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Fear not, it’s only a virus


The 20th century British journalist-cum-philosopher Malcolm Muggeridge once said that new news is really old news happening to new people. Put it another way, what’s really new?

COVID-19 or the novel corona virus has thrown much of the world in borderline-panic or freak-out mode, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to categorize the increasing health crisis, perhaps reluctantly, as pandemic in scope.

The virus is king. Again.

There were others before. Black death, the bubonic plague,Spanish flu, Ebola virus, SARS and MERS-COV were similar existential threats. It’s not as if this one was not supposed to have happened.

If you ask the historian, the neat answer would be that thisscheme of things is cyclical. Sooner or later, an insurgent virus will create a new problem, if not havoc. If you ask a theologian, the flat-out answer would be that all this is linear, leading to an end that is no less than eschatological. History is the canvass on which writ large the ultimate purpose.

A city mayor in Pampanga tried to wear the two hats. He warned of the Second Coming in one breath, and announced the holding of a traditional heroic event for an Aeta leader, in another. He called for a new paradigm in one and invoked pragmatic lassie-faire in another. God and mammon at the same time.

The historian is realistic and hopeful: This, too, will pass.Science will find a way. Humans will triumph in the end, much like China will win in the long run, as some would say. The theologian is fatalistic yet even more optimistic that the best willcome. The former goes to the doctor and looks forward to being healed. The latter doesn’t really care that much because it views the crisis with moral and spiritual victory where the line stops.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has always portrayed his boss, President Duterte as fatalistic. I understand that to mean the man on top of the head doesn‘t really care that much if he dies because of COVID-1, among other possible culprits.When it’s your time, it’s your time.

A few days after, Duterte affirmed that when he protested against the idea that he should stop touching people and vice versa to avoid contamination. He’s ready he said, because he’s achieved what few can only dream of, that of becoming president of the Philippines. Besides, his children are A-OK.

Only to reverse himself by undergoing a COVID test later.Fatalism may be fearless but why be in a hurry to prove your point? The American comedian Woody Allen said he was not afraid of death, only he doesn’t want to be there when it happens.

Panelo’s emperor has no clothes, after all.

In Mitch Boom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie“, here was an old man with a terminal disease, ready to face the inevitable but reluctant at the same time because he wanted to live longer with his family.

For all his tough-guy facade Duterte is apparently a sentimental person deep within. (After winning the presidential election, he went to his mother’s tomb and ask for her help. Tabangi ku). He also doesn’t easily give up. He may procrastinate but it’s more of a strategy than an evasive move. No lockdown, he stood pat, as if rebuking the virus through Joey Salceda, as if they’re one and the same. No way, Jose.

No, he will not surrender to COVID-19 without a fight. In the first place, he had said he would slap it, just like he would threaten his rivals, critics and others who do not agree with him.Perhaps, he was encouraged by the fact that when he threatened to pee on the Taal Volcano at the time it was raining disaster in Southern Luzon and swallow its toxic ashfall, the volcano suddenly turned benign.

Once in a flight, Muhammad Ali was told by the flight attendant to put on his seatbelt because of a turbulence. He told her off that Superman “did not wear no seatbelt.” The attendant shut him up him by saying that “Superman did not fly no airplane.”End of argument.

This time, the veerus is just of those existential nuisances,

In this way, Duterte somehow echoes the voice of science.COVID-19 is deadly but it can be controlled. Between human and virus, it may look like a mismatch at first, but history has shown who eventually emerges as the victory. Theologians go as far as affirming that humans are not only victors, but conquerors.

The only difference with a distinction is that the historian’s case is open-ended while the theologian sees the denouement immediately preceding the final conclusion.

In practical terms, this may mean Duterte will outlive the modern virus, see who will be his successor and, might even end up facing personal issues worse than the virus itself.

The simple math is that Duterte will finish the rest of his term while COVID 19 will be a short-lived germ until another one jumps from a bat or rodent to human and starts another new health crisis.

Theologian can pray for the more desirable option. The historian waits with bated breath.

In the meantime, Duterte can ponder on the real possibility that history and fatalism may be of little help if and when Fate takes its natural course, cyclical or linear.

Guess who nurtures a wishful thinking.


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