We shouldn’t start the year merely being angry at the girl who just had to party in Poblacion; we should strive to do better.
In the closing days of 2021, two disasters dominated the country’s headlines and social media feeds everywhere.
The first arrived a little over a week before Christmas Day. Typhoon Odette (international name Rai) struck the belly of the country, wreaking havoc across Siargao, Cebu, and many other spots in the Visayas. The calamity claimed more than 400 lives, injured more than a thousand, and inflicted infrastructure damage amounting to more than P16 Billion.
Days after Odette, which is only the third Category 5 Super Typhoon to ever be recorded in the South China Sea, many were left in desperate need. Too many people were without water, communication signals, electricity, or a roof over their heads.
“Sirang-sira yung buong Cebu,” says Slater Young on YouTube, in a post that was shot the day after the typhoon hit. The 18-minute video, titled “Everything Got Destroyed,” showed scattered furniture, holes to the roof, and the destruction wrought on their Cebu City home.
Young’s wife Kryz Uy posted a video herself, recorded a week after the typhoon. It opened with a shot of an extremely long queue of people waiting to have their containers filled at a water refilling station. Many places in the affected cities, towns, and streets are still without water up to today.
“Super suwerte kami. Everyone else we’ve heard had much greater damage,” recounts Young.
Party at Poblacion
“Suwerte” isn’t what we would describe the participants in the other year-ending headline. Instead of the problem emanating from Mother Nature, the mess was born out of appallingly-entitled and selfish decision-making.
According to reports, a young woman broke protocol and left her quarantine hotel to meet up and celebrate with friends in Poblacion. She was later declared as COVID positive, along with others in her party.
Identified as Gwyneth Anne Chua in a Show Cause letter from the Department of Tourism (DOT) to the quarantine hotel, the woman checked in on December 22 after flying in from the US. She left her quarantine room at Berjaya Makati Hotel the next day to party.
“Under IATF-EID Resolution No. 154-C, series of 2021, international arriving passengers shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of their negative RT-PCR test,” the letter reads.
Chua (or “Poblacion/Omicron Girl” as the twitter-verse calls her) was declared COVID positive on December 27. “Nobody is above the law,” says Sec. Berna Romulo Puyat in an interview with Karmina Constantino. “This is a pandemic. Everybody should follow.”
The repercussions of Ms. Chua’s apparent actions are likely to multiply as those who attended that ill-fated holiday soiree (around 15) have gone on to make contact and (likely) infect other people. Some posts on social media have point to this infection network possibly reaching all the way to La Union—all because one person couldn’t stay put until she got the clear to leave.
This piece isn’t an analysis, of course. After all abuse, in the RP is old hat, and Chua is merely the most recent face of a seemingly unending parade of “Privileged People Gone Bad: Pandemic Edition.”
In the past two years, we’ve had to deal with police chiefs throwing mañanitas, lawmakers pushing themselves to the front of the line, and influencers scamming small businesses. Doing your part, protecting others, and not kicking people when they’re down is basic GMRC. They shouldn’t have to be repeated this much under the threat of law, especially when they’re the ones who are supposed to be enforcing them.
But we are nothing if not striving for patience, especially when education and correcting bad behavior is concerned. Instead of letting this story just be one big rant, let’s put a little more positive reinforcement. Let’s remind ourselves how to do better every day.
In the first two stories cited, there are lessons to be learned, particularly when it comes to checking your privilege.
For one, just because you can and you want to, it doesn’t mean you should. Your complete freedom ends when the safety, security, and rights of others are potentially placed in jeopardy.
This is especially important to note when the “others” in question can involve servers, establishment workers, and those who might not have the means to deal with a major sickness in their home. Those who had more in life, in this regard, decided for those who had far, far less.
Secondly, we should never forget that those who have far, far less in life suffer far, far more during a crisis. If you are in a position to help, even when you have taken some blows yourself, please do so. That could mean life or death for our fellow Filipinos.
What other lessons can we bring into the new year? We look back to the stories we’ve written and conversations we’ve had in 2021 to find more nuggets of wisdom.
For history-making athlete Hidilyn Diaz, a meaningful life is about “living with your purpose, [living] a peaceful life because you cannot buy peace. A meaningful life has direction.” This same goal-driven vision and longing for peace that allowed her to become the first Olympic gold medalist can also help us stay focused in the coming months.
Purpose is also what drives Metro Pacific Investment Corporation’s Chaye Cabal Revilla, and has made her an overcomer. “When you are convinced that you are in a place where you have a noble purpose and mission, you won’t stop at the first roadblock you encounter. You carry on and try to overcome it,” she says.
Being happy for the success of your peers and room for those coming up is something influencer Bryanboy has tried to live by. “We took the jabs, the shade and the insults and at times, the denial of acknowledgement that we exist, from people who disliked why we were there,” he says. “I don’t ever wanna be that person. We fought for our seat on the table and I wanna celebrate those who do the same.”
Learning to let go, meanwhile, is what journalist Ces Drilon has had to imbibe in the past year. “The universe was telling me something during this pandemic—that to move forward, you have to let go. It was painful but I had to listen,” the TOWNS Foundation president says in her July 2021 cover story.
Sta. Elena Construction president and CEO Alice Eduardo’s daily exercise, she says, is to “count my blessings, and I try to make my blessings count,” the mother of three shares. “So that sense of contributing ingrained something in me and has become a part of me. With all the breaks that have come my way, there is also that instinctive desire to pay it forward.”
Apart from our blessings, we should also be aware of the beauty and inspiration around, says record-breaking artist Ronald Ventura. “Maybe it is something symbolic of the times we live in, but—speaking as an artist living in chaotic yet always cheerful Manila—one cannot help but be inspired by everyone and the every day,” he says.
And, finally, being present in the moment and knowing what you put out into the world will be multiplied is what meditation and energy coach Sara Black preaches. “So whatever experience is meant for us will arrive when it arrives. Your current state of being attracts more of the same. So to be at ease now means more peace coming our way,” she says. “To be kind today means more love coming our way. More of the same then, a greater experience of peace and love.”
We hope we will never forget our lot in life and the privileges we hold, in the same breath that we wish everyone a more fruitful, hopeful, and more meaningful year ahead.