Human Face

Those hurtful utterances

Spoofed, lampooned, and caricatured were certain public officials’ recent utterances thrown at the health frontliners groaning for relief, if not protesting the current state of affairs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the way the crisis has been handled in these past four and a half months.

They are tired. Our health frontliners are very tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. But something is keeping them up and on their feet — their vow to serve humanity.


Trust irate Filipinos to hit back at those officials not with fire and brimstone but with something else, softly with wet dung. (Cow dung contains a substance that has a disinfecting effect, no kidding, but not to be used for the mouth though.) If you cannot hit back directly at those who scoff at your sufferings, strike back by holding up your tormentors to ridicule.

That is what happened after the billionaire Sen. Cynthia Villar admonished the overworked health frontliners to do their work well or “pagbutihin nila trabaho nila.” As if they weren’t doing that already. As of Aug. 3, 38 frontliners have died in the line of duty while 5,008 have tested positive, and 4,576 have recovered. Villar’s admonition deserves an “ano raw?”


Instantly, someone posted on Facebook a photo of a health frontliner in scrubs biking to work in a dim and flooded street.

Said in Filipino, Villar’s sound byte had a bite. What do you know, soon, other past Villar utterances (at different times directed at nurses, farmers, and researchers), unforgettable that they are, popped up on social media as memes, cartoons, and comic strips. You double up laughing even while aghast at the cavalier attitude, the tactlessness, the seeming lack of compassion.

So here, from the “Crazy Jhenny” cartoon strip:

Frontliner to one who looks like a senator: Madam, may COVID po kayo!

Madam: Ha? Gamutin n’yo ako!

Frontliner: Hindi na siguro. Sabihin n’yo na lang sa antibodies n’yo, pagbutihin nila ang trabaho nila!

Taklesa de primera and matapobre are words I have not heard in a while.


But buang and buangit from irate Ilonggos, I hear often. For how do you react to a President suggesting that face masks be disinfected with gasoline and stressing it a second time (and “seriously”) even after the health department spokesperson has said people should be able to take a joke? Not so unlike US President Trump suggesting to try injecting disinfectant into COVID-19 patients.

Nurses in distress got it in the solar plexus when the President suggested they consider transferring to the police force where nurses’ salaries are almost triple compared to nurses’ salaries in public hospitals. As if it is all about money.

Then another whammy for the exhausted health workers who went public with their plaint, when at least 80 health groups sent an open letter to President Duterte asking for a lockdown in Metro Manila and environs. “We are in a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to come up with a consolidated plan.” To say it gently, some things did not work.

Stung by it, the President, during a midnight briefing last Sunday, roared: Why did they have to go public with it? Why did they not speak to him in private?

But do we, the citizens of this country, have no right to know what is ailing the health sector, the frontliners to whom we will entrust our lives if and when we go down with the virus, they who will stand beside the dying and the dead while families are locked out and locked down in the distance? Most families in this country have close relatives in the health sector here or abroad. In my family alone up to the second degree, there must be around 10.

Then without rhyme or reason, at close to midnight, the President brought up the revolution threat and dared one and all to bring it on. From the distance, he must have heard the strains of the Filipino version of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” (“‘Di N’yo Ba Naririnig?”) from the hit musical “Les Miserables”: “’Di nyo ba naririnig/Tinig ng bayan na galit/Himig ito ng Pilipinong ’di muli palulupig/Dudurugin ang dilim/ Ang araw ay mag-aalab/ At ang pusong nagtimpi ay magliliyab…”

Where is the word revolution in that? Sing!

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TAGS: Cynthia Villar, Human Face, insensitive government officials, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, medical frontliners, Rodrigo Duterte
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