Uncertainty is the new reality

One thing sure is indisputable in this milestone created by the 2019 coronavirus pandemic and it is that uncertainty is the new reality.

People all over the world are talking about new normal in the way we live life henceforth and what this simply means is learning to adopt new norms, new guidelines that will ensure man’s continued existence on earth.

It seems like all of humanity is trying to reassess and recalibrate for what is a new beginning in the ways people should behave and interact with one another.

It is quite alarming, if not terrifying, for after being used to what is normal for generations, now people seem to be treading on egg shells for fear that one misstep could put your life and those closest to you in jeopardy.

To feel that every one of us now has the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads that could drop anytime when we fail to follow the new procedure/practices of doing things relative to the disease that is causing havoc to humanity is frightening enough.

And for a good reason!

It is said that the early coronavirus (COVID-19) cases were linked to a live animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting that the virus was initially transmitted from animals to humans.

Then it was found out that the virus can spread from person to person through:

  • close contact with an infectious person (including in the 48 hours before they had symptoms)
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face

To prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, it is urged to do the following:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.

What is adding to the scare, and definitely the uncertainty of each and everyone’s future, is the fact that to this day there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.

So, what this means is that COVID-19, in the meantime, and nobody knows until when, could spread widely and quickly to young people, even babies, but more dangerously to older people with heart, lung and immunological conditions.

Alas, this is the new reality all of humanity is facing today.

COVID 19 in a sunsetter’s life

 

It is bad enough to be old, what with the physical limitations you are being subjected to already, but it is even worse now that you are being placed under strict home quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nobody to blame really. It is just one tough luck that it is happening at this time in your life – in your sunset years.

But looking back, it seems like life went on unfolding unbeknownst that practically everything you have been doing was, somehow, preparing yourself for this eventuality – a once in a life pandemic.

What is even amazing is that without you knowing also, the members of your family have been living their lives and making decisions that would prepare them, likewise, against this dreadful pandemic.

What I am just saying is that not until it happens does one realize that, as a family, everyone’s thought seems to be guided along the lines of humanity, that of showing concern, kindness, mercy and sympathy. It is about fulfilling one’s wish that somehow we can be together always, standing by for one another in times of need and sorrow, and celebrating milestones and successes, if any.

What comes into my mind is what I wrote in my previous blog, “Turn of Events”, where I mentioned the succession of critical surgeries I had had that restored back my physiological well-being and, unknowingly prepared me for this stressful and maddening quarantine being imposed by the government on senior citizens.

How can one not consider the convergence of all wishes, desires and aspirations to be near each other when our daughter and her family decided to transfer their residence from Manila to Mandaue City and live in a subdivision very near our own subdivision?

Isn’t this what senior citizens need most, to have somebody younger who could do errands for us because of the restrictive orders brought about by the pandemic?

What is even providential is the fact that our son, who lived with his family in Lapu-lapu City in Cebu, decided to sell their property and temporarily lived with us while they were awaiting for their visas to migrate to Canada. The pandemic, however, caught up with them, but at least they are with us and their stay is God-sent, likewise, for our needs in these times of crisis. I am hopeful that they can still fulfill their dreams of living abroad when the world overcomes this fierce and horrible enemy called COVID-19.

The same may not be true with our other son, who is in Davao. But his decision to have his family transfer residence to Davao City and be together is the best thing that has ever happened to them, and being sunsetters for parents, we could not have wished for a better decision.

In fact, as sunsetters, we could not really asked for more, except perhaps to pray that more lives are saved rather than wasted.

Turn of events

A little over a month ago I underwent a functional endoscopic sinus surgery. I found out that I needed it so badly based on the CT scan taken before the surgery.

I could only wonder how I was able to cope with it for so long. Perhaps it was because I just thought I had sleeping problems and taking 5 mg of Zoldem would solve it. It did for quite some time, years in fact, and what helped me contend with it, I guess, is that I am an active person – meaning I want to move, I want to be doing something, like following a daily work or physical exercising regimen and also keeping up with my daily mental drill of reading and doing crossword puzzle with my wife.

In fact before rising from bed, upon waking up, I do stretches to prepare my body and limbs for the rigors of the day. Included in these discipline is the breathing exercise – doing it from my mouth and/or nostrils. What I often do is close one nostril and breathe on the other, and vice versa, just to see if the passages are clear. I could not really tell for sure if something was obstructing my left nostril because somehow I could still breathe through it.

