Last December, my mom tested positive for COVID-19. The sickness progressed until she developed unilateral pneumonia, which affected her left lung. She had to visit the ER twice, and on the second visit, it was recommended that she be admitted for proper medical care. Even if that was the ideal course of action, she had to wait in a full capacity COVID-19 ward before a private room could become available. 

The two visits to the ER alone cost approximately P80,000. That’s how difficult it is to be infected by this virus; it drains you in every way possible. Fortunately, her health insurance was able to cover the expenses, and with the approval of her attending physician, my mom opted for home treatment. I can just imagine how it must be for others who are going through much worse than us but with little to no financial capacity.

Relieved that my mom had fully recovered, I thought the storm had passed. It turned out the worst was yet to come. By New Year, my grandparents had to be rushed to a medical facility in Tacloban as they exhibited symptoms of the virus. While they were admitted in the hospital, we slowly found out that almost the entire household had contracted COVID-19, including my mom’s siblings. The situation at the time was something out of a nightmare. By the day, more and more of my family members were showing symptoms that required immediate medical attention and confinement. They all had developed moderate to severe symptoms, while my grandparents were in critical condition. 

The two to three weeks of confinement was an ordeal for the entire family. Among the many challenges we encountered were the scarcity of medical equipment such as high flow nasal cannulas, securing medical tests that had to be done in another facility, purchasing various medications such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, and many more. Clearly, there was a scarcity of medical facilities and workers in the province. To make things worse, all the hospitals were full at that time. The option of transferring my grandparents to Manila was considered, but unfortunately their medical condition wouldn’t allow it. On the night of Jan. 18, COVID-19 took the life of my beloved Lola. 

This situation put my family in “survival mode.” We felt that everything was beyond our control and that the future was out of our hands. No amount of money or resources seemed to alleviate our suffering. I am aware that COVID-19 has put a strain on every nation’s health care system. Rich and poor countries alike have taken a hit from this pandemic, but each country has responded differently. From the moment I saw my Lola in a body bag carried by a vehicle meant for water deliveries with no memorial service whatsoever, I knew that more could have been done to save her if we were someplace else, and that so many others have undergone the same oppression and loss due to our country’s poor health care system and governance. It became clear to me that many people did not have a fighting chance to begin with. From here, I realized that there is a bigger issue at hand.

The other viruses our nation is facing now include an administration that isn’t proactive in dealing with the pandemic, politicians that “help” Filipinos but are really just documenting their actions to kickstart their campaign for the 2022 elections, individuals who were given priority status in hospitals while other COVID-19 patients died out in the cold, and of course, the red-tagging of community pantries that were created by concerned citizens to promote the spirit of bayanihan. That is just to name a few.

The system has been broken for so long. This pandemic just shed even more light on its complete and utter dilapidation. The leaders we placed into power have not done us any good, nor do they plan to. Their empty promises and selfish actions have only managed to push our nation further into decay during these hard times. 

People often tell me that I’m young, and that I have much to understand about the system and how it is virtually impossible to change, but I beg to disagree. I turned 18 just earlier this year, which makes me eligible to vote in the upcoming elections. Although casting my ballot will create merely the smallest change, if at all, it’s a good place to start. Hopefully, more Filipino youth will take up the challenge of steering our nation toward a brighter future with their individual votes — that, as a collective, we can make a significant difference. God knows we need drastic change, and we need it fast.

To rise from this pandemic, we must start here.

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