Lockdown unlocks pleasant memories
Having worked starting at age 19 while studying law at San Beda College, and continuing to work until a few years ago, I was caught off-guard by the quarantine lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing abrupt changes in my daily life. I used to be very busy as a consultant, but the stay-at-home mandate of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases — other seniors called it “house arrest”— disrupted my routine, forcing me to home-rest all the time.
My days became monotonous, so I had to engage in activities that simulated working in an office. The other day, I went through my files of documents and memorabilia and rediscovered my well-kept gold watch. That opened up a floodgate of golden memories.
The gold watch was awarded to me by the House of Representatives when I retired at age 65, though the House rehired me as member of the committee chairman’s staff. The gold watch and certificate of appreciation that went with it reminded me of important highlights of my work at the House, where I contributed to the enactment of landmark legislation such the Philippine Health Insurance Law, which created PhilHealth.
I recall that the PhilHealth law was the result of a very meticulous study by Congress. I was a member of the House team that went on a study tour organized by the US Agency for International Development and the World Bank to look at health insurance practices in South Korea and Thailand. Then the House sent the late congressman Jovito O. Claudio of Pasay City and me to study health insurance in the United States, which at that time was also planning new health insurance services under then President Bill Clinton. Congressman Claudio and I even attended sessions at the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, observing deliberations on their health insurance bills.
To take advantage of being in the United States, I also proceeded to Baltimore, Maryland, to confer with officials of the International Federation of Eye and Tissue Banks, upon reference by Dr. Dominga Padilla, president of the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, that was then working for the passage of the Corneal Transplantation Act in Congress. From Maryland, I proceeded to the Florida Eye Bank for further research and study.
The Corneal Transplantation Act was approved by Congress and signed into law by then President Fidel Ramos in early 1995, in one of the fastest times a bill was made into law.
Another golden memory in my file is the “Award of Excellence” I received from the International Federation of Eye and Tissue Banks, for my participation in this important piece of legislation. There is also the photograph we had at the Baltimore, Maryland office of the federation, against the backdrop of a big signboard that said, “WELCOME CONGRESSMAN AND MRS. MAFEO R. VIBAL.” It was in Baltimore, Maryland, where I realized my dream of becoming a congressman, even for one day!
The COVID-19 lockdown has unlocked many more memorable items in my files. But the most important to me is the family copy of the book I wrote called “How Bills Become Philippine Laws.” It discusses the process of legislation in our Congress and summarizes my own humble participation in the system.
If the lockdown is prolonged some more, especially for us seniors, I have to engage in another mentally productive activity. I may be able to finish the book on politics I have started. We have to keep busy while staying at home, to avoid depression.
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Mafeo R. Vibal, 87, a lawyer, studied at San Beda College and is an active advocate for seniors. He is vice president-external affairs and legislative liaison officer of the Philippine Association of Retired Persons.