But I started to have doubts, so much so that I carried with me all the time an inhaler, not necessarily the renown Vicks inhaler, as there are inhalers made in Thailand with different scents, just so it gives me the assurance and confidence that I can still smell it in both of my nostrils.

My doubts got proven finally by the time I noticed that I could easily blow mucous from my right nostril, but nothing came out from my left nostril. Instead the slimy thing from my left nostril gets stuck inside and I had to remove it using a handkerchief manipulated by my pinky finger. I know my condition was not getting any better, that in fact getting worse, as I could smell foul odor coming from within.

At that instant I was trying to recollect the inconveniences and fears I had had brought about by the abnormality I was having with my respiratory system. I mentioned about the ubiquitous inhaler I had and the ever present sleeping pills which actually quelled my fears every time day turns to night time. Suffice to say that I always dreaded night time because that is the time when I had a never ending battle with the demon inside me – of not being ablr to have a good and restful night because of my breathing anomaly. I was in denial of my breathing anomaly, but attributed my sleepless nights instead to stress, being a light sleeper, of thinking so many thoughts, and by being just an insomniac.

Looking back now I’ve really been an insomniac for the wrong reason. Fearing that I would be addicted to Zoldem, I tried taking alternative medication, including chamomile tea, but to no avail. I find myself almost always going back to taking Zoldem.

Getting exasperated and feeling now the discomfort and self-disgust of cleaning my left nostril all the time in public, I finally decided to consult an EENT doctor. This, after distinctly noticing I was losing my sense of smell and the appetite to eat. I also was feeling sluggish and easily getting cramps in my legs, which made me let-up a little on my exercise – riding on the stationary bike or doing an hour of brisk walking around our subdivision. Sweeping the yard, feeding the dogs and the lovebirds has always been part of my daily chores.

2019 novel coronavirus

While all this anxiety was going on in my life, a more dreadful turn of events was going on in China when in late December 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Just from December 31, 2019 through January 3, 2020, a total of 44 case-patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology were reported to WHO by the national authorities in China. During this reported period, the casual agent was not identified.

This news gave me more the urge to see the EENT doctor immediately as I was already strongly doubting the efficacy of my own immune system. The doctor did not like what he saw and gave me antibiotic good for two weeks. He also prescribed a powdered medicine for nasal and sinus irrigation. After two weeks nothing changed as he still could see pus inside. He again gave me another week of antibiotic while I continued with the flushing, but this time he recommended a CT scan of my sinuses as he was already certain I had polyps. His apprehension was confirmed by the CT scan results – the left sinus was clogged up and the findings were suggestive of a sinunasal polyp.

The functional endoscopic sinus surgery was the best thing that ever happened to me after my two knee replacements in 2014 and 2016, respectively. The timeliness of it could not be overemphasized, what with the formerly unknown cases of pneumonia in Wuhan being identified now as a new type (novel) of coronavirus that has become a pandemic causing health havoc throughout the whole world. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the name given to the 2019 novel coronavirus. COVID-19 is the name given to the disease associated with the virus. SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.

Bottom line is that I can easily breathe now. My respiratory system is back to normal and I can sleep well now sans Zoldem and other alternative sleeping pills. The infection is gone and I could no longer detect any foul smell coming from my left nostril. I don’t feel sluggish anymore and the cramps are gone. I still do my stretches before rising up from bed and so with my breathing exercises and I look forward to a satisfying brisk walking every other day in the afternoon,

But what is even more gratifying is that I could feel my immune system strongly back to fight the infections that may try to inflict me one time or another and I don’t fear confronting the coming of the evening anymore.

What a remarkable difference the functional endoscopic sinus surgery has made in these trying and concerning times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let ABS-CBN exist

This may be a hackneyed query/statement, but just the same I am going to say it to stress my point: “Why not crucify the owner of the goose that lays the golden eggs, rather than kill the goose itself?”

I am referring of course at the precarious fate that the nation’s biggest media group is facing on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to silence it. This, after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed before the Supreme Court a quo warranto petition seeking to void the franchise of ABS-CBN.

Activists, civic and other media organizations are denouncing such move as an assault on press freedom in the country and I could not blame them.

But more than the assault on press freedom and the burning desire to close a media institution like the ABS-CBN is the dire consequence that thousands of workers, professionals or otherwise, single or married, will have their livelihood, dreams and plans, turned upside down and uncertain. It is estimated that there will be over 11,000 direct and indirect employees of the giant media company who will lose their jobs over the closure.

