Freedom in a pandemic

Freedom in a pandemic

The country marks the 122nd anniversary of the declaration of independence today as millions of Filipinos wait for the end of nearly three months of home confinement to contain a killer pandemic. The special day is an opportunity for paying tribute to the frontliners who are leading the fight against the coronavirus. Several of them have given up their lives in this battle.

Health officials say quarantine measures have helped slow down the coronavirus contagion. But the measures have also led to the loss of millions of jobs and livelihoods, many of which may no longer be regained.

And for Michelle Silvertino, her inability to get a bus ride from Metro Manila to her hometown in Bicol took a tragic turn. The 33-year-old housemaid reportedly walked from Cubao, Quezon City to Pasay, and then stayed on a footbridge along EDSA for five days in hopes of getting a bus ride to Calabanga in Camarines Sur. On Friday last week, however, the single mother was found dead after suffering from high fever and shortness of breath due to tuberculosis. Silvertino was buried without a coffin in Pasay. She left behind in Calabanga four children aged 3 to 11, whose father abandoned them a long time ago.

Silvertino’s tragedy highlights the continuing aspiration of those who declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, for a better life for Filipinos. There are millions of other Filipinos who have been forced to leave their children behind to find employment in urban centers or overseas. In this pandemic, even this effort to earn a living has become uncertain as hundreds of thousands of Filipinos return from abroad after losing their jobs.

Workers displaced in Metro Manila and other urban centers are also left with no choice but to return to their hometowns. It will take a long time before the country can be significantly liberated from poverty. Still, today’s Independence Day rites should include a commitment to ease the suffering in this pandemic of the neediest sectors, and prevent another tragedy like the one that befell Michelle Silvertino.