During these times, we often read or hear news about how the coronavirus disease has slowly affected our lives—lifestyle, work, economy, food security. Making matters woarse is the seemingly never-ending trail of death of people around the world.
As we read these news articles, we feel scared and hurt. Some even have panic attacks, thinking how it may affect not just ourselves, but also the people around us once we get infected with the virus.
If we feel this way, imagine what goes on in the minds of people in the frontlines, such as the police, the military, food and essential suppliers, medical workers and media people.
The Manila Standard interviewed two of these frontliners working in two different yet essential industries during these trying times and asked them to share their experiences and stories, while fulfilling their callings, so that their stories will inspire.
Manila Standard news editor Joyce Pañares shared her stories in covering the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We did not stop working. Journalists cannot stop and say, 'I will not work because there is a pandemic,'" she said.
Working in a news organization, Joyce said that as a journalist, her job is crucial especially during these times when fake news are prevalent and people should know what is true and what's not.
"It is precisely because there is a pandemic that we have to keep on working because people need all the information they can get to make informed decisions," said Joyce.
The news editor also explained that no matter how strong journalists are, they are still human beings who are not numb to pain and who are equally vulnerable to breakdowns.
"But that (reporting for work) does not mean journalists are not vulnerable, not just to the virus but to its mental fallout as well," she explained.
"The early days of coverage, and in fact even more so now when we are experiencing a surge in the cases, took a toll on our mental health. There were bad days when I would cry after getting the data from DOH, and there were worse days when I would palpitate when I'd hear the siren of an ambulance," she recalled.
Joyce also shared the experience of one of her field reporters who asked to be relieved temporarily from covering the health department since the data on the case volume and death toll would stress her out.
But at the end of the day, there is a deadline to be met and a commitment to readers that must be fulfilled.
"We have a job to do, so we dry our tears and drink water to calm down and resume writing, editing, and reporting," said the journalist.
Another frontliner, Norie Mae Fernandez, a radio technologist at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center and a COVID survivor, told her story of how she survived her ordeal.
"In this pandemic, as a frontliner, you will be torn between saving your life first or continuing to do your job," said Norie. The 23-year-old rad technician told the Manila Standard that instead of thinking it as a job, she considers it as a duty to serve her fellow Filipinos.
"As rad tech frontliner, I consider it as a passion, more than a job—a duty more than a work since the very beginning of my career. If you view this just like a daily routine and don't use this an opportunity to grow, everything will become nothing, it'll be easy for you to give up whatever things may happen," explained Norie.
She also shared the risks that the medical frontlners faced during the early days of the pandemic.
"When the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, the Philippines was still not that alarmed. People kept roaming around and health protocols were not yet imposed. During those times, we faced our patients without using a full PPE and without knowing if they are really giving their right history to us. That was until the number of cases continued to rise," she recalled.
"Around March 2020, some of our hospital staff started to show signs and symptoms of the virus and when they got tested, it came out that they were all positive from the virus. Unfortunately, one of our colleagues, our chief nurse, lost his battle against the COVID-19," she continued.
She eventually got infected with the virus."On April 10, 2020, we underwent swab tests, then after 16 days, I received a call from my chief RT. She told me that our results were out and mine was positive. I didn't know what to react because that day, I was with my family and just got home from my duty the day before. My mind became chaotic, thinking what will happen especially to those people, who were exposed to me since I was asymptomatic," told Norie.
As days passed, more of their hospital staff got infected yet the hospital continued to operate to help the people to be treated.
After four swab tests and a month of quarantine, Norie recovered and is now continuing her duties as a rad tech.
"This was not just only the most memorable experience I encountered as a frontliner, but also in my life, something I could tell to everybody—that I survived COVID-19," she said.
To our frontliners, we salute you! Words and even this story may not be enough to thank you, but we are grateful for your sacrifices.
Mabuhay po kayo!