MERRIER CHRISTMAS. A Christmas tree adorned with blue and gold balls and butterfly-shaped decors stands at the center of a mall in Mandaluyong City in this undated photo. Despite the easing of quarantine restrictions which have resulted in increased mobility and economic activities, some Filipinos opt to take extra precaution even after getting vaccinated to help the country sustain its momentum in keeping the Covid-19 situation under control. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – As more supplies of the life-saving coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) jabs continue to pour into the country, there is a glimpse of light at the end of a dark tunnel as population protection is now almost a reality, thanks to intensified vaccination drives.

While many countries have started to fully lift Covid-19 restrictions, the Philippines is among those who chose to do it in a gradual and calculated manner. With the country surpassing the 100-million mark in terms of acquired vaccine doses, 31 million Filipinos getting their first dose, and some 27 million being fully vaccinated as of the end of October, many are looking forward to a merrier Christmas but will continue to celebrate it in a cautious manner -- minus big gatherings and other traditional pre-pandemic activities.

For account executive Trisha Alcantara, a resident of Sampaloc, Manila, low virus transmission does not mean there is no transmission at all, thus, the need to exercise caution.

"Well, so far medyo promising naman po ang vaccination results pero too soon to tell kung magkakaroon ng normal Christmas celebration (Vaccination results have been promising so far, but it still too early to tell whether we could have normal Christmas celebrations like in the past)," she said in an interview over the weekend.

She also believes that getting vaccinated does not mean one cannot be infected with the virus.

"Hindi naman porke fully vaccinated ay puwede ka ng rumampa ng rumampa. Iwas-iwas pa rin sa sobrang mataong okasyon (Even if you are fully vaccinated, that is not a reason to go out frequently. It is still prudent to avoid as much as possible crowded areas)," said Alcanatara, who got Sinovac jabs.

Alcantara said a bonus from being vaccinated is that she will be able to travel to her hometown of Mangatarem, Pangasinan.

"At the same time masaya rin po ako na makakapagbakasyon ako sa province namin para makita ko lola ko. Kami-kami na lang munang family ang magce-celebrate po (At the same time, I am happy that I am now able to go home and visit my grandmother. This Christmas, only I and my immediate family will be celebrating together. By working together, we can enjoy safer holidays, travel, and protect our own health as well as the health of our family and friends," she added.

For Charlene Manuel, a businesswoman from San Carlos, Pangasinan, complying with health protocols is equivalent to protecting everyone around her.

Ayoko magpaka-kampante. Nagmu-mutate ang virus. Responsibilidad ko din ang katawan ko, maging sa mga magulang ko na kasama ko na mahina ang immune system dahil sa old age na rin and siyempre, mapoprotektahan din ang kapwa natin (I don't want to be complacent. Viruses mutate. My body is still my responsibility, along with my loved ones like my parents who have weaker immune systems due to old age. It also means protecting our countrymen)," she added.

Manuel, who received Sinovac shots also believes a surge in infections is likely if Filipinos let their guard down during the festive season.

"Extension ng sacrifice, kapalit naman ng protection ng bawat isa (Let us sacrifice a little bit more for each other’s protection," she added.

Charlene's cautious attitude was echoed by a Taguig resident Rico Guilaran, a senior analyst of an online shopping app.

"Even though (my wife and I) are fully vaccinated, we will still celebrate the holiday season indoors because we have kids, (and) we, parents can still be carriers of the virus even if we are vaccinated," he added.

Guilaran said even if Covid-19 cases are going down on a daily basis, there is no reason to relax.

"We still need to be careful in times like this that we are winning against the virus. It's not the time to catch the virus right now. A second option is that we have is to go to the province so that we can be far away from people and celebrations because cases (are) not that (high) in the province," he added.

For physician Mitchell Tsunoda from Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, being in the medical field at this time means bearing the brunt of the pandemic as a front-liner.

While he and his wife have an extra layer of protection through the jabs, Tsunoda said they cannot say the same for their children.

Mitchell Tsunoda, physician

"We are still afraid to go out like what we doing before because of our kids. Sila ang kawawa dahil wala pa silang bakuna. Dahil nasa medical field kami, mas aware kami gaano kahirap ung dinadanas ng mga nai-infect nung virus. What more sa minors like our children aged 7, 5 2 kaya takot pa kami umalis (We are still afraid to go out like what we were doing before because of our kids. They will be the ones that will be the hardest hit should they be infected because they are still unvaccinated. Because we are both in the medical field, we know from experience how hard are the sufferings of those infected with Covid-19, especially minors, like our children who are aged 7, 5, 2 and that's why we are still afraid to go out)," he added.

With this, he said the safest way to celebrate the holidays is through a virtual meeting with relatives while hoping that the pediatric vaccination will be extended to younger kids.

"Should that happen, all of us in the family will be vaccinated, then, we could go out like we traditionally do," Mitchell said.

As the pandemic also took a toll on the economy, an uptick in the country’s vaccination rate also helps businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises, in recovering from losses.

For 28-year-old takoyaki (Japanese octopus balls) vendor Daryl Monforte, getting vaccinated plus observing health protocols will help the country sustain its momentum in keeping infections under control.

Daryl Monforte, takoyaki vendor

With the Yuletide season just around the corner, Monforte, who was vaccinated with AstraZeneca, said this is also the way for them to be able to celebrate more Christmas holidays together, in the years to come.

“I have two siblings who are front liners. We will just have a simple dinner at home and even if we are fully vaccinated, we don’t want to be complacent. It’s better to be cautious and Christmas will still be merry even if it is only spent with your immediate family,” he said in Filipino. (PNA)