The Official Newsletter of the Archdiocese of Cebu, Philippines

EXPRESSIONS IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

“Gahi’g ulo” (Stubborn!), “Gikapuy nako aning kahimtang nato” (I’m tired of this situation), “Kalami na ilaag,” and “Ga-hasol-hasol raning COVID”

꙳ ꙳ ꙳

Complaints and disappointments constitute the daily life of most people in this time of pandemic. This pandemic cripples our normal way of life and has certainly tested our patience. Indeed, this COVID-19 pandemic is making all of us tremble in fear, exposing our vulnerability, and on top of it, testing our faith in humanity and in God. But undoubtedly, too, if we bother to listen and look into things that are not so obvious yet are also happening, it also makes us realize a lot of things from another point of view. It tells a lot about us and a lot around us. How about you, are you one of those who still cling on to positivity? Or one of those who have already fallen prey to exasperation and frustration?

Now, instead of just merely echoing complaints and making noise out of disappointments, I would like to give another look at the expressions mentioned above and make a juxtaposition on few common biblical instances. From here, I’ll endeavor to draw lines to help us weigh in on helpful and practical insights as we face this pandemic and brace ourselves for the “new normal.”

Tigas ng ulo

“Tigas ng ulo” is a common expression that many have carelessly thrown without even analyzing the situation the people they are criticizing are in. Many of these people literally cannot afford to stay at home, for they live “isang kahig, isang tuka,” and, therefore, “kung walang kahig, walang tuka.” Ironically, many of those who use the term are the same people who can’t help but drive to expensive coffee and milk tea shops which remain open. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the poor: imagine living in a small room with no air-conditions or electric fans in the heat of the summer while brooding over where to get the next meal or payment for rent and debts. After all the government assistance shall have run out. Social inequality is so vast that we cannot just simply dismiss the situation of those living below the margins. 

We go back to when Jesus lived his earthly life. The apostles whom He chose were people coming from different backgrounds, and most likely were hard headed themselves. There was Peter who at first refused to cast his fishing net even at the order of Jesus. There was also Thomas who was skeptical and stubborn. Nevertheless, these were the same people he told to “go to the world and spread the good news of salvation.” Did Jesus confront them in anger? Or in demeaning manner? He didn’t say, “ANG TIGAS NG ULO NYO!” But instead Jesus accepted and understood them. The only difference between us and Jesus is that he did not leave these people just that. He enlightened them and taught them ways.  He did not say to Thomas, “I pity you for your lack of faith,” but rather, “Come, touch my wounds that you may believe.”

We should also do the same as Jesus did. Instead of always ranting and putting the blame on others, why not help those in need? Instead of telling them “ang tigas ng ulo nyo,” why not try to understand their situation first, then try to enlighten them on what to do? Most of them are also confused trying to fight a battle defenseless. Something that we always tend to overlook. We cannot blame them. It’s the lives of their children and theirs that are at stake. Yes, it is true there are a lot of hardheaded people, but the thought of solving it through rants and skewed judgments would only usher in hatred not solution. These stubborn people are the same people who hope. Instead of judging them to be good for nothing, let us open our hearts and help them realign their lives, giving them hope in this time of crisis. Yes, being hardheaded during this time of crisis is not commendable… and so is having a heart of stone for others.

 “Gikapoy na ko ani atong kahimtang. Kalami naman lang gyud ilaag. Hasula na aning covid19!”

Tired, powerless, stressed, utterly frustrated, and the likes are the feelings we often associate with our COVID-19 situation. Is it really just that or the fear of the uncertain? We go out for our grocery, fall in long queues, and observe 1-meter distance and other measures, then a question enters our thought, “How long will I keep doing this?” We are comfortably seated at home then one of our family members innocently asks, “can we go to the beach, if not then shopping would do.”

Our normal way of life has been affected. Apart from the uncertainty our life holds, we are all dealing with another yet more troubling uncertainty, and we have nothing to tell ourselves except “Hasula na!” or “Kakapoy na ba!”

Yes, it’s true we are tired of this COVID19 situation, especially with the extension of the enhanced community quarantine. I also would admit “gikapuy nako aning kahimtang nato.” But I realize, instead of spending time thinking of what’s not even there, we think of things real and get involved in them as we supposedly should. This is the time time to be with our family, to learn new things, to reflect, and to pray. As I was watching my family doing some household chores together, I realized that this pandemic has fostered values we have not seen and experienced for a while. While at home, we can also learn new things like engaging in workouts, listening to (or playing) music, or better yet reading books or Ebooks for us to exercise our mind and widen our knowledge and understanding of things. It would, however, all the more be better if we spend time for prayer and meditation. With the rising toll of confirmed cases and deaths, fake news and misinformation mistaken for truth, hoarding and other selfish activities unmasking people’s identity, prayer is a necessity.

Yes, it’s true “Gihasol ta aning COVID-19,” but if we come to think of it, apart from the unpleasant and discomforting things which our eyes are glued to, things start falling back to places: the recovery and healing of nature; the perking up of interdependence among man and his fellow human beings; the celebration of life over disheartening excessive emphasis on economy; and faith in our own humanity. Billionaires sharing a part of their fortune, small and big companies reaching out to their workers, and other private individuals helping out through cash aids and food packs, all these are becoming a narrative of a living humanity.

Biblically speaking, our experience is never new. In the Old Testament, Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness before finally reaching the promised land. Noah and his family kept floating for 40 days and 40 nights in the Ark. I could just imagine how seemingly hopeless those 40 years were for the Israelites and if they surrendered, everything they started would have just gone into waste. As for Noah, getting stuck inside the Ark for 40 days is one thing and not knowing where they will be led is another.

In the New Testament, Jesus was fasting and praying for 40 days, and at the night before he was betrayed and arrested, he was patient and praying constantly. Then there is the Cross, a knowledge he brought with him for more than 30 years. The Cross that Jesus carried to Calvary reminds us that Jesus is with us, journeying with us in our suffering and seeming hopeless situation. What the biblical instances show us is that we can always make our way through suffering and that our situation is a matter of making it meaningful. But how can we make our frustrations, stressful situations, anxieties, etc. meaningful? It depends on how you define meaningful but as for me, I do it by cooperating with the authority, spending quality time with my family, extending little extras I have to others, keeping myself busy with real things, and most especially, by praying for the welfare of everyone affected by the pandemic – the front liners, those infected, and the poor who are the most affected due to lack of financial means.

Admittedly, not everything is under control and not everything is negotiable by any material wealth. There is always what we call “fallen short” but the good thing is, there is somebody who can make up for all the shortcomings. Unless we spend time for prayer, there will never be enough. Having said this, why not, instead of saying “gahasol-hasol ning covid oy! Lami na baya kaayo ilaag,” and instead of thinking of going on vacation, why not say “after COVID-19 I would to go to church to praise and thank God for giving me another life?” I assure you it would make a huge difference.

Let me end this reflection with a simple prayer.

Lord, guide all of us in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, protect us from its infection. To those who are infected and battling for their lives, help them and touch them with your healing hands. Help also the poor that they may find what they need and guide them in everything they do. Lord, give us grace and guide us all, especially our families, friends, and those front liners as they fight to curb the spread of this pandemic.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all one great family. Unite us in fraternity and solidarity so that we can only think of helping one other. Lastly, make us strong in faith, persevering in service, and constant in prayer. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, guide us always. Amen.

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