‘Pasaway is the new nanlaban’ | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

‘Pasaway is the new nanlaban’

“Pasaway is the new nanlaban (Stubborn is the new defiant)” goes a sarcastic meme in the wake of the state’s harsh response directed at people perceived to be ignoring regulations about staying indoors, wearing masks, and observing social distancing.

“Nanlaban” gained currency as the terse, heartless term that police applied to victims of instant executions in the war against drugs. When questions were raised about the killings of suspects, many of them shot in the back, law enforcers would drop the term to justify the fatal shootings, citing self-defense.


These days, the instant explanation for the often-harsh measures applied against so-called quarantine violators is that Filipinos are naturally hardheaded, willfully defying authorities imposing necessary, if harsh, measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

But is this based on fact?


Not according to the findings of a survey conducted by the National Research Council of the Philippines. The online survey among predominantly middle-class respondents found that Filipinos showed a “high level” of compliance with rules imposed during “one of the world’s longest coronavirus lockdowns.” Such compliance coexists with people’s “little confidence” in the country’s health care system’s ability to deal with the pandemic.

Dr. Maria Cecilia Gastardo-Conaco, who presented the study’s findings, attributed the respondents’ compliance to their “having very positive attitudes,” including being willing to be quarantined “for whatever reason.”

“They seem to be taking this quite seriously and complying with the preventive behaviors for COVID,” she added.

So why the government’s show of force in enforcing quarantine rules, such as the use of armored personnel carriers in patrolling areas under lockdown, or the parade of PPE-clad police and soldiers (let’s hope at least some of them were health workers) while armed to the teeth with high-powered firearms? It seems the aim is not so much to defend against the unseen viral enemy (our COVID-19 numbers are still high), as much as to intimidate and cow the populace into silence and obedience. To what end, we can only speculate and imagine.

* * * 

Contrast the Pinoys’ spirit of compliance with the experience of a 63-year-old sales clerk, Lori Wagoner, who tells her story in the Washington Post’s “Voices from the Pandemic.”

Based in North Carolina, a conservative state, Wagoner muses: “I’ll never understand what’s so hard about putting on a mask for a few minutes. It’s common sense… We try hard to get along… We put up a sign outside — an appeal to kindness. ‘If you wear a mask, it shows how much you care about us.’”


Well, said Wagoner, “we found out how much they cared. It became clear real quick.”

Despite the sign, and numerous others they put up all over the store, customers, both residents and tourists, would routinely ignore or deliberately violate the appeal. A lifetime asthmatic, Wagoner confessed to “tensing up” whenever an unmasked customer entered. “I put a shield up over my register, and a few hours into my shift it was covered with spittle.” More than once she had to literally put her body as an obstacle against an obstinate customer who insisted on wandering the premises without wearing a mask, or else she had to put up with all sorts of curses and insults, including being called “an agent of the deep state.”

No wonder the “curve” of COVID-19 deaths and infections in the US refuses to flatten (or bend, according to our own DOH chief), given the amount of work it’ll take to convince folks to take the pandemic seriously and take the necessary actions.

* * *

Recently, women’s organizations released a statement in support of Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, a woman religious, educator, and staunch champion of human rights, including (or especially) women’s rights.

The statement decries the “malicious and reckless accusations” hurled at the Benedictine nun “by those who seek to thwart her lifelong work for women and the marginalized, for human rights and justice, and for faith actualized.”

Trolls have accused Sister Mary John of being a “communist,” with one columnist even dubbing her the “muse” of the New People’s Army. But those who know the nun are one in declaring that she “has shown no preference for any political or ideological stripe.” They declare: “Anytime, anywhere Sr. Mary John will cast her lot with the poor, downtrodden and afflicted. We stand with Sr. Mary John.” As do I.

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TAGS: “Pasaway”, At Large, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, Mary John Mananzan, quarantine violations, Rina Jimenez-David
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