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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, August 7, 2020
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OPINIONS

Say it with lights

Ninfa Leonardia

Let Rome burn, and let Lebanon explode. These two incidents happened centuries apart, but there was something common in the response to them. Remember? Nero was considered a villain for playing his fiddle while Rome was burning, and history never‘ forgave him for that. Only the other day, a terrible explosion rocked Lebanon, leaving homes and buildings in rubble. But while residents were panicking and rushing out of their damaged homes, the sound of a piano tinkling could be heard. It turned out to be a grandmother playing on the instrument! And what was she playing? Would you believe? The old American favorite “Auld Lang Syne”!

***

Yesterday government authorities of Lebanon declared Beirut a disaster city. I wonder what happened to that piano-playing Grandma? I hope her music has saved her, and allowed her to keep her wits. Music hath charms, indeed, and it was a very sentimental reporter who was able to capture it for TV audiences worldwide. Suddenly, I remembered a scene from my own childhood during World War II. As very small children, my sister and I hardly understood how dangerous life was then. My father built us a small house within a coconut plantation of my grandparents that we children found a wonderful place to play in.

***

It was far from the town of Pontevedra, and even from the barrio where our grandfolks had their home. Right near our main stairs was a big hole dug out to be an air raid shelter, as the Americans had already started the liberation of the Philippines and dropping bombs in Japanese occupied territory. Early one morning, we heard the sounds of bombing, and our father herded us all into the “shelter”. We children were excited but my mother kept praying the rosary.

***

Before we knew it, three Japanese soldiers were looking down on us, with guns pointed at my father, whom they pulled out of the hole and brought to the house. I understood later that they were looking for Pinoy soldiers or spies working for the Americans. They kept prodding my father with their guns, and poking into every corner of the house. All the while my mother followed them around, singing loudly “O Virgen Maria, ig-ampo mo kami (O Virgin Mary, Pray for us). Finally one of the invaders got irritated and shouted at her what must have been, “Quiet!” in Nippongo. Miraculously, they gave up and left, without hurting anyone.

***

I admit I did not remember all that myself, but our helpers who stayed with us until the war ended and were quite grown up, kept repeating it, so it became fixed in our minds. Alas, today’s conflicts are carried on with more sophisticated and dangerous armaments, like atomic and hydrogen bombs and worse, so it is not unlikely that any world war that could start, could also mean the end of the world! That is why, even if our country is not involved in any conflicts right now, we must always pray that the leaders we chose will not be warhawks who may involve us in warfare.

***

But is this pandemic caused by the newly discovered virus the equivalent of a World War? This time, however, the enemy is unseen, only its effects are felt and known. So far, the weaponry against it have not been invented, and the virus has confounded even our most talented and dedicated medical men and women. Is it true that vaccines being developed by some countries may be available by yearend? But what about those already stricken when such preventives are released for human use? In the meantime, let us protect ourselves and our loved ones by observing all the advices and instructions for avoiding it. And even if you are a fan of the incumbent American president, don’t listen to him when he says carelessly that this will “just go away”.

***

In the meantime, the government is supposed to start the distribution of the second tranche of the financial assistance to the poor known as the Social Amelioration Program, or SAP. I hope this will be done with the utmost care to prevent what happened before where several barangay officials are now facing charges for allegedly prioritizing their own families and friends. I hope this is known to all of them so the number of those to be charged and possibly convicted will not grow. Our jails are too full already.

***

Lights on or lights off? Well, it depends on how a country or its officials take an incident that affects their people. After the Lebanon blast, it was reported that the famed Eiffel Tower put out its lights as sign of sympathy for the victims. In the meantime, in Tel Aviv, lights were turned on full blast to express the same sentiment. No, the lights off were not caused by brownouts, they have better power generations than we have. To its credit, though, our Ceneco has not been having tantrums lately. But let’s cross our fingers.*

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