Months of Pandemic; My Hometown Remains COVID-Free!
It’s been months since the Coronavirus outbreak was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The whole country was also declared to be in the State of Calamity. The Philippines has recorded over 100,000 infections surpassing China’s record of over 100,000 as of writing but, my hometown still has ZERO recorded infection. How is that possible?
My hometown, a small, independent province in Region II situated in the Northern Philippines, a valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountain range, the longest mountain range in the country. Total land area is 2,323.47 Sq.km and a population of around 190,000. Temperature and weather is that of a typical tropical weather; extremely hot but dry in summer and cool in rainy season. Average temperature ranges from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius. The majority of the residents are Ilocanos, one of the seven major groups in the country. Language spoken are mostly Tagalog, Ilocano and English although there are some other minor ethnic groups and dialects. It is good 8 hours from Metro Manila by land, bus for commuters, and around 3 hours by air. It is only 333km away but due to the mountainous topography, travel is quite slow and difficult. It is also landlocked.
So what’s the secret of keeping the locality free from the infections?
- They imposed local restrictions earlier than other municipalities. Borders are protected and movements in and outside the province were limited. The Local Government Unit and the Department of Health coordinated to make sure that the data they gather are true and correct. The LGU also made sure that subsidies were distributed at the proper time and all families receive some help regardless of the economic nor residence status to compensate the days they won’t be able to work.
- The Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) were brought back to the province through a program that helps such. The LGU again coordinated with these people and provided them facilities and they have to undergo a mandatory 2-week quarantine in the designated places before going back to their homes.
- The location itself. Although it is landlocked, the province has no major city nor landmark that people has to visit. The national or major roads connecting other provinces or bound to major cities in the area doesn’t pass through my hometown. And it is also quite isolated, rather independent.Businesses are run by the locals, the necessary establishments are within the municipality and majority of the people rely on agriculture so movement is quite limited within the area. Tracing people’s movements is not that taxing.
- Since it is a local area, it is considered a close-knit community. Information dissemination is also easy. Not only that population is relatively small, it is also a place where everyone knows everybody else.The action of one affects everybody else. Aside from this, the high expenses for hospitalization prevents people to disregard the rules. One good thing is that people are used to the slow and idle days so asking them not to go out isn’t much of a challenge. There are also endless activities they can do in their spacious backyards such as gardening vegetables, succulents and flowering plants, therefore, time passes by quickly.
- It is safe to say that rationality and logic precede emotion at this point. For locals like me who set out to the big cities, we understand that rushing back home would only expose our loved ones to higher risks. We consider staying where we are at present and minimizing movement are our way of contributing to everyone’s safety. It is a small sacrifice for a bigger gain.
- Lack of testing. Testing are only done mostly among individuals going back there during the pandemic and to those who show obvious symptoms. It is something that we are skeptical about. To be proven wrong in this aspect is very much welcome but this reason isn’t a rare possibility. We all hope that the data is correct, but having zero infection despite the consistently rising number in the whole country seem unrealistic. Being a small locality, medical and technological facilities aren’t as advanced as major cities. Nevertheless, the implementation as well as compliance to the restrictions are looking good.Hopefully, it will be maintained and no casualty be recorded.
The only downside of this is that, personally, I have no idea when to go back and visit my children who are staying with my parents. It’s been almost 5 months but hoping to hug my kids on my birthday may even be too much to ask. But despite all of this, my heart is still filled with gratitude that no one in my circle, especially my family, aren’t affected by this dreadful disease. Let us hang in there and hope that vaccines and medicines will be made available soon so we can go back and breathe in the fresh air in the company of our family and friends once again.