Thursday, March 26, 2020

Prof, writer, contemplative nun turns 100

On Saturday, March 28, Sister Teresa Joseph Patrick of Jesus and Mary, known in academe as JD Constantino or Jo, now a contemplative Carmelite nun, turns 100. Because of the Luzon-wide lockdown to prevent the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mass and celebration at the Monastery of St. Therese on Gilmore Avenue in Quezon City has been canceled. Surely, many of Sister Teresa’s younger colleagues and former students at the University of the Philippines (UP) would have been there.
I wrote a feature story on Sister Teresa for the Inquirer 10 years ago when she turned 90, “Columnist-turned-cloistered nun continues ‘life as prayer and prayer as life’” (4/11/10). That story is included in my book “You Can’t Interview God: Church Women and Men in the News” (Anvil, 2013).

To be able to write that story, what long conversations we had in the monastery parlor! I had known Sister Teresa as a nun for a long time, but at 90 then, her erudition still amazed me.
She talks a mile a minute. She is abreast with the goings-on in the world, perhaps more than most. With fire and frenzy, she continues to write as if deadlines were still part of her life. Her erudition and sparkling intellect shine through conversations. She laughs, she listens, she remembers. She talks about the Philippines with great passion. Through her body of written works as a nun, she communicates to the world.

All those, but for (four) decades now, prayer and total commitment to God have been the essence of her life.
A former professor of literature at the University of the Philippines, and later, a daily columnist of The Manila Chronicle while she was working at the Development Bank of the Philippines, JD answered the call to the religious life in 1974 at the age of 54 and joined the contemplative Carmelite order. This meant leaving all—family, friends, freedom, a flourishing career—in order to live a life of prayer, silence, and sacrifice while observing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Today, one could say that the world that Sister Teresa had left behind has not totally left her alone. It is right at her door at the monastery. They continue to come—friends, former colleagues, ideologues, intellectuals, religious, writers, seekers. The learned and the simple of mind, the rich and the poor, the distraught and the joyful, the needy, the thankful, the confused and the enlightened. Many ask for prayers, others just want to commune with her. This is not to say that her life of contemplation has been compromised.
Although she no longer belongs to the rat-race world that is our lot, she, the contemplative, remains in the heart of it. For isn’t contemplation “a long loving gaze at the world”?
(The last time I visited, Sister Teresa was wearing a brown monk’s cowl—a hoodie—because, she said, putting the veil in place with tiny pins was hard for her fingers.)
JD was born on March 28, 1920, in Tondo, Manila, when the Philippines was under American rule. It was during the 1920s that the works of Filipino women writers began to flourish.
The fourth of five children, JD attended Torres High School and, later, UP for BS in Education and graduated cum laude and class valedictorian in 1940.

She was teaching high school when World War II broke out. “I refused to teach the Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere program,” she recalled, and instead she worked at the Department of Social Welfare.
“The war literally blasted me out into an ‘unreal city,’” she said, borrowing T.S. Eliot’s words. After the war, JD taught at UP. In 1947, she was sent to Columbia University in the US where she finished her MA in English and Comparative Literature. A favorite professor, Mark Van Doren, introduced her to Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s writings, among them, “The Seven Storey Mountain.” Her search had begun.
If she were younger, the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world would surely be part of Sister Teresa’s spiritual treatises.
Next week, JD on prayer and writing. That is, if COVID-19 does not put on hold writing schedules and waylay just about everything that we once thought was urgent and important. What a difference a virus makes. #

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/128342/prof-writer-contemplative-nun-turns-100#ixzz6I8YsO1QF
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Thursday, March 19, 2020

'We are all soldiers'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Brutal, majestic, exploding like “Rex tremendae majestatis” from Mozart’s Requiem is the soundtrack I choose for the ongoing crisis engulfing the world, brought on by the coronavirus or COVID-19 that is spreading and roaring into our lives. Or what about Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with its thundering chorus and ominous opening lyrics?If I had to choose lines from the psalms, it would be: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)
We are like watching a futuristic suspense/disaster/sci-fi/drama/action movie with a soundtrack about to go awry. If I seem overdramatic, it is because drama is what we have going on in our lives right now. And it is both real and surreal. Is it mere hyperbole when we say that an apocalypse of biblical proportions is upon us? Where is Noah’s ark?

In checkpoints, we have boots on the ground, blockades, law enforcers in fatigue uniforms, thermal scanners, face masks, gloves, irate commuters, people who are refused passage and in tears. A just-landed extra-terrestrial would be wont to ask in Orkan: Na-nu, na-nu? What is going on?
If there was anything I took away from President Duterte’s rambling and incoherent (in most parts) announcement of the “enhanced community quarantine” (euphemism for lockdown) to be imposed on the whole of Luzon, it was this sentence: “We are all soldiers.” Because we are at war against an invisible enemy, he said. That was written into the prepared speech that he often put aside and was not part of his befuddling stream-of-consciousness utterances and ad libs, like “ang veerus nga yawa.”

