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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, March 30, 2020
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Conservation Matters

Healing the Earth

Conservation Matters

It took a coronavirus for the world to be seemingly at a standstill at the moment. Not only at a standstill, but also uncertain on what will happen in the coming days, as the lives of health workers and other frontline persons battling what earlier was called novel coronavirus, now Covid-19, are in danger. A good number, unfortunately, had fallen in affected countries, including here in the Philippines.

The Covid-19 reportedly emanated from a seafood market in Wuhan, China, where wildlife trade was prevalent. Some scientific journals pointed out that the virus most likely came from a bat and contaminated an intermediary animal that caused the transmission of the coronavirus-19 to humans. Bats are known carriers of various corona viruses, while pangolin is being suspected as an intermediary agent.

This pandemic continues to rapidly spread and occur, resulting in restricted socio-cultural and economic movements with declaration of total or partial lockdowns of affected nations.

In the Philippines, mainland Luzon has already been placed in what authorities call enhanced community quarantine and several provinces outside it are observing similar protocols. Amidst the chaotic situation, with thousands of deaths and more than a hundred thousand being infected with Covid-19 globally, it seems the virus carries a message that we should not only start healing ourselves, but heal the Earth, as well.

The limited mobility of the people, with imposed restrictions on all means of transportation, has drastically reduced carbon emission. The same is true with the slowdown of the world’s economies, since production, manufacturing, and distribution of various commercial goods, that are so-called nonessential these days, almost came to a halt. While panic buying happens, not only in the Philippines but also in other countries, the people’s consumption and use of food and assorted commodities had tremendously declined, with the closure of shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, resorts, other recreation facilities and places, and some fast food chains, among others.

It means reduction in the otherwise excessive consumption of the world’s resources. All of these have contributed to the reduction of demand and use of fossilized fuels, which are known sources of global pollution, resulting in climate change.

To avoid the further spread of the virus, many people started to practice healthy lifestyle by wearing facemasks, regular hand washing, and other hygienic approaches. In an attempt to increase our bodies’ immunity from Covid-19 and other diseases, food intakes of many have started to shift to plant-based products, and it means decreasing meat consumption. The animal industries are drivers of deforestation and pollution, too. The once forested areas are now converted into large cattle ranches. Both deforestation and animal droppings contribute to emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases, like methane, which is one of the most hazardous substances that pollute the atmosphere.

The other important lesson about this pandemic that we should always consider is respect for wildlife.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, wildlife trade is allowed in several countries, especially in China. While it is true that wildlife carries viruses, they are part of their immune system from natural conditions on their habitats. Usually, or in all cases, virus transmission from wildlife to humans only occurs when direct interaction between them happens. This interaction and contamination become more feasible if wildlife species are being hunted, traded, and consumed as food. Making wildlife species as household pets is another danger of animal to human virus transmission. Dislocation of wildlife from their habitats, due to deforestation, has forced several species to take refuge in other places, including areas where human habitations exist.

China has already declared a ban on wildlife trade, and I hope other countries will follow, given that many wildlife species around the world are now threatened with extinction in the wild.

With all these uncertainties at present times, it is of help for us to reflect if we can still co-exist with what remains in our nature, in as much that various natural ecosystems and environment, in general, have already been badly damaged.

Just like us, who need safeguards and healing from Covid-19 and other viruses, our Earth needs protection and healing, too, from disturbances, pressures, and abuses inflicted to it, unfortunately, by us, people of the world.*

Rock and Refuge
with Fr. Roy Cimagala

What a big pity if…


Rock & Refuge

Indeed we have to admit that we practically are all cowering in fear and anxiety, and suffering from all kinds of privations, physical, mental and emotional, all arising from this pandemic that we are having these days. But it would be a big pity ifi n all these conditions we fail to take advantage of the golden opportunity these conditions are actually offering us.

            If we are guided by our Christian faith, we know that we are not meant only to suffer and then die. We are meant for joy and

bliss and life everlasting. But our suffering and death possess great

value that can do us a lot of good.

            If we have learned well from Christ’s life and example, then we would know that our suffering and death can be our best and ultimate expression of our love for God and for everybody else,

because Christ has made all human suffering precisely as the supreme manifestation of love and as the ultimate means for our salvation.

            Remember Christ saying, “Greater love has no man that this: that a man lays down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15,13) That would be pure love, fully gratuitous, with no strings attached. And it’s a love that is motivated by no less than the greatest need of man: our own salvation, the full recovery of our dignity as children of God.

            If we can only have the same attitude that Christ had in accepting his passion and death as we go through our current rigmarole of lockdown, quarantine and all that stuff, then we would be turning our imposed sacrifices into something very positive, helpful and constructive.

            No, we are not meant to suffer, and suffering is not God’s will for us. Our suffering is always self-inflicted which God allows to happen because he respects our freedom, no matter how much we abuse it.

            But God knows how to turn our suffering and death around. In Christ, we have been given the way of how to reverse the purely negative character of our suffering and death into something positive and redemptive.

            That is why we have to learn how to love suffering, not in the perverted and masochistic sense, but in the way Christ accepted his passion and death. He did no run away from it when the time came for him to go through it. He presented himself, in fact, and embraced all that suffering and death quietly in obedience to the will of the Father for the salvation of man.

            Let’s remember that it is our sin that has brought our own suffering and death. And it’s a sin that would require God himself with our cooperation for it to be forgiven. Why? Because it is God whom we have offended, and we on our own cannot undo it. It would need God himself becoming man to undo it. By so doing, we have the way to be forgiven of our sin.

