Rumor has it that a person staying in the condominium building beside mine is infected with the flu.
My housemate told me that the call center he is working for, located across EDSA, has been cleaned and according to him ‘sterilized’ after an undisclosed number of employees caught the dreaded disease. His use of the word sterilized brought up an image of a building soaked in a beaker of isopropyl alcohol. I kept myself from laughing, of course.
My mother constantly sends me SMSs giving me warnings about swine flu and advises me to buy a box of face masks to cover my mouth and nose as a protection whenever I go out or ride the MRT, to hoard bottles of vitamin C, to bring umbrella all the time, and to avoid crowded places. I think wearing a face mask is overreacting; stocking on my supply of ascorbic acid is economically counter-productive unless of course I will be selling them in the event of a shortage; I constantly forget to bring my umbrella or I lose them all the time; and I am staying in Manila so avoiding crowded places is next to impossible.
It may be because of my youth and my recklessness. Or my fatalism. Or that I am a Filipino and a poor one (to emphasize my point). A(H1N1) a.k.a. Swine Flu fails to bring shiver down my spine. I’m not at all scared of it. I am not at all scared to die. When you have not proved much, when your voice is barely heard, when your existence is just a speck in the universe of mankind, dying ceases to be chilling; it stops to frighten. It becomes a reality concretized to an almost physical sense. Death almost reaches a point that you can imagine holding it with your palm, embracing it even.
I haven’t really given death much thought for a long time. If you are a citizen of a third world country, death is stripped with all romanticism and poetry. In the Philippines, for example, death is too prosaic. You see death everyday in nightly news programs, read it in tabloids, or hear it from accounts of people around. Death becomes a staple part of life that it becomes boring. It’s almost a joke whenever I hear of officials in the government warning the public about swine flu when dengue fever claims thousands of lives each year or that more children die from malnutrition in Manila alone than all the combined mortality cases resulting from A(H1N1) in the world.
A joke. That I believe is how most Filipinos, including myself, see this pandemic.
This afternoon while riding a bus from Makati, I overheard two persons, apparently both are working for a call center, talking about the flu. The woman told her fellow passengers in English-with-a-twang that it is discouraged to have flu vaccines. I was prompted to stop my reading to listen to her line of reasoning. According to her this is so because it is in the culture of Filipinos to be complacent as regards sickness whenever they have vaccination, so vaccination will only make them forget about hand washing, covering the mouth when they cough or sneeze, and all other measures to prevent the flue, that is, if I followed her thinking accurately. She then added that this explains why the Health Department recommends hand washing rather than vaccination.
For one, vaccination is not discouraged, neither is it encouraged. Two, the cost of the vaccine may be prohibitive for a minimum wage earner disabling them to avail of it. Three, the DOH does not recommend hand washing over vaccination rather a combination of both.
While writing this, the flu virus could have already entered my lungs and I’m already dying.
But so what?
So what not because I don’t really care but so what because there is nothing much that I can do.
My youth, my recklessness, my fatalism, my being a poor Filipino all coming into play.