No kidding, some of his off-the-cuff spiels did make me double up in laughter, ad libs that a colleague described as something the tambay in the kanto would enjoy listening to. Well, serious as the situation is, Mr. Duterte sure did play to the gallery of the Great Unwashed that we will be when the water crisis hits Metro Manila.
Consider his mimicking the unhygienic habit of some people who expel their snoot from one nostril and then from the other and let these land around them. There he did slapstick comedians one better even when he was supposed to be serious. Hey, the Grim Reaper’s counter is ticking.

Then, he fumbles again as if to ask, “Where was I?” With drooping eyelids, he goes back to the script and reads like Demosthenes with sharp pebbles in his mouth.
But seriously, yes, we are all soldiers. And we must fight the virus from all fronts, with all our might, collectively and individually, in spite of our leaders. With action, prayers, and clear-eyed compassion.
I hail the people who are in the trenches and frontlines. Science nerds working out of sight while racing against time to discover a vaccine. Health workers — hospital attendants, cleaners, lab technicians, nurses, doctors. Fellow media workers who risk life and limb. Law enforcers.
My own young, intrepid niece, Clea Doyo, an emergency nurse in the biggest private hospital in Quezon City, has been working on 12-hour shifts because some of her fellow nurses are either sick or under quarantine. Like in many hospitals, nurses are never enough, with some resigning to go abroad. Even at this time.
Added stressors are patients and relatives who are overbearing and feel entitled because “Ako nagpapasueldo dito sa inyo! (Your salary comes from me.)” Huh?

Oh, but kindness shines through, with individuals and restaurants around the hospital sending in free food and good cheer for the staff. Pizza, pansit, and fried chicken galore in the time of COVID-19!
“Sometimes I am on the verge of tears because I am super kapoy (exhausted),” my niece texted, but she bravely soldiers on with verve because, as her mom (also a nurse) reminded, “You promised to serve humanity.”
My niece sent me a photo of herself with protective cover from head to toe as if back from outer space, taking a needed breather at two in the morning.#
For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/128158/we-are-all-soldiers#ixzz6I8fhmgDo
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Thursday, March 12, 2020

When hospitals burst at the seams

No one is telling us what to do if and when hospitals have become full and can no longer take in COVID-19-stricken patients, not to mention having shortage of health personnel. Where to take the patients? What to do with them, how to care for them at home or elsewhere? What treatments to apply? What medicines to take, if any? That is not even the worst-case scenario. I dread conjuring up the worst.
Tell us, please. Tell us what we can do, what the government will do.

We are having a surfeit of instructions on preventive measures on how to keep COVID-19 (a.k.a. novel coronavirus) at bay. Columnist and anthropologist Michael L. Tan calls it
“infodemic.” It is now coming out of my pores. Add the keep-calm reminders, mini-homilies and prayer chains online, holier-than-thou admonitions, horror scenarios, even laugh-in gags that provide comic relief.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has been saying it repeatedly: It is not a matter of if but when.
The when has come. COVID-19 cases in the Philippines are no longer few and far between—as few as less than 10 initially a week ago—with the virus mostly contracted abroad. Two days ago, the cases tripled in less than 24 hours, from 10 to 24 to 33. And they are the reported and tested cases. What about the unreported and untested? No deaths among Filipinos.

China has patients in the tens of thousands. And now, South Korea and Italy have thousands. What makes us Filipinos think we are immune? Because we take a bath more than once a day? Or are high in antibodies? This has nothing to do with COVID-19—or because we soap and wash our butts instead of just wiping them with toilet paper? In this COVID-19 season, people abroad are hoarding toilet paper, hence the shortage. Filipinos can teach them a thing or two on how to use “tabo” in the absence of a bidet.
I know from a firsthand source that one hospital already has all its isolation rooms filled up; it had to put up waiting tents outside for those seeking admission for various ailments while still being cleared for COVID-19, taaar travel histories being taken into account.
I know what this is like. In September last year, I thought I had dengue because I was feverish. Tests done in a hospital showed I had exposure to dengue, but the young resident’s interpretation was that I was positive for dengue and needed to be admitted. Too bad there was no room available.
I went to a second hospital and on to the third. All full. The hospital lobbies were like airport scenes full of stranded passengers with canceled flights. I made calls and ended up in a fourth (The Medical City) where I knew people who cared. There, I was confined and underwent more tests. I had UTI, not dengue. I was discharged the next day. I am not a hospital habitué, by the way.
So. Are we ready for a worst-case scenario? I imagine places that used to serve as evacuation centers while nature unleashed its fury serving as makeshift wards for COVID-19 patients who cannot be admitted to hospitals that are bursting at the seams. Is this not a possible, feasible, manageable operation?

