous in saving every centavo. You even get the sense, when you observe keenly, that they’re ready to pack up and leave anytime. The suffering and difficulties they went through during the war certainly left an indelible mark in their psyche.

The hardships brought by World War II affected people of all economic status. To a large measure, our “war” with the coronavirus has similarly affected all people across all economic classes. The poor have been affected the most because of dire hunger, which is always the case in every crisis. The middle class and the rich have been seriously affected as well because of loss of employment or severe displacement of their businesses that have left them with piled-up financial obligations and dried-up income streams.


Even if a vaccine is developed eventually, the health and economic insecurity that we have experienced as a result of the pandemic will likely remain deeply ingrained in our minds. This is due to the specter of mutation and the potential emergence of even deadlier viruses at any time.

The coronavirus has inflicted a perpetually festering wound in our psyche. How will this affect our behavior, both in our capacities as individual human beings and as members of our community?


Will there be an exodus to the provinces where rural folk are perceived to have better chances of weathering any crisis? Will the habit of planting vegetables in the backyard and in indoor pots endure? Will the facial mask become regular attire among a sizeable number of our people who have physical or psychological frailties? Will handshakes, hugs, and beso-beso be permanently shunned as forms of greeting and felicitation? Will the appetite for risk be clipped among our businessmen, rendering them ultraconservative in their investments?

The prolonged period of lockdown we were subjected to has resulted in the warp-speed migration to online platforms of substantial forms of human contact, entertainment, and transactions. Will this rushed and massive shift to the online web fast-track the decline of shops, malls, and in-person forms of entertainment?

There are two vital takeaways that we can draw from this epochal pandemic, and they’re hidden beneath the haystack of lives and livelihood lost.

First, the virus has impounded and incarcerated us in our dwellings, and forced us to sift through and separate the essentials and nonessentials in our lives. It has laid bare before our eyes the artificial trimmings and conceptual vanities in our lives, making us realize that we can discard them and still have meaningful and pleasant lives. The virus has given us a pair of new eyeglasses that can see through the fog of inanities in our fields of vision, enabling us to recalibrate the direction and pursuits of our lives.

Second, the virus has made it harshly obvious to us that we have umbilical cords connected to the most destitute members of our society. No matter how we barricade ourselves in enclaves of health and wealth, our lives are inextricably intertwined with the lives of those who suffer in squalor all around us. We deceive ourselves if we continue living in pockets and bubbles of sanitized communities, indifferent to inhuman conditions spreading fast in our midst. Our apathy to the least of our brethren can have catastrophic consequences in our lives.

These are the lessons from the virus.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, Joel Ruiz Butuyan
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