Iwas Pusoy

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It’s been six months since our country embarked on a response to the coronavirus pandemic. During that time, numerous countries have implemented successful strategies to suppress the spread of COVID-19, allowing their economies to recover and “normal” life to continue.

Meanwhile, our beloved Philippines has not made any significant gains as far as the road to recovery is concerned. This isn’t surprising because the first requirement in getting on any road is a map and it looks like we are doomed to go around in unproductive circles until we get a roadmap.

The Filipino people have been clamoring for a plan to get us out of this crisis but so far, it seems that our government has different ideas. Our legislators worked double time to get us an Anti-Terror Bill instead. They shut down the nation’s biggest media network, depriving millions of Filipinos of news and information during a pandemic as well as causing the unemployment of around 10,000 employees. We needed a better health care system but were treated to the massive stink of corruption in PhilHealth instead.

The people of Metro Manila got a P398 million dolomite beach on Manila Bay. We wanted a plan, but got an eroplano in the form of a P2 billion Gulfstream jet for our jetsetting officials who have already spent hundreds of millions commuting to and from our unofficial seat of government because our dear leader likes it there.

Six months into the crisis, there is still no solution except to wait for a vaccine. What’s worrying is that aside from the repeated pinning of all our hopes on that magical vaccine solution, it doesn’t seem that our government has successfully entered into any formal contract or agreement guaranteeing the expeditious supply of the magic potion when it does become available.

What is most frustrating is seeing other countries do better than us, leaving us in the proverbial dust. The latest report on The Lancet that ranked the Philippines 66th out of 91 countries in COVID-19 infections in August was not depressing because of our unsurprisingly low rank, what made it worse for us is that 8 out of the top 10 countries came from our region and a number of those countries have more or less the same resources as us. The difference-maker was the quality of governance and leadership. They have good leaders surrounding themselves with competence to formulate and execute a winning strategy while we have our mediocrity-driven, accountability-free best of the best that dance to the beat of a drunken boomer command.

Anyway, it is what it is and as long as we are unable to demand a reshuffle, we will just have to play with the crappy cards we were dealt. We could be playing to win like those in the leaderboard but for now, all we can hope for is iwas-pusoy, or not get infected and die until this ordeal is over.

If you come to think of it, iwas-pusoy is a fitting description of our quarantine state of mind these days. It is how I feel right now, where you still in a game but you know you are in deep manure so you play defense, hope for the best, and pray the game ends before you lose too much. There is no mulligan, no reshuffle. You just play with what you have and hope to survive the onslaught. To be fair, in a game of chance there is always a miniscule chance of actually pulling off an improbable win, but in the case of our real life outlook, there doesn’t seem to be too many outs at this point.

Many of us probably feel like giving up, throwing the towel, flipping the damn table. But we cannot do that so we hold on to whatever hope we have, supporting each other as best we can because we all have the same fugly hand and the dealers have rigged the game in favor of their friends and cronies. As long as we behave and don’t complain, they will win no matter what the cost, at our expense of course.
Perhaps it’s time we stopped playing iwas-pusoy and strongly consider going all in instead. Our hand may be crappy but if pick a strategy, stick with it and we play it right, we still have a fighting chance. Might as well take that shot before it’s too late and we lose it all anyway.*


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October 2020