The graduating from quarantine Covid Class of 1960 Media Play News

The graduating from quarantine Covid Class of 1960 Featured

THIS column departs from the usual op ed dissecting realities behind the headlines. This time, it is an intimate recounting of how high school 1960 classmates from the Ateneo de Davao (AdeD) survived the four months of quarantine. Firstly, we all felt cheated by this government at this juncture when time itself is precious to us. We were prevented from breaking quarantine legally, being “seniors” — septuagenarians all, nonetheless reclassified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “middle-aged.” Because of the knee-jerk bureaucratic edict that 60-year- olds and up with preexisting conditions are most vulnerable to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) — ergo, we should stay in isolation.

This is hogwash! For one, the studies, research and statistics are not conclusive. In fact, differing studies can be cited. Placing the elderly in confinement lowers immunity, making them prone to depression and anxiety, possibly driving them to suicide.

This quarantine provided us the time to mull over the fragility of our lives amid the daily count of morbidity. Although in our engagement through social media, we never discussed this intimately. We left it unspoken, particularly when death couldn’t be closer as when one of us — Ting Valdez and his vivacious wife Cheng were both stricken. Cheng didn’t make it.

With the specter of mortality hanging over our heads, we coped, shunting aside the thought of who could be next. This heightens our longing to connect, using technology — and we did, employing the internet.

The ‘old normal’

For years, our class meets every Wednesday like clockwork upon the direction of our “president for life” Dinky Munda, doing the yeoman’s job of scheduling activities, acting as the eminence grise or overall “go-fer”; until Covid-19 interfered and confined us to our homes. But the craving to socialize was compelling, alleviated in part by our techie, Toti Morales, who set up the necessary communication routines. This technology-driven, face-to-face virtual encounters invariably end with oft-repeated anecdotes and jokes, nebulous yet strangely familiar. Sheepishly we groped and fumbled in the deep recesses of our memories, wiping off the cobwebs, peeling layer by layer the fading past — the curse of aging. Thus, the class’ self-appointed historian with a superb recall produced a written document inviting the rest to edit, contribute and help recollect and publish the same through social media. Pribu Balchand did a wonderful job recounting our colorful lives six decades ago, filtered naturally through the prism of a quintessential Jesuit novitiate, who could have been the first Hindu-Filipino Pope, had not his path to a holy life been derailed by two of the devil’s adjutants. Alvin Babista will pay for these transgressions as I am sure Titing Ancheta already did. Thus, Perbo’s opus in nine installments left us wonderfully and pleasantly guessing as to the narratives’ authenticity. But who cares, many of us have vanishing recollections anyway.

Thus, this quarantine provoked AdeD Class ‘60 to fashion out our new normal; and by our collected assessment fleshed out our role in the community and society — unfortunately, disparaged by a government bureaucracy ignorant of the seniors’ importance. While still ambulant, we have these magnificent few years still ahead of us which can still be put to good and productive use. And we intend to perform as we see fit as “men for others,” or as Romy Butiu put it succinctly — “Ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

Toward a ‘new normal’

Corollary to this is our disgust with senior government officials from whence the anti-senior policies and a host of other dysfunctional strategies emanate. But these are simply symptoms of an internal rot, where the bureaucracy is incapable of thinking things through.

Their pronouncements are long on rhetoric and short on facts and practicalities. The first few days of the general community quarantine witnessed hundreds of commuters stranded, either unable to go to their workplaces and/or back to their homes, for lack of transportation. A “balik-probinsya” young woman in fact died on the street waiting for a bus ride to Bicol, with four now orphaned minor children waiting for her at home. And hundreds of stranded passengers, some overseas Filipino workers, could be seen “lodging” for days on end under the airport overpasses waiting for flights back home. Countless horror stories abound that are unaddressed and totally unconscionable. These couldn’t be dismissed as mere faux pas.

Profile of Covid has changed

And thus, we arrive at a crossroad. It is indisputable that the Philippine economy must reopen lest we condemn our people to a worsening poverty and the future generation to a fate much worse than what Covid-19 can extract.

New studies by the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various international health institutions suggest that Covid-19 is losing potency and burning out — going the way of other pandemics like the severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome, Ebola, etc. In these studies, “…With or without lockdowns, coronavirus behaved similarly. On top of this, asymptomatic (no outward symptoms) transmissions are ‘very rare.’ Accordingly, the coronavirus no longer exists in Italy after running 35,000 deaths and statistically, global deaths are trending downward — the virus dying out in part due to its own viral mechanisms without need for vaccine or lockdown.” (The Manila Times, Yen Makabenta, June 11, 2020)
This is where our part as seniors becomes relevant. If the Covid-19 indeed is still potent and lurking about, then for heaven’s sake let’s instead protect and preserve the young — our country’s future. Let the seniors assume the risks. We have lived full lives. Septuagenarians only have a few more months or years. These are not heroics, simply pragmatics.

Primitive society

Human existence is filled with practices and oral traditions handed down from generation to generation on the relentless march of our species to populate the earth and survive. And the elderly play an incredibly special role as in life’s drama of aging, the eventual curtain call is death. Among the labrador eskimos old age was treated with great respect. “This does not prevent them, however, from putting the old folks out of the way when life becomes a burden to them. But the act is usually done in accordance with the wish of the persons concerned and is thought to be proof of devotion.”(Ernest William Hawkes, The Labrador Eskimo, 1916.)

Some apocryphal tales recount of Indians of the American plains. They have great respect for the aged. But during harsh winters when food is scarce, the elderly give theirs to the young and the able-bodied. And when they become a burden to the tribe, it is their custom that they are left behind to die. And this is a mark of respect.

We don’t propose for any of my classmates to do the same. This is simply to communicate to our leaders and policy makers unequivocally that the elderly are not brittle, helpless and useless. And scratch the surface, we too are as patriotic as any age group — and even better as we realize that with the ravages of the pandemic and the mounting morbidity around us, we have long accepted that death is the ultimate solution to aging. And it is our choice and privilege to do an exit in our own magnificent way.000
Read 399 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 June 2020 17:29
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