We all know how all these came about. Duterte has repeatedly pledged to stop the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN and expressed anger over its adverse reporting during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Early in his term Duterte had accused the giant media of failing to broadcast his campaign advertisements and not returning the payments. He described this as having been swindled. The president has repeatedly vowed in public speeches to block any new license and a proposed law that would give ABS-CBN a 25-year operating permit has been gathering dust in congress since mid-2016.

Then came Calida’s statement, saying, “We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices by ABS-CBN. A franchise is a special privilege granted by the state, and should be restricted only to entities which faithfully adhere to our constitution and laws.”

I mean if it is just a matter of ABS-CBN failing to publish Duterte’s political advertisement and also failing to return the alleged P2.8 million paid for those ads, then why not just go after the owners of ABS-CBN and leave the institution running and existing for after all, does it not fall under the doctrine of command responsibility? Let the owners now decide on the fate of those responsible for handling the publication of the ads for their inadequacy.

To be fair, ABS-CBN, as an institution, has employees sympathetic of Duterte also and his governance. In fact many ABS-CBN stars are unabashed supporters of the president. Suffice to say that Duterte has also benefited a lot from the network.

 

VFA or bust

President Duterte with Sen. dela Rosa.

The country finds itself now at the crossroad where the government has to decide whether to continue embracing its decades-old military alliance with the US under the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) or totally abrogate it.

This, after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his displeasure and anger over the revocation of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa by the US government for the latter’s active participation in Duterte’s deadly war against illegal drugs that resulted at times to what was described by foreign and national human rights group as extrajudicial killings.

Note that Bato’s involvement was in his capacity as then the newly handpicked Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) commanded  to lead the drug war relentlessly while given the assurance by the president that he would back them up to the hilt. That he would take responsibility for their official actions and that he would even go to prison for them if need be. To this day Duterte has kept that promise.

It is no wonder then that Duterte reacted the way he did, saying, in an expletive-laden speech directed at the US government, “I’m warning you … if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate the … Visiting Forces Agreement. I’ll end that son of a bitch.” The correction of course refers to the reported cancellation of Bato’s visa to the US.

But one can only understand why Duterte has taken umbrage at the deliberate cancellation of Bato’s visa by the US government for he found the act also as more an affront not only to his persona, but as the head of state that has made the war against illegal drug the centerpiece of his administration.

So, the question now is, in this day and age when the security landscape of the Philippines is getting complicated, as can be gleaned from Duterte’s independent foreign policy stance, where he seem to be lessening the country’s dependence on the US while pursuing a policy that requires better relations with China and improving the relations with non-traditional partners, like Russia, Japan and India, is the VFA still relevant?

The VFA is a security accord that took effect in 1999 and which provides the legal cover for American troops to enter the Philippines for joint training with Filipino troops. A separate defense pact subsequently signed by the treaty allies in 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, allowed the extended stay of U.S. forces and authorized them to build and maintain barracks and other facilities in designated Philippine military camps.

Again, what this boils down to really is letting the US government know that the Philippines is still a sovereign nation enjoying the vibrancy of democracy and it should be respected as it is.

It is simply absurd that the cancellation of Bato’s visa is tied up to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act invoked by the US Senate calling for a travel ban to the US and the freezing of assets of Philippine government officials who are responsible for the alleged extrajudicial killings and the prolonged detention of Sen. Leila de Lima over multiple drug charges.

For Duterte, respect for the rule of law under a sovereign state is more important and relevant to his presidency than what benefits the VFA can bring to the country.

That is all there is to it.

Historical revision

Mr. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Is totally senseless and absurd that defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has recently called for the revision of school textbooks that portray his namesake and father’s family as “bad” people.

What he wants done specifically is reinterpret the historical record reflecting the dark days of his father’s one-man rule, when he placed the entirety of the Philippines under martial law on September 21, 1972, until it was lifted on January 17, 1981. The dictator Marcos was exiled from the country on February 25, 1986.

In effect his motive for proposing historical revisionism is not only to challenge established, accepted or traditional views held by professional scholars about a historical event that was the appalling martial law years, but mainly to absolve the Marcos conjugal dictatorship from all the atrocities and corruptions they perpetrated during their reign.

