Fakery and demagoguery in crisis
“Tuob” is a Cebuano-Visayan term that refers to the practice of inhaling the steam from boiled water. For many rural folk, this type of steam inhalation has served to relieve them of the common cold and cough. The steam from the boiled water, which is usually mixed with medicinal herbs and leaves (like eucalyptus and citrus), emits a whiff of menthol that aerates lungs clogged with phlegm.
But of course, this type of folk healing is just for temporary relief, and that the worst forms of respiratory diseases can never be cured with tuob.
This lowly treatment for the common cold and cough has recently hogged the headlines thanks to a memorandum issued by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia last week. In her memorandum, Garcia enjoined provincial employees to undergo tuob twice a day in their respective work stations. Garcia believes that this treatment can be an alternative way to alleviate symptoms of COVID-19.
Immediately after Garcia’s memorandum was issued, no less than 13 groups of medical practitioners in Cebu issued a joint statement that the practice of tuob might bring more harm than good, as it might just promote an “aerosolization” of the virus and will not drive it away.
Not to be outdone, Garcia took to social media to issue her angry retort, specifically to two doctors who had posted sharp criticisms on the governor’s clueless remarks about the effects of tuob.
Garcia is definitely not a medical expert or a scientist to declare that a certain age-old folk healing practice is a cure for COVID-19. She has not even conducted laboratory tests to determine the effectiveness of tuob against the virus. Her audacity to issue a memo enjoining her subordinates to undertake this practice without scientific backing smacks of demagoguery, using her current political position as a platform to establish false credibility. Like all demagogues before her, Garcia will go down in history as just another political buffoon, a mirror image of her patron in Malacañang who had earlier made fun of COVID-19 as something that will die a natural death. Within the last six months of being confronted with this virus, several common folk have resorted to purported effective ways of preventing or curing COVID-19. Many of these so-called cures have since been exposed as fakes but many social media users easily believed in these fake cures, causing some shortages and steep increases in their prices. At first, eggs were touted on social media as a cure, resulting in their price going up as well as a shortage of supply in local markets. Then there was the banana, whose price went up, too.
Which brings us to ask ourselves — Why do people easily believe in any news that talks about curing a deadly virus? Is it because of desperation or a deep sense of insecurity while facing this deadly, unseen, and unpredictable enemy beyond our gates? In the midst of this type of crisis, do people suddenly become gullible, even if they are supposed to be highly educated or even claim to be reasonable and intelligent?
I remember that at the peak of get-rich Ponzi-type pyramiding scams in the not-so-distant past, even those with post-graduate degrees were convinced to invest thousands, even millions of their hard-earned monies to these scams. Ironically, these seemingly erudite individuals became easy prey to smooth-talking demagogues and charlatans who have never even set foot in tertiary education.
Truly, fakery and demagoguery thrive during times of crisis.
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