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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, March 2, 2020
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Take it from the Italians

Ninfa Leonardia

That’s right. The Italians have the right idea. Instead of moping and panicking over the Coronavirus threat, they have made up gags and stories that could make people laugh instead of getting hysterical. A report from the Agence France Presse yesterday told some funny stories about people’s reactions to the threat. Now, Italy is said to have more cases of the COVID 19, but still its jokesters continue to crack jokes or invent situations to make other forget their fears and, yes, laugh!

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They can also make the reader laugh. People there are making jokes about serving “virus ice cream” or “virus cakes”, they offer “corona cakes” shaped like the virus with its spikes and all. They even make humorous videos that circulate, like that of a woman who sneezed, and immediately special forces men swarmed around her house, breaking into the windows, the doors, and even the roof! I wonder how the other European countries, almost paralyzed in fear by Miss Corona, are reacting to the Italian responses.

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As these are happening, this is one case where it looks as if things are going to get worse before they get better. But we Filipinos should be prayerful and thankful that although some people suspected to be infected had passed through our twin provinces, at least they were proven negative and spared us the spread of the really “novel” disease. But let us continue to pray that our officials will continue to be on guard, even to the point of over-reacting, to keep us from danger.

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But a piece of good news to reach us lately is that a big chunk in oil price deduction is due this week – maybe even tomorrow? The rollback is said to be P0.90 per liter for gasoline and P1.70 for diesel. Now who is the motorist who not will run to his or her “suki” gas station and cry triumphantly “fill ‘er up”! Because, for all you know, there could be an increase by next week, too. Unless miracles keep happening and another rollback is announced next week.

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So President Duterte can thumb his nose at those inviting him to the ASEAN summit called by the American President. I think he had already mentioned his unwillingness to go, so there is no sweat over it. That is because President Trump has postponed the event himself. Just between us, I think he must be afraid some of the participants he invited might arrive bringing some unwelcome coronavirus bits and smear the other delegates and even himself.

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But amusing rather than reassuring is the report that at the Philippine Military Academy, or PMA, homecoming, a usually very spirited gathering of the country’s high-class soldiers, very few turned up for the celebration. For the Class of 1979, ironically named “Matapat”, only one showed up and he marched carrying the flag alone, except for his son, now a cadet there, who marched along with him. Indeed, it was a lonely picture they made on the front page of a national daily yesterday.

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The other day there was a report that Pope Francis was not well and that he was having a cold. Let us pray for him that it is, indeed, an ordinary cold he is having because some over-eager diagnosticians might cry out that the coronavirus has reached the Vatican! His doctors could be worried because it was revealed that he has only one lung – the other was removed when he was still a young man. But there was no further report on it yesterday, so I hope it means that “No news is good news”. But let us pray for our saintly Holy Father.

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I hope this does not reach the ears of the President but maybe his mind has cleared over his hasty decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement, or VFA, with the United States. Remember that he did it because he was peeved when the U.S. cancelled the visa of now Senator Bato de la Rosa? Now I understand a study is being made about what sounds like a “substitute” agreement. Well, let’s hope it will be with any other country, not China, because it can breed plagues like the coronavirus. Don’t you think so?*

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