            When we would finally be able to accept and live this truth of our faith, then we would not be afraid of any suffering that

will befall us in our earthly life. In fact, we would welcome and embrace suffering, convinced that we would be enriched and glorified by it. We would be convinced that by embracing suffering we would be tightening our identification with Christ, and would be showing the greatest love we can ever have.

     Yes, love is proven more genuine and more Christ-inspired if developed, lived and shown in the crucible of suffering. A love that only thrives on good times is not an authentic love. It has to have the form of the cross for it to be authentic.

            So, we can say that our present condition is actually an invitation for us to mature in our humanity and in our Christian life.*

Day 1, Lockdown


In the next couple of days, expect some chaos over the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in our city and province as there is much confusion as to the rules and regulations stated under the Executive Order and certain posts on social media by public officials.

The earlier announcement that the city government will provide scheduled buses every two hours, not just for health workers, but also for workers of those ‘essential’ businesses that will be allowed to operate during the 14-days lockdown, and worse, the general public, at least those who are holding the Home Quarantine Pass (HQP) was perplexing to say the least.

Section 5 of Mayor Bing Leonardia’s EO states that all kinds and modes of public transportation shall be suspended except for any shuttle service that may be primarily provided for health workers and other frontliners – the police, military, social workers, etc.

It further added that barangay vehicles may be used to service their constituents on a scheduled basis for the purpose of obtaining/purchasing food and other essential items or for emergency cases. In other words, nowhere in that section did it say that the city government will provide buses from point to point for the general public that holds Home Quarantine Passes (HQP).

That has been changed since…Now there are separate buses provided for medical health workers and other frontliners and a different bus for essential workers and I am thankful that it has been changed before lockdown starts though I am still not agreeable to providing transportation for essential workers and those with HQP passes as this is still contrary to the EO that was released by the city government.

When I saw the initial announcements that the city provided buses that will mix health workers with essential workers and those with HQP passes that made me realize the 14-day lockdown will go to naught and we are headed for a bigger disaster

I reached out to a city official in the hope that he can put some sense into all these before further damage can be done. And true enough, it takes very little common sense for him to understand that indeed, if the entire city issued just 50,000 HQPs, even if only half of those will use those free buses, you still have 25,000 people going around and add to that the ‘essential’ workers that will only have to show their IDs for their free ride and the numbers will rise.

Dr. Kaye Parreno-Bautista, the head of the Doctors’ Media Awareness Campaign here said that “the best strategy to address this COVID situation is complete isolation of communities .  The virus will stop spreading if  all people stop moving, so it will not have a new victim. In this case, COVID-19 is said to have a lifespan of 2-4 weeks. But if we won’t allow them to find a new host necessary for their survival - they will disappear and will die down naturally, as we have put an end on their capacity to live. But we have to end it now.”

That couldn’t be more amplified! But to the contrary, the city government just allowed easy movement of people by providing others, apart from the health workers and frontliners, their own public transportation.

This again, contradicts Section 6 of that EO which states business establishments allowed to operate under the EO must do so with a skeletal force and must provide transportation for their workers during the lockdown period. Eg., since groceries and pharmacies are among those that will remain open, they should ferry their employees to and from work and ensure that even during the drive, social distancing is still observed.

These are businesses that have raked profits for years and if they cannot make this little sacrifice of ferrying their workers in the next two weeks, then I have no words for them. However, since these are extraordinary times, the city government could give these establishments incentives to recoup from the losses and expenses they will incur as they continue to operate under a lockdown. 

Among those deemed essential by our city as well are the BPO companies that employ tens of thousands in our community. But as per the EO under Section 9.15, all BPOs and KPOs will be allowed to operate “provided that personnel are provided appropriate temporary accommodation arrangements and a skeletal workforce will adhere with social distancing.”

 All these provisions seem clear and easily understandable which is why I really could not understand how these call center agents can ride those free buses when it is very clear that if their companies cannot provide them temp shelter, then they automatically should work at home.

We know there will always be political repercussions this two-week lockdown will cause but time here is of the essence and public health must not be compromised nor politicizef. In fact, if done correctly and we avoid further spread of the virus, it will be a shining moment for our political leaders – if.

Our health workers and frontliners need utmost protection during this time. We have seen the discrimination some of them endured because many remain ignorant about this crisis or perhaps, because our LGUs failed to provide their people adequate information to value the services and the risks these health workers and frontliners face in battling COVID-19.

We saw how employees at Riverside Medical Center were banished from their boarding houses for misplaced fear and anger towards Patient 1 whom they could have or not have been exposed to. The same as in the case of employees in a hospital in Iloilo where their Patient 1 was admitted.

It was worse in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat where an employee of St. Louis Hospital was subjected to harm by some men last Thursday while on his way to work. It didn’t matter to these people who or what work he does in the hospital. They only saw him as someone who works in the hospital where a PUI died.

These ignorant men threw Zonrox on the employee’s face that nearly damaged his eyesight if he did not get emergency procedure at the hospital right after the incident. A similar incident that thankfully caused less damage happened in Cebu over the weekend.

We have heard of other stories of discrimination against our health workers despite the sacrifices and risks they are taking. People are not mindful of the fact that these health workers may not see their own family for weeks on end nor of the fact that the medical community already lost more than 10 doctors in this battle.

These incidents probably made our city officials finally see the possible risks our health workers may face when they are mixed with the general public. Not to mention the fact that our health workers may easily be exposed to the virus and can spread it to the public via these buses.

Thankfully though, all’s well that ends well. And today as we start the lockdown, I am comforted that our health workers can travel to and fro their workplace safely. As to the other buses, I hope something can still be done about it…just revert to the EO and strictly follow it, and perhaps, just perhaps, we may surpass this.


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