On Dec. 7, the Makati City government announced that both government-run Ospital ng Makati and the privately operated Makati Medical Center have recorded “zero” COVID-19 patients, after almost 22 months of pandemic emergency. Also, as of the end of that day, the Makati government recorded only 31 active COVID cases in the entire city.

At this point, it seems the worst is over for Makati. But, is it? With the Omicron variant of the virus now spreading in different countries, perhaps it is only a matter of time before it also spreads here. By then, we may have to deal with another surge and, possibly, lockdowns. We can only wonder if the downtrend will continue on.

At 31 active cases as of Dec. 7, Makati has gone a long way, thanks to the continuing effort to vaccinate people against COVID-19. In 2021, Makati had two peaks: 1,544 active cases as of April 22; and, 3,298 cases as of Sept. 9. The count was down to less than 1% of that — 31 cases — in three months’ time. The entire country went on a wild roller coaster ride.

Makati City started the year with fewer than 200 active cases. The count was at 195 on Feb. 2. At this point, at 31 cases, it may be safe to say that the city will end the year in a better state. And what a year it had been. Despite struggling at the start, the city’s vaccination program is now at the “booster” phase, with walk-ins allowed in various vaccination sites around the city.

The concern, however, is that confidence is on the rise, and people seem to be letting their guard down, becoming complacent. The economy needs a boost, without doubt. This is the primary reason for loosening restrictions. But the pandemic is far from over. The medical emergency remains, especially with Omicron out there — or perhaps already here.

And with the Christmas season upon us, one can only hope that people can exercise enough self-restraint to be more concerned with public health than public celebration. There is reason to be happy and jubilant at what we have achieved thus far, at least in the National Capital Region. But, the rest of the country is still struggling.

It is our fervent wish that people will continue to be more concerned with ensuring public health by continuing to adhere to necessary protocols, as they temper their desire to celebrate. Children below 12 years old remain unvaccinated and may prove to be the most vulnerable to severe COVID for now. At the same time, they are the “stars” of the Christmas season, putting them at risk for “irresponsible exposure.”

Some medical battles may have been won, but the COVID war is still far from over. “Liberation” from COVID-19 may take longer than anticipated. But as we move on, we should always recall those who have served in the healthcare battle and given their lives so that others may survive. They are now among our heroes, and they should be remembered.

On Dec. 8, 1941 — 80 years ago yesterday — Japan attacked the Philippines, which was then the only US “colony” in the Asia-Pacific region. This was just 10 hours after Japanese imperial forces launched a successful attack on the US Navy installation at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, crippling the US Pacific Fleet. That infamous day signaled the start of World War II in the Pacific.

In four months, by April 1942, the last stand in Bataan and Corregidor crumbled. US and Philippine forces surrendered to the Japanese. The Philippine battle was lost, and Japanese Occupation began. The Philippine “second republic” was born in October 1943, after the Japanese military government declared the Philippines an “independent republic.” The first republic was founded by the Katipuneros on June 12, 1898.

“Liberation” did not come until almost four years after the Japanese invasion, by a combination of Philippine and US forces that first landed in Leyte in October 1944. This was four months after D-Day on June 6, 1944 in the European theater of the war, and two months after the death of Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon on Aug. 1, 1944 in Lake Saranac, New York. Japan formally surrendered in September 1945, and the Philippine “third republic” was born on July 4, 1946 when the Philippines was made independent of the United States.

War-time Philippines, under Japanese Occupation for almost four years (1941-1945), witnessed destruction, death, and economic stagnation. The Philippine death count from World War II is estimated at over 500,000, or more than 3% of the population at the time. War-time Philippines also struggled with public education, healthcare, food supply, and inflation, among others.

But we survived and eventually overcame, with help from our friends. Today, Japan is among our greatest allies. And while many may have forgotten the significance of Dec. 8, 1941 in Philippine history, some still remember the horrors of the war, the struggles in those dark days, and eventually liberation.

It is in this light that one hopes that Dec. 8, 2021 — 80 years after the start of World War II in the Philippines — would eventually be remembered as the start of the turnaround period for the COVID-19 war in the Philippines. The COVID-19 death toll pales in comparison — about 50,000 against 500,000 — to the number of Filipinos lost during the Second World War. But the pandemic’s impact on the economy, and on people’s lives, is just as significant.

Just as the pre-war generation survived the Japanese Occupation, and then thrived after, we, too shall survive and overcome COVID-19. And we shall again thrive. But, for now, we must remain vigilant. The enemy is still here. We should continue to look out for each other, especially the young, by safeguarding public health.

We have had our successes. But jubilation can come later, when COVID-19 liberation is finally achieved. For now, restraint and perseverance remain the main orders of the day.


Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippine Press Council