Seekers, scoundrels, and saints in pandemia | Inquirer Opinion
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Seekers, scoundrels, and saints in pandemia

/ 05:05 AM December 01, 2023

doyo12012023

Would you rather forget, or might you want to look back for some lessons and reminders from the three years that were like no other?

My latest book “COVID-19 in the News: Of Seekers, Scoundrels, and Saints,” (Ateneo University Press) was launched yesterday, along with a harvest of 45 other titles, at Ateneo’s Arete complex. Outré cover design by Albert Raqueno, book design by Ace Molo. The book sells for P450 in Ateneo Press, Lazada, and Shopee.

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Publisher’s plug: “[The book] gathers prize-winning journalist Ma. Ceres P. Doyo’s columns and feature articles about the COVID-19 pandemic published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Global Sisters Report from 2020 to 2022. Like a slideshow of the nation’s journey during the pandemic and complemented by photographs, illustrations, and other images, the articles here feature the heroic efforts of health-care frontliners, service providers, concerned citizens, institutions, and organizations as well as the scoundrels who squandered national resources and made life difficult for many in the recent history that ushered in a life-altering new normal.”

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Gideon Lasco, physician, anthropologist, and fellow Inquirer columnist, wrote the foreword. Excerpts from my author’s note:

By the time this book comes out, the deadly COVID-19 virus and its variants that disrupted and brought tragedy to our lives for three years might still be hovering over our daily existence … It is said that COVID-19 (was) the great leveler and equalizer for all nations and peoples from all walks of life. It struck down the mighty and the lowly, the famous and the infamous, the strong and the weak, the young and the old—in the millions. But one cannot lose sight of the fact that some (were) more vulnerable than others, the poor most especially.

I leave it to many others to write long, definitive accounts—scientific, medical, historical, political, sociological—on the COVID-19 pandemic that began to wreak havoc on humans of planet Earth in 2020 AD. This compilation portrays how I saw and experienced the pandemic as a Filipino journalist and citizen. And wrote about it in my media space while the anni horribiles lasted and was leaving in its wake lost lives and livelihoods, hospitals bursting at the seams, health-care frontliners exhausted, an economy in shambles, people angry and hungry for food, clear directions and good governance. But ours was not a totally desolate, dystopian landscape. There were shafts of light that gave us solace and hope …

The articles are arranged in chronological order to show the unfolding of the horror story in this part of the world … (and) is dedicated to the Filipino health-care frontliners who braved the war against COVID-19. (They were the Inquirer’s Filipinos of the Year or FOTY for 2020.)

Most everybody … says this: That never in their lives did they think they would live to experience a deadly pandemic of such epic magnitude. Wars, famines, natural and man-made cataclysms, yes, but not a brutal attack by an unseen enemy, a pathogen that is considered to be a nonliving thing. In the beginning, the virus had yet no name but it did not take long for it to turn into a Goliath that brought peoples and nations to their knees …

The Philippines … with no shared physical borders with other nations, was not out of reach. Ease of travel, the unending flow of Filipinos, particularly overseas Filipino workers, tourists, and foreigners coming in and out of the country made it easy for the coronavirus to find its way into our shores. Toward the end of 2019, Filipinos woke up to find that the coronavirus had settled in and we were in the maw of death. It was a horror movie coming alive … This may read like fiction …

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We were in for a so-called “new normal.” Quarantines and lockdowns were enforced for months on end in badly stricken areas. Health protocols such as social distancing, wearing of face masks and face shields, frequent hand washing, body temperature checks, etc. became obligations even as work from home became a new experience, school became virtual, false and truthful news went viral. Mental health issues crept into the lives of both the strong and the fragile. We had daily updates on new positive cases, deaths, and recoveries for dinner …

Let it not be forgotten that this epic pandemic event spawned its share of seekers, scoundrels, and saints—this book’s title grabbers. Seekers of divine mercy and human kindness, scientific breakthroughs, healing, and new ways of living. Scoundrels in and out of government. Most especially the corrupt, who added to people’s sufferings and discombobulation—may their tribe be decimated. Saints who made life bearable, who went out of their way to lessen the misery and fill people’s crying needs—may their number increase exponentially in these times.

We had our dose of healers, heroes, and heels. And, too, victims, victors, villains, and fellow voyagers to a brave new world …

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READ: On the ‘shadow pandemic’

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