‘Diskarte,’ ‘delihensya,’ other ways of coping (2)
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Coping has been defined in various ways; the one that resonates well with many of us is: “Coping has been associated with how individuals address intersecting factors of their present source of stress and other emotional disturbance.” The definition itself strongly points to an “abnormal” situation, when people are doubly or even triply challenged either because of some unpleasant incidents at work or sudden changes in their respective life cycles that force them to take stock of their current situation.
As mentioned earlier in this column, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) led a gender impact assessment (GIA) among selected communities across the country on how they deal with the onerous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study identified community members’ various ways of coping with the difficulty of eking out a living amid various forms of containment or lockdowns — general, modified, or modified enhanced — or whatever quarantine mode government has decided to apply to certain areas.
Limiting mobility and social interaction has debilitated an already sagging economy, the effects of which are seen in both micro and macro levels. From the individual or family level (micro), it has pushed many people, women included, to ditch altogether whatever religious or lifelong values they have held. They had to cope in whatever way possible, however flawed or distorted or even morally unacceptable, in order to survive. On the macro level, we have a government that has erratically managed a public health crisis through militaristic means. More importantly, the government as a whole has failed miserably in providing full, adequate, substantial support to impoverished communities that have been hit hard by quarantine measures. Such measures should have been accompanied with a social safety net, especially for those whose limited mobility may mean not being able to feed their families. For many, it is a grim choice—to die of COVID-19 infection (when they insist on working) or for their family to starve, even die, if they cannot work on a daily basis.
General Santos City was not one of the areas covered in the UNFPA-led GIA study on COVID-19. But the coping strategies respondents described in the study are not entirely different here. Many residents in the economically depressed and heavily populated areas in Gensan continue to defy health protocols and other mobility restrictions in order to support their families.
In some areas here, small, seemingly unpretentious makeshift cubicles are garishly decorated with colored blinking lights at night, enticing libidinous males for a “short time” of paid sexual pleasure. Even in a pandemic, these small “businesses” that defy social-distancing measures are allowed to operate, or given protection to address the hunger pangs of the families of workers. According to a family friend who used to drive a commuter jeep before the pandemic, these “establishments” only closed during the first months of the national lockdown (March-May 2020). After this period, they were back in business, with some police officers among their first “customers” — or protectors?
Many of us hold strong biases against the women in these joints, noting that they could have opted for more “respectable” jobs. But are there choices for those who are in the margins of society, who are lacking in academic qualifications and skills that allow them to have financially stable jobs, all because they have no capital to empower themselves with at the very start? If they are made to shift to jobs that are more respectable but only give them “survival wages” that cannot feed their families adequately, will government be willing to lend a hand? Will government help them find ways (“diskarte”) and bring them something to support their families through a “clean” type of “delihensiya”?
Answers to these questions should already be part of the electoral platforms of candidates in the 2022 local and national elections.
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