"Try to be in church for the ashes."
Right on cue, the anti-COVID task force yesterday handed over a long-overdue gift to locked-down local Catholics by lifting the attendance limit in churches from 30 percent to 50 percent.
The gift was right on time because tomorrow the Catholic world observes Ash Wednesday, marked by the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful and the injunction to “repent and believe in the Gospel.”
It was overdue because churches have always been among the safest places to be indoors. Occupancy turns over within an hour; the structures are generally well-ventilated, i.e. not air-conditioned due to impecuniousness; and health protocols have been in place since the beginning.
And the gift was especially appreciated by Catholics because the high point of the Mass is the physical reception of the Holy Eucharist. You have to be in church to do that. Now that churches are allowed to fill up half-way, the faithful who still choose to attend online from home have got to ask themselves if they’re really being hygienic or if they’re just slacking off.
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Slacker readers might protest that they just want to make sure by first waiting for the vaccines to arrive. Unfortunately, that issue—like pretty much everything else concerning the virus—has been terminally muddled up by government pettifoggery and one-upmanship among the vaccine producers.
Amidst all the noise and fake news, we can make out only the following statements that seem indisputable:
One, no vaccine has been found to reduce or prevent infectiveness. You can only be protected especially against severe symptoms, but others can’t be protected from you if you’re “carrying.”
Two, as with any other vaccine, there will always be unintended casualties. This risk expectedly is higher for the senior community and those with unpredictable immune systems.
Three, varying reports about the efficacy of this or that vaccine are as clear as mud. There don’t seem to be any apples-versus-apples studies that can support consistency in comparisons.
But four, none of the above should be taken to argue against the rollout of vaccines of any type as speedily as possible. It’s a race against time as the virus continues to mutate. If we don’t move faster, vaccine fear may kill us off before we get to herd immunity.
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The Internet is truly a hatchery of lies and fakeries, and not only about the virus. The latest gem comes from Rappler, which recently posted a table showing that the top recipient of barangay development funds from the anti-terrorism NTF-ELCAC was Davao city with a whopping P1.6 billion, followed very distantly by Panabo in Davao Oriental (P400 million) and Tubungan, Iloilo (P300 million).
The smear intent against the Dutertes is obvious. What the reader may not know is that Davao is the country’s largest city (2,200 sq.km.) and Mindanao’s most populous, with nearly 200 barangays. By comparison, Panabo is a third-class city with only 40 barangays, while Tubungan isn’t even a city, just a fourth class municipality.
In addition, Davao has always been the center of the Mindanao-based communist insurgency. These insurgents acquired a fearsome reputation in the eighties before Duterte rode into town to clean it up, and even today, according to the AFP, there are at least five active guerrilla fronts operating in and around the city.
As the election campaign heats up, expect more of these gems from Rappler. It’s worth noting here that Rappler’s Maria Ressa was just nominated for, of all things, a Nobel Peace Prize. This should only caution us about the dangers of brain freeze during winters in Stockholm.
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Here’s a Holy Week gift that I’d like to get from my credit card bank PNB:
Last August, some card thief somewhere in the Balkan states started charging purchases from the music site Spotify to my PNB credit card. Luckily I got wind of it immediately and contacted the bank. But over several minutes while the stop-payment was being processed, we could only watch helplessly as the fake charges continued rolling in, eventually topping P50,000.
Unluckily, it’s been downhill for me with PNB ever since. Six months later, the fake charges haven’t been reversed on my monthly credit card bills, plus I still continue to be charged interest on them. Despite my monthly calls to the bank and a lot of apologies and beautiful promises from them that they’ll fix the situation, nothing has happened.
Now it’s possible that the lockdown is forcing PNB to take six months (and counting) to address what to them may well be a massive, massive operational challenge. Or maybe they’ve come across a new tactic of wearing down the borrower until he gets tired and simply agrees to pay up even for fake charges. Heck, they might think the interest alone would do wonders for their virus-battered P&L. Who knows?
Readers can write me at [email protected].