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We Need a Standard

We were shocked out of our wits when our brother showed up at our gate from Manila last Saturday. Unlike the last time he went home, we didn’t have to coordinate with the barangay chairman, he didn’t have to go to the local health center, he didn’t have to stay on quarantine and no barangay health worker went by to check on his temperature and symptoms. Since he could go out, we just reminded him of the curfew. His experience was interesting. Coming from Manila, he wore his face shield in strict compliance. With this, he was met with amused response since his friends and everyone else was not wearing any transparent material in front of their faces. Driving around late at night was a remarkable experience. Within Naga, they would be stopped and questioned about their destination in enforcement of the curfew. Yet in a neighboring town, they could drink coffee towards midnight in a food shop that is open for 24 hours.

Just last week, a Naga City resident who visited family in Calabanga was reprimanded for not wearing a face shield, and was forced to buy one. Then after a less than an hour jeepney ride, that article could be scrapped off; or maybe she could keep it for the next time she visits.

An OFW in the Middle East asked her sister on the quarantine regulations in case she comes home. That question proved to be very complicated to answer since some LGUs would require a 14 day quarantine period. I heard of a 10 day quarantine. Then, there’s a week long or 7 day quarantine. Then, there’s the “no quarantine at all” in some places.

We can’t really say that these inconsistencies cause the spread and increase of cases despite the surge in vaccination. We suppose that curfew, quarantine and face protection are enforced to hopefully prevent the spread of infection (which by the way is reaching unbelievably insane record numbers in the national level). But how would these efforts be expected to be effective when they are dressed in different garbs and guises in every locale? How does a wall keep intruders out when some parts are too high, some parts are lower with barbwire and some parts are too close to the ground? We might as well not built a wall after all. But then that’s tantamount to laying ourselves bare naked for rape and assault. It’s not like local government units are separated by deserts, seas or mountains. We’re practically next door neighbors. One could just take a step, then a different regulation would be applicable. Therefore, inconsistent regulations are inexistent regulations.

We, Filipinos as a people, love our inconsistencies or should we call them, differences, variations, and the lack of standard. That’s why we had prided ourselves with the colourful jeepneys, with the unpredictable colourful designs and horse figures atop the hood. There isn’t even a standard model of length of a jeepneys. Some could be long and massive; and some could be short and cute, and we find that exciting. Halo-halo can come in different variations. It could come in a little bigger than a shot glass with just three fruits or sweets and some ice, to the stomach churning jumbo collection of every fruit and root crop, with leche flan and ice cream oozing on top.

That’s how it is. Filipino culture comes in different colors and sizes. Maybe that’s the reason why our vaccination cards come in different colors and sizes as well. But sadly, other cultures don’t subscribe to this fascination with variation. Hong Kong has refused to recognize our vaccination cards reportedly because they do not come from a single source. So, what’s the problem with not having a “single source”? Does that not make life colourful? Different sources would imply different parameters and standards (if ever, there is a standard at all). Some standards could be very stringent; yet some could be very lenient; and just like my wall analogy, a wall with different heights and barricades is like not having a wall at all. So, for the sake of security, the Hong Kong authorities have treated the Filipino vaccination card as not having any vaccination card at all. The Hong Kong Chinese border security must have been scratching their heads as they come across colourful Filipino cards attesting vaccination. (Do you know that Chinese people speak different languages, but they are all written in one script. That’s how consistent and uniform they could get.)

So, let’s settle on where we stand. We need a standard.

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other…” - Luke 16:13


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