By Jun Ledesma

Real friends, real foes in time of crisis

THE horror of the grotesque specter of nearly half a million people getting severely ill and thousands dying each day in India is, to say the least, frightening and nightmarish.  If we trace back the cause of the meteoric rise of COVID-19 infections it indubitably points to the unbridled celebrations of religious events and social gatherings and utter disregard of the basic health protocols.  It is a sad commentary in a time of mourning but it is important that we reveal the facts against the backdrop of Filipinos penchant for religious rituals, fiestas, rallies, and cockfights ...to name a few.

The people of the  United States of America are not keen on festivals except for Mardi Gras but they are prone to hold protest rallies for some insane reasons. In most instances, protesters are even armed with deadly weapons. They think that they are the invinsible human beings living on this planet and to prove that they demonstrate in state capitals ignoring every bit of cautions and health protocols.  As I write this piece, 33.23-millions Americans contacted Covid-19 plus 39-thousand plus daily cases. Almost 592-thousand perished as 400 new deaths on average are recorded daily.

Brazil predilection for religious and events festivities ranked it second to the US of A. with 15-million positive cases with 36,000  new cases are reported daily. There are now 408-thousands who perished as they average about 1,000 cases in their daily tally.

India, despite its 1.3-billion population,  was never on the radar screen of morbid cases of Covid 19.  Early on some quarters speculate that the Indian diet may have played a significant role in their immunity. But that turns out to be a myth. The celebration of a Hindu festival, Kumbh Mela, in several days in April was to be the start of India’s paralyzing nightmare. Thousands of pilgrims all over India flocked to the Ganges river for the traditional ritual bath.  They came and, like the Americans, disregarded all the basic protocols as they wade through the Ganges for the holy bath. 

The holy festivities became the most horrible super spreader of coronavirus we see in the world today. India was prepared to battle the unseen enemy but it did not anticipate that tens of thousands will be infected on a daily basis and had gone out of hand. COVID infections had soared and reached a momentum of over  350-thousand positive cases per day!

The health system in India is overwhelmed. The government is almost down to its knees assuming it is not yet. While indeed India is the biggest vaccine producer in the world,  the components are mostly from the western countries, and with those countries in dire need of vaccines themselves, the production line has come to a halt.  The death toll has not.

Even the supply of medical oxygen had run out. Covid patients who are to be resuscitated and aided to breathe need oxygen otherwise they will be gasping for breath and gasping die. The crematories can no longer handle as many as 3,000 deaths per day thus the remains of the victims have to be burned in pyres on the pavements in cities and towns all over India.

While we stare at India in disbelief,  but we too are astounded with how its misery invites sympathy and of all incredulity saw China, its arch adversary for decades over their border disputes come to succor the enemy. They have fought little wars and lost a few men in these conflicts.  Beijing could have taken advantage of a crippled enemy but no, it extended its hand to India and came to its aid and comfort instead. 

President Xi Jinping called on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and assured him of help.  Quickly the first batch of 25,000 oxygen concentrators pledged by China arrived in the country.  Another 5,000 ventilators and 21,000 oxygen generators were also dispatched. Later more than 15,000 sets of monitors and nearly 3,800 tons of medical supplies and medication s were also shipped to India.   

While this mercy mission is ongoing we still have to hear what the Western countries can offer.  It seems for now that  India will have to rely heavily on China. Of late we heard that outside of what government can offer the Chinese people through non-government organizations and China’s National Red Cross will be sending their help too. 

The grim scenario in India impacts the Philippines in that our penchant for fiestas, religious events, cockfighting (legal and illegal), and rallies is almost legendary and oftentimes borders on fanaticism.  Amidst the constant threats of infection, we are not wanting in bull-head individuals and groups doing exactly what’s happening in India and the US, goaded by their individual insensitivity and sadly by crazy political agenda. Groups who ejaculate seeing the statistics rising and blame it on the government but are at the forefront of the queues to demand from the government immediate attention and sustenance. 

Like India, the only country that comes to help us in the battle against Covid-19 is China. Like India, we have our own conflict with China over the islands in the West Philippine Sea which, as we do, are claimed and occupied by other countries.  We lost Scarborough by the sheer idiocy of former Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario and his bosses and now by the same act of madness ex-Justice who wants to be President, Antonio Carpio,  is pushing Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to go to war against China. 

The multi-lateral claims will always be there. While Carpio and Del Rosario escalate the conflict thinking their Uncle Sam will come to succor Philippines, other countries like Vietnam are working to normalize relations with China. In the middle of this crisis India and China talk of complete disengagements in disputed borders. Duterte made a diplomatic inroads with China the moment he engaged President Xi in a bilateral talk. While today we see only over a million doses of vaccines donated by China and billions worth of bridges and roads plus cheap loans we overlooked the fact that China has opened its market to anything we can sell to that biggest consumer population in the world. And thank goodness, despite the brazen foolishness of Carpio and Del Rosario China, so far, is the only vaccine-producing country that has delivered to our shores millions of doses of vaccines with more to come. 

We are a family of nations in this part of the globe. Like in any family there will always be disputes and irritants but at the end of the day whenever calamities and pandemics strike we only have each other to turn to.  When this crippling health crisis shall be over, hopefully, we shall have realized who our true friends are and our foes.

Postscript: Joel Locsin, Media Relations Officer of Sen. Ping Lacson, wrote a rejoinder to the recent piece I wrote, to say that the Senator will never be part of the legal front of any armed warfare against the state. That’s good, clear, and well taken. But sadly this Locsin seemed to have a convoluted concept of what propaganda is in warfare especially in counter-insurgency. The hundreds of NPA combatants and their mass base had given up and had returned to the folds of the law and significantly much of these had been achieved without a single shot. That, Mr. Locsin is a product of ingenious propaganda unless you are not aware of what is happening outside the comfort of the Senate hall.


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.