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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The tragedy in our midst from the deadly virus---as dished out in ever-growing statistics by competing media orgs---quite heart-breaking and most worrisome for the world's population.



Because of the Covid 19 virus, the world has become captive to the huge media outlets for the latest statistics. 



Everyday for the past two weeks, I have been tuning on, rather obsessively, I must admit, to this Covid 19 pandemic that is upon us, and though I have lived long enough on this earth, so that I should no longer be overwhelmed by anything at all---I cannot help but be just that. 

I am simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of this pandemic that started from a hitherto unknown virus that came from a couple of wild animals in the small, obscure city of Wuhan in China's central province of Hubei. This virus has now victimized over a million dead people, and nearly as many are hovering in the twilight zone.

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Among those who are quite ill are very close friends of mine:  former Senator Sonny Alvarez and my radio partner, Cecile Alvarez. They are fighting for their lives in a hospital in Manila and I'd like to implore prayers for these two most patriotic citizens.

I have cried enough, especially since my only surviving sister also finally left this world after many weeks in the hospital---with tubes inserted into her throat to aide her breathing---right at the height of Covid19.

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Over the past days I have been transfixed before the TV, listening to all the heart-wrenching stories of families from around the world who are afflicted by this virus, and the bravery and stoicism with which they have put up with it among families and friends.

What overwhelms me is the magnitude of the pandemic and the innumerable lives that it has afflicted in a most terrible way all around the world---either very ill or dead---and how their surviving loved ones have had to deal with these grim realities, despite their being in constant threat of contamination. 

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As a result of this pandemic, we who have led relatively easy and rewarding lives will never be the same again ---even if we survive this virus. Our parents and grandparents have had to live with their own pandemic challenges in their time, and now we are going through the same cycle.

Our parents and grandparents have had to confront epidemics which easily turned pandemic in those times of smaller populations and less mobility---as well as far less developed medical science (no antibiotics as yet). Among those were the cholera and influenza epidemics of the late 1800s, and much earlier, the smallpox and the bubonic plague (termed the "Black Plague" ). 

So gripping were these mass plagues in those earlier eras that  famed French-Algerian novelist Albert Camus was encouraged to write his classic work, "The Plague," in 1947. This work won Camus the Nobel Prize in 1957, when he was 44 years old.

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Over the past days, as I would shift from one international TV news channel to another, at first I was merely the jaded media person listening to all the stories and the flood of statistics of afflictions from one country to another, and so on. Eventually, what I found intriguing was the inevitable blame-game among various  people. 

But over the past few days I began to be very affected by all the dire broadcasts, especially when I couldn't even say goodbye to my own dying sister as a result of this pandemic. This physical distancing was understandably dictated by the virus, but it didn't also give much allowance at all for emotional distancing---my sister had to be cremated right away before we relatives could gather.  

Since that episode--- where I couldn't even say goodbye to my sister because of the need to keep physical as well as emotional distance---I began to sense that something in me was being transformed. 

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It was not only my sister's passing, as that was expected: she had been confined in St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City for as long as four months. I think it was more like I was drowning in the grim statistics that I was feeding on from the various international news channels day after day---about how people were dying like flies in various parts of the world---most especially in the most advanced countries. They were dying because of the vicious coronavirus and how fearful the peoples of the world have all become, because of it! 

What a time we are living in! Simply unforgettable. This pandemic has changed our world and our lives more than we will ever know or imagine or care to admit.

XXX

Each generation manages to live through an epidemic or even a pandemic of sorts. I heard all about the past happenings from my parents as I grew up and in my history studies at the UP.  

 But living through one actual pandemic now---the corona virus --- amid the tireless news about its pandemic nature, as brought into our homes and workplaces every hour on the hour by various highly competitive international media channels--- has assured me of the reality of pandemics, where before these used to be mere stories from my parents and elder siblings.

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The super-stiff competition among the huge media channels for thorough coverage of the Covid 19 pandemic has assured us of all the news we want to hear---every hour on the hour. But I'm afraid that it has also produced such a numbing effect on many of us human beings. For many folks around the world, it has fast become just one of those everyday occurrences in the world, cold statistics on who, where, when, etc. 

This is what a pandemic produces in the ultimate---most worrisome, most frightening. 

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