The last few weeks since Chinese New Year have been interesting, to say the least. With the emergence of the novel coronavirus, recently renamed by the World Health Organization as Covid 19, the world seems to be gripped by fear and panic. Perhaps, not unduly. As of this writing, Valentine’s Day 2020, 65,191 people have been infected in more than 25 countries. 1,486 have died of the illness. The respiratory disease is transmitted from droplets from the nose and mouth. One article has identified the reason behind the high rate of infection of The Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama has been buffet meals. Why? Because people tend to talk while getting their food, and any saliva that flies from food to mouth, or from the use of common serving utensils, increases possibility of infection.
Coincidentally, the covid 19 outbreak came in the height of Baguio’s cold and flu season.
When the news about the new virus broke, I did not rush to the drug store for disposable facial masks. The handful I have now were given to me by a kind friend who found some in a sari-sari store after the drugstores ran out. Luckily, my parents had brought back reusable ones for my children from a recent trip to Japan. They have been using them daily—not in public places, but at home. A week after covid 19 became headline news, my son got a simple cough that rapidly developed into pneumonia. For two whole weeks, we have been on a cycle of antibiotics and nebulization, Kidlat and I sleep deprived from playing nurse and waking up to our son’s coughing at night. Maybe that’s why Valentine’s Day seems to fall flat for me right now. We devote ourselves every single day to one another. We don’t need flowers and chocolates to prove our love.
Miraculously, my daughter did not catch his illness, and I credit essential oils, regular doses of vitamin C and pranic healing for that. And of course, those lovely reusable facial masks that came in colors of blue, yellow, pink and green.
Social graces have undegone a recalibration. If you have the sniffles, best to stay at home. Sneezing in public might earn you a few suspicious looks. The other day, while lining up at the drugstore waiting for my number to be called, a Baguio old-timer shuffled in front of me, and just at that moment, let out a huge sneeze. The girl next to me, who was wearing a mask, flinched. I was not wearing a mask, and I just had to chuckle. No, I’m not feeling reckless, but at a certain point one just has to trust in life. I dutifully clean my hands with alcohol after touching door handles or surfaces or going to the toilet—which I had been doing anyway, pre-covid 19.
So far, Baguio City is free of the virus. The few PUIs (persons under investigation) have tested negative. Considering we are a tourist destination, we are so, so lucky.
One not so humorous calibration has been the racism directed against the Chinese, or anyone who looks oriental. Another way has been found to “other” them. I totally look oriental, so I have mixed feelings about this. One thing I do know, is that the virus shows how interconnected we all are. From animal to animal infection, it has evolved to animal to human transmission, and now human to human. It’s not about race, or even specie.
Viruses are as old as time, their provenance as mysterious as their purpose. They have a high mutation rate, which they immediately hand down to their many offspring. Remember that H. G. Wells story, War of the Worlds? An invading alien race tries to take over the earth, but capitulates in the end, not because man has overcome alien might and technology, but because the aliens’ immune systems could not handle the billions of microbes that exist on our planet. In the 2005 film version by Steven Spielberg, it is stated in Morgan Freeman’s wise yet weary voice over that man has “earned” the right to be here, because it has learned to coexist with the Earth’s biosphere.
But have we, really? Viruses are ancient. We resist them with our vaccines and flu shots, but in the end, we are not as highly evolutionary as they. In the planet’s 4.5 billion year history, humans came into being only 6 million years ago, and achieved modern form 200,000 years ago. Viruses have been around for 1.5 billion years, and counting. That is a wise thing to learn from a virus—stay highly adaptable, and perhaps we shall survive this epoch.
Today, I’m simply relieved to see my son be his old self again—cheerful, energetic, makulit. We as a specie may not survive the relentless march of time, but we still have today. I kiss my babies, their cheeks soft and smooth, and hug them with all the love my heart can fathom.