This year has been dark and catastrophic. And that’s an understatement. The latest update from the Worldometer website: 25,155,780 COVID-19 cases and 845,956 COVID-19 deaths. In the Philippines, the Department of Health has recorded 216,768 cases and 3,419 deaths.
Include the excess deaths not due to COVID-19 but still associated with the conditions brought about by the pandemic. These are cases of patients who died of other communicable or non-communicable diseases because an overwhelmed healthcare system could no longer attend to them; the sick who opted not to seek outside care because of their fear of being infected by COVID-19; those who died of hunger because of their deteriorated economic situation; those who died of depression or mental illness.
Worse, people are being killed in a time of crisis when we should be caring and protecting one another. The systematic pattern of killing unarmed political activists and suspected drug users continues, despite the pandemic. And most recently, soldiers and civilians in Jolo died from bombs detonated by terrorists.
I myself have experienced multiple losses this year. Not all deaths were due to COVID-19, but the cause of death is secondary when we grieve.
I mourn the passing away of an aunt, Tia Olang, who died two months before she turned 100 years old. I grieve over the death of GCF — who treated me like a son at the same time regarded me as a kabarkada, despite our different generations. I miss my colleague Obet, but missing him reminds us at Action for Economic Reforms that he will remain our moral compass. I feel sorrow over the death of comrades, namely: Mercy and her empathy; Susan Q and her caring for the youth; Mô and her being a free spirit; Aileen and her scholarly and independent views, especially on foreign policy; Viol and her trade union activism and her culinary writings; Fidel, Janis, and Randall and their unswerving commitment to a revolutionary cause; Jun F. and his being a champion of the environment and human rights. I grieve over the death of my grade school and high school classmates Efren and Louie, the parents or relatives of my friends, the friends of my parents, the friends of my siblings, and others.
Grieving during a pandemic is hard. We could not even be with our loved one in her moment of death. We could not visit the dead because of social distancing. We could not be physically close to people who grieve; we could not hug them, hold their hands. Memorial services are done online, thereby diminishing the affection and intimacy of our relationship.
Recovering from grief is not easy either. We are battered by a succession of deaths. The rules of quarantine and hence the dearth of social interaction make the grieving more desolate, more complicated.
I have been grieving for five years. I lost my wife, Mae, at the end of August 2015. Time has somewhat alleviated the pain. But 2020, a year of too many deaths, has made my heart heavy and sorrowful. My solace is that Mae is now in a better place.
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.