Call it projection, a fervent prayer, natural optimism, maybe even wishful thinking, but 91 percent of Filipinos told a recent survey that they would face the new year with hope despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Pulse Asia survey was conducted Nov. 23 to Dec. 2 among 2,400 representative respondents aged 18 and above.
For most people who can’t wait for 2020 to be over, looking decidedly ahead is a survival mechanism preferable to looking back on a year filled with mortal dread over an unforgiving virus that has since wreaked havoc on people’s lives and livelihoods. According to recent health department data, almost half a million COVID-19 cases have piled up in the Philippines, with no discernible flattening of the curve seen so far.
Such cockeyed optimism isn’t isolated among the Pulse Asia respondents. Even the Pantone Color Institute, which has declared Ultimate Gray and Vibrant Yellow as colors of the year, has painted 2021 in hues that promise sunlight and warmth, despite the predominantly leaden sky. Practical and rock solid but at the same time upbeat and optimistic, the color combination speaks of rising above adversity with renewed resolve.
A parallel survey by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas similarly stoked hopeful feelings among businesses and consumers polled in the last quarter of 2020. The Bangko Sentral survey showed that for the first quarter of 2021, the confidence index among consumers shot up to 4.3 percent from the previous survey result of -4.1 percent for the last quarter of 2020. To explain the positive change, consumers cited their anticipation of the availability of more jobs and more working family members with the reopening of businesses; additional and higher income; and the possible end of the health crisis, as well as the discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Business sentiment on the economy also soared on the back of rising sales, the reopening of more businesses, the lifting of quarantine restrictions, and the anticipated availability of the vaccine.
In fact, it is this projected availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country by the second half of the year that has turned despair into hope for many Filipinos who could only stand by helplessly as the virus felled friends and family and ravaged the economy. And why not? The vaccine represents a return to some semblance of normalcy after almost a year of turbulent changes in people’s health outlook, habits, routine, and manner of socialization.
The possibility of a cure for the pandemic offers a shot of adrenaline that pushes us to soldier on amid the gloom and grief that have made 2020 a war zone for medical frontliners. Already, at least 1.9 million Americans have gotten a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, while locally, members of the Presidential Security Group and a Cabinet official have been inoculated, although the priority given soldiers and the President’s men have raised questions about the ethics, legality, and safety of using a vaccine that has yet to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and, once again, about privileging those in power with ready access to medicine that’s still denied the rest of the citizenry.
That people continue to hope, putting their faith in the capabilities of science and technology to help humankind overcome this plague despite the shabby politics of governments, is perhaps the only viable recourse they have at this point. A positive outlook, after all, also promotes better mental health that, in turn, strengthens the physical body and its defenses. To despair is to give up and to admit defeat—not an option at any time, but especially in the middle of a rampaging pandemic.
But hope, to be empowering, must at the very least be shared with others for whom it is considered unattainable luxury. For 2021 to be a year of hope, the technological advantages, the scientific breakthroughs, the possible cure for the virus, the plain capability of those in power to mobilize relief and resources, must be shared unstintingly — not just to deepen our humanity, but more practically, to promote mass immunity, protect everyone, and save communities and society.
The unrestrained habit, in this country at least, among government officials to arrogate special treatment to themselves, from jumping the testing line during the first months of the crisis and now to inoculating themselves in secret ahead of everyone else, is a betrayal of the solidarity and collective sacrifice that must be forged if the country is to win decisively against the pandemic.
The powers-that-be that declared “We heal as one” must understand: If that promise ends up as yet another lie, all the valiant hope and optimism that Filipinos are bringing to the fight despite everything would be for naught, and 2021 would unreel for the country as if it had learned nothing from the accursed year just past.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.