Overcoming the pandemic (1)
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — In the seaside barangay of Tinoto, (population: 6,594 as of 2020), Maasim, Sarangani province, fisherfolk and their families go about their daily activities like there is no pandemic; both children and adults go around without wearing masks and other protective equipment.
Maasim is a first-class coastal municipality. As of 2020, the municipal’s population was 64,940. It is bordered by the municipality of Kiamba to the west, Sarangani Bay to the east, South Cotabato to the north, and the Celebes Sea to the south. The eastern boundary of Sarangani Bay is shared with the coastal part of General Santos City. In 2015, the Philippine Statistics Authority pegged its poverty rate at 48.15 percent.
Among the major markets of the daily catch of Tinoto’s fisherfolk community are the three big supermarkets in nearby General Santos City. But a group of intrepid fish vendors from the barangay peddle some of the daily catch around residential subdivisions in Gensan.
Over the years that my family has established residence here, I have befriended a few of them and they have become my regular suppliers of fresh fish since the early 2000s. I appreciate their efforts in bringing me our family’s weekly supply of fresh fish, and at very affordable prices, about P100 less than what I would pay at local supermarkets. They also clean and cut the fish into cooking portions as an additional service.
They were absent from their daily peddling tasks for the first few months of strict lockdowns, depriving our household of fresh fish. At that time, only companies offering services online provided us frozen fish and other seafood products.
It was a relief to see them going around our subdivision again with their fresh fish products after the lockdown in Gensan and nearby areas eased up. I am happy that they are back to offer us fresh fish that had been caught the night before by members of Tinoto’s fishing community.
Last Saturday, when my favorite vendor came by to deliver my order of fresh fish, we talked casually about his take on the consequences of the pandemic. As he was scaling, cleaning, and cutting up the fish, he described how he and his neighbors cope with it. With a broad smile, he quipped, “we don’t have COVID-19 cases in our barangay. Our neighbors and their children go about their daily activities outside their homes without any face masks on, let alone face shields. They are too expensive for poor people like us.”
But how do you protect yourselves from getting infected with the virus?
I asked. He replied that they do experience getting the flu or flu-like symptoms like headache, body pains, cough, and fever. But he said those who start having these symptoms immediately resort to what they have done traditionally when they experience these. And this is to dive immediately to the sea just at the back of their houses, swim a few laps, and come out of it with their feverish temperature down, making them extirpate the phlegm from their upper respiratory tract easier afterward. Such a practice has protected many of them from getting severe flu symptoms, and recovering quickly from them. He admitted they also take over-the-counter anti-fever medications to reinforce their traditional practice.
I recently talked to a friend who just came back from a work trip to the island province of Sulu, and she spoke of a similar strategy in overcoming the pandemic among many community members there. She said this partly explains why there are only a few recorded cases of COVID-19 in Sulu province and other island provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
My vendor friend and his neighbors might have overcome being infected with COVID-19 but they are suffering from its deleterious consequences, especially on their children’s education.
(To be continued)
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