Two important events are happening in the nation as I write this piece. First, Luzon is on extended enhanced community quarantine, and second, Christians are celebrating Easter. These two realities pose questions on existence and survival on one hand, and the celebration of Christ’s triumph over death on the other.
The latest numbers of COVID-19 positives continue to rise both locally and worldwide. Some LGUs have eased anxiety by crafting protocols on how to handle COVID-19 patients in their communities; those that have not are increasing their constituency’s stress. I found watching and reading the news bearable until COVID-19 hit our community. We feel afraid, distressed, uncertain, and hopeless.
This pandemic has tested not only the health system, but also the leadership and governance of local executives. Despite insufficient hospital supplies, medical and corollary service providers showed commitment, care, and professionalism. We salute these heroes and heroines in white and plain clothes.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th US President, once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Indeed, leaders with integrity reassure the public by communicating clear strategic plans, speaking in plain language, and conveying the true situation of the country. These were wanting at the start of the pandemic: the game plan was not clear, and communication channels were confusing. Evidently, leaders were grappling with how to deal with the emergency.
Also frontliners in this pandemic are school administrators and faculty. School administrators have to make decisions that may not be popular with students. Teachers, to continue educating their students, must rethink academic goals and objectives and brush up on their technical skills as they transition to online delivery.
THIS PANDEMIC RAISES SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.
1. No country is totally prepared for a pandemic. COVID-19 came unexpectedly. In Europe, only Germany has a hospital capacity of 30,000 beds for a single facility. The rest of Europe struggles with slower responses. In Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have shown better pandemic management. Could their experience with the SARS outbreak have prepared them better? How can we learn from their experience?
2. The world is at war with an invisible enemy that does not discriminate. Anyone can be a suspect, a probable, or a confirmed case of COVID-19. Sadly, patients have to fight the disease alone and probably die alone. Would changing its priorities make government respond better to the crisis?
3. We Filipinos are known for our bayanihan, or our community spirit of working selflessly together for a cause. This has been exhibited by the extension of help by industry leaders, LGUs, various groups, and individuals to ease the plight of workers and boost frontliners’ morale. The population also recognizes the heroism of medical staff and other frontliners in their unequivocal service. Kabayanihan is now synonymous with washing of hands, the wearing of masks, social distancing, and staying at home. Can heroism be sustained in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well?
4. International cooperation is crucial. Should societies prioritize not just economic activity, but also life and well-being? For example, who should benefit from collaborative biochemical research?
Coincidentally, this health emergency has brought a pandemic of hope (the expectation and desire for something good to happen). We have witnessed:
1. Easter celebrations without live audiences live-streamed on our mobile phones and TV broadcasts;
2. News reporting delivered right from the homes of the anchors;
3. Important national decisions done and communicated via Zoom and Google Hangouts;
4. Transitioning by schools from face-to-face delivery to online platforms;
5. Creativity and determination of our scientific community to produce local test kits, and ingenuity of the creative industries in designing personal protective equipment and masks; and
6. People reflecting and deciding on what are essentials.
Amidst the threat to life, we go back to our families, our cradles of life. We work, play, and pray together again. With joy and faith in the Risen Lord, let us spread a pandemic of hope that will strengthen our collective efforts and fuel the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino.
Dr. Ma. Paquita Diongon-Bonnet is an Associate Professor at De La Salle University. She is also the Chair of the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business. She teaches Lasallian Business Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Master of Business Administration Program.