And if patients opt to remain at home, what are to be done to make them better instead of consigning them to the Grim Reaper? Nothing has been said about this scenario. Wala, waley, nada. Just ride out the storm? Wait? What medicines, if any?
At least in dengue cases where there is no cure, frequent hydration is always being emphasized.
I have yet to hear health officials tell us what exactly is being done in treating COVID-19 patients now confined in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and now in regular hospitals. What is the protocol? (That word, so often heard.)
For flatulence relief, a professor and poetry buff from the University of the Philippines has put together President Duterte’s stream-of-consciousness utterances (“ramblings,” he called them) at a recent press conference on the COVID-19 cases into haha-haiku-like lines. Google “The Kit” by Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/127969/when-hospitals-burst-at-the-seams#ixzz6I8bjYFYA
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Thursday, March 5, 2020


A handout illustration image courtesy of the National Institutes of Health taken with a scanning electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.Image Credit: AFP
Speculations are rife on the true origin of the deadly coronavirus or COVID-19 that has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 human beings worldwide since the first outbreak in China two months ago. (For the latest, use the coronavirus infection tracker on the internet.)
The speculations posted online range from the bizarre to the terrifying. The hilarious provides comic relief for the hypochondriacs and paranoids of this world.

The official word from world health officials is that the virus could have come from a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, the outbreak’s epicenter. Is that all there is to know? To put it a certain way, are they busy keeping us in the dark?
Is the rogue virus an escapee from a mad scientist’s lab? How did it find its way out of a secret lab that creates deadly microbes for biological warfare? An experiment gone awry? Whose pet mutant was it? Never have the words “gone viral” become so literally true.

When I dropped by a bargain bookstore for great finds, I asked the guy at the counter if bookworms have been looking for Dean Koontz’s novel “The Eyes of Darkness.” Many, he replied. In his 1981 novel, Koontz describes Wuhan-400 as “China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon in a decade.” Prophetic, readers gasp. I have the e-book version sent to me by a fellow journo.

COVID-19 has become a Goliath threatening economies, communities, nations, and many facets of our existence. Think civilization (and ancient) that is China, now an ailing dragon in intensive care.
I did some kind of speed-reading exercise and scanned the papers for the coronavirus. COVID-19 was popping out of the pages.
Call these apocalyptic, but these are happening now:
“Empty streets, economic turmoil as virus alters daily life worldwide…Saudi Arabia closed Islam’s holiest sites to foreign pilgrims. In Japan, professional baseball teams played to deserted stadiums. The French government advised the public to forgo customary greeting kisses.”
“The Louvre museum in Paris shut its doors to art lovers and tourists for a second day on Monday as management held talks with workers over the risks associated with coronavirus.”

“Virus deaths exceed 3,000; 63 countries report cases…the virus has now infected more than 88,000 people and spread to more than 60 countries…”
“A surge of infections outside of mainland China triggered a steep fall in Asian share markets and Wall Street stock futures as investors fled to safe havens such as gold. Oil prices tumbled and the Korean won fell to its lowest since August.”
“Switzerland has already introduced a ban on events expected to draw 1,000 people…”
Good news, bad news: “Washington—Nasa satellite images show a dramatic fall in pollution over China that is ‘partly related’ to the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak…”
“Philippine Airlines recorded the biggest loss in its corporate history due to what its chief described as ‘unsustainable long-term debt and lease obligations (in) billions of US dollars’ aggravated by the Taal volcano eruption and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.”
“At least 7,000 workers are about to be laid off within the next six months due to COVID-19, according to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.”
“Malaysian firm offers system to track virus.”
“Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down to 50 percent compared with a year ago. In Italy which has the most reported cases of any country outside of Asia, hotel bookings are falling.”
“South Korea closes churches as COVID-19 tally passes 3,500…That came a day after the biggest daily jump of 813 cases in South Korea’s battle with the largest virus outbreak outside China…”
“Economists have forecast global growth will slip to 2.4 percent this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009… (If) COVID-19 becomes a global pandemic, economists expect the impact could be much worse, with the US and other global economies falling into recession.” 

In the Philippines, no COVID-19 deaths so far. The lone fatality was a Chinese tourist. Patients under observation are either foreigners or Filipinos who arrived from outside the country. Oratio imperata pa more!
A positive note: Our endangered pangolins, among the wildlife suspected to be COVID-19 carriers, might no longer be a coveted delicacy in China.#
For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/127809/microbe-turned-goliath#ixzz6I8h0EwgY
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