This dark period in Philippine history is remembered for the regime’s record of human rights abuses, particularly targeting political opponents, student activists, journalists, religious workers, farmers, and others who fought against the Marcos dictatorship.

Prominent opposition figures of the time, such as Lorenzo Tañada, Jose Diokno and Jovito Salonga, among others, were taken custody for accusing the despot Marcos of exaggeration over the allege increasing threat by the Communist insurgency and the ambush of his Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile outside the Wack-Wack subdivision. The trio claimed that it was simply a ruse for Marcos to have a convenient excuse to consolidate power and extend his tenure beyond the two presidential terms allowed by the 1935 Constitution.

Facts and figures show that about 70,000 people were imprisoned and 34,000 tortured, according to Amnesty International, while 3,240 were killed from 1972 to 1981. During this dark chapter of Philippine history, thousands of people were subject to various forms of torture. Prisoners were electrocuted, beaten up, and strangled. They were burned with a flat iron or cigars. Water was poured down their throats, then forced out by beating. Women were stripped naked and raped, various objects forced into their genitals.

It is for this reason that a human rights lawyer and one of the authors of RA 10368, otherwise known as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, Erin Tañada, a grandson of Lorenzo Tañada, harshly criticized the despot’s son suggestion to revise history books as a “desperate attempt by the Marcoses to erase the memory of the horrors of martial law and absolve the sins of their father.”

Thus, I find it incredibly unbelievable that Marcos Jr. can easily sweep the horrors of martial law under the rug without second thoughts as if it never happened, and instead endeavors to convince the generation after the baby boomers, described as Generation X, and even the Millennials, for that matter, that the accounts about the abuse and corruption done by his family during the martial law years were part of the propaganda of their political rivals. In effect what the young Marcos is saying is that the present school textbooks contain nothing but lies being taught to students.

What delusion! What arrogance!

I still have to hear a despot, exiled or not, who has not been accused of flagrantly robbing the nation’s coffers and stashing it somewhere else. Of course Marcos Jr. knows this like he knows the back of his hand.

 

Robredo’s report

Vice President Leni Robredo

Now comes Vice President Leni Robredo and her much ballyhooed report she promised to come up with based on her observations during her short stint as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

So, was Robredo’s report factual, instructive and convincing such that it would ultimately change the way President Duterte will be conducting his bloody war on drugs the remaining years of his term or is it nothing but a rhetorical and political maneuvering for her presidential ambition in 2022?

What many, including myself,  wanted to hear from Robredo are facts and figures coming from a comprehensive study by reliable entities that would clearly show why it made her describe Duterte’s war on drug as a “massive failure’.

Any sensible person would know that the study needed should take some time to compile, considering the breadth and depth of the drug problem in the country. Needless to say that a detailed study of this magnitude involving an archipelagic country like ours cannot just be factually accomplished in a time frame of 18 days or so as co-chair of ICAD. Thus, the report is dubious at best and downright absurd at worst.

It would have been instructive had Robredo, in the process of studying or assessing the administration’s war on drugs, got herself immersed not just in the discussion about the enforcement cluster that ICAD is mandated to carry out, but also in the accomplishment of the other cluster’s objectives involving justice, advocacy and rehabilitation and reintegration. This is specifically the misgivings that Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino expressed about Robredo, when the latter came out with her report.

For better understanding, the justice cluster is “primarily responsible for the expeditious prosecution of all drug cases, provision of legal assistance to law enforcement,” and the availability of public attorneys for voluntary surrenders and warrantless arrests during operations. Meanwhile, the advocacy cluster is tasked to conduct a nationwide campaign on the government’s anti-drug policy and related programs, while the rehabilitation and reintegration cluster “shall implement drug rehabilitation programs and ensure the reintegration of former drug dependents and other drug personalities as useful members of society.”

Although Robredo understood that the campaign against illegal drugs has so many aspects, lamentably, her report focused solely on the enforcement aspect, which I consider to be self-serving, if not politically motivated, as it gives her the authority to disparage at Duterte for the alleged extrajudicial killings involved in his war against drug.

Robredo should realize, however, that in order for her report to be convincing and acceptable she should have been holistic in her approach by including in her report the ongoing of the other aspects/clusters under the responsibility of ICAD. It cannot be that everything is a failure in Duterte’s bloody and relentless war against drugs. Give credit where credit is due.

Otherwise, Robredo’s report is nothing but a vehicle for her presidential ambition in 2022.

What wishful thinking!