Sunday, January 17, 2021

FOTY runners-up Essential workers: The many faces of pandemic heroism



Essential workers: The many faces of pandemic heroism

 / 05:40 AM January 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — While health care frontliners focused mainly on COVID-19 patients seeking or receiving treatment in medical facilities, people from other sectors and fields also labored and risked their own well-being to keep the rest of the population alive, healthy and informed.

Without them, families, groups and individuals under lockdown and in isolation would have been rendered helpless, much like voyagers in a listing ship amid a tempest, its captain stricken ill, and with no safe haven in sight. 

Classified by the government as essential workers, they delivered the necessities and services that keep the business of life going: the food producers/providers (fishers and farmers) and manufacturers, the delivery people, those who minded drugstores, markets, groceries, banks, water stations, cash remittance centers and telecommunications facilities. Count, too, the power providers, law enforcers, drivers, security guards, contact tracers, garbage collectors and those engaged in funeral services.

Also highly at risk

Many other medical workers, not at the front lines but also highly at risk, continued to respond to various health emergencies, such as child deliveries, broken bones and sudden ailments.

Essential, too, were persons in spiritual ministries who assisted the dying and gave balm to the grieving.

And not to forget: the media practitioners who continuously provided the latest data on not only the pandemic but also the world at large, separating the chaff from the grain, to prevent misinformation and false reports from adding to the fear and confusion of people groping in the dark.

With the government suspending school operations, classes were held online notwithstanding the sorry state of internet connections, gadgets too expensive for poor families, and teachers ill-prepared for distance learning. Teachers, alas, were left out of the list of essential workers as they were expected to work from home (and not climb onto rooftops or scale hills to catch internet signals).

Prominent 2nd place

While work-from-home became the new normal for those who mercifully did not lose their jobs to the pandemic, essential workers continued to ply the deserted streets and alleys—the government having also suspended the operation of mass transportation—to get to their posts, or stayed behind desks in near-empty establishments to keep watch and make sure that someone would answer calls.

And so the essential workers, or “front-liners in general,” as the Inquirer editors called them during the voting, take a prominent second place as the Inquirer’s 2020 Filipinos of the Year (FOTY).

Why? Said one editor-voter: “The battle against the virus needs all hands on deck. They also played a key role in ensuring the public’s protection, because they also put their lives at risk, because they kept the country, the economy and society functioning through their supporting role.”

Many of them may not have realized in the beginning that they are that “essential,” and that they, too, have streaks of heroism in them. But they got their special vote, their time of day, their time to shine.

And so, in fine: “Everyone has come together in an unprecedented way in this crisis. Everyone is heroic in his/her own way. They have bravely put their lives on the line every day since the start of the pandemic. They have been unwavering in their commitment to help save as many lives while coping with delayed salaries and government incompetence. They are also the face of the modern Filipino hero—courageous, competent and compassionate.”

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