How the pandemic changed the #StoryOfTheNation in 2020

There will always be stories to tell and experiences to share especially in 2020, when Filipinos faced unprecedented events that stirred mixed emotions of anger, fear, hope, and inspiration.

Since 2014, MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, has been going to different communities to ask them about their thoughts on various issues and events. This year, however, was different as Filipinos were forced to work and stay at home in the light of the pandemic.

With the help of our movers and partners in different sectors, we continue to tell the #StoryOfTheNation that gave Filipinos a louder voice this year.

Here are some stories of the nation throughout this year’s roller coaster ride: 

Community quarantine

This year, people witnessed how the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc around the world. It compounded hardships that made Filipinos endure a tough year and revealed the existing gaps between the poor and the rich. 

To capture the sentiments of the ordinary workers on this crisis, we asked Filipinos how they are dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown.

Through the #StoryOftheNation campaign, they shared their fears and thoughts about the pandemic.

"Suwerte yung mga maraming pera, nakakapag-stock ng maraming pagkain. Tugon ko naman sa bigas na sagot ng Presidente, hindi lang naman bigas lang ang kinakain ng mga Pilipino. Kung makakapag-supply sila ng pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan, mas maganda," said Luisito, a 62-year-old vendor based in Bulacan.

(The rich are lucky since they can stock up on a lot of food. I wish we could get enough support from the President beyond the dole out of rice. After all, rice is not the only food we consume. If they can supply our everyday needs, that would be better.)

Some also stressed the need for a brave local government and public, as well as proactive leaders and more avenues for reliable information.

Health care workers and medical students also called for a reevaluation of the Philippines’ system for coronavirus pandemic response, and the health care system. Despite criticism from government officials, the country’s brave frontliners shared their passion to continue to do their duty and remain hopeful amid the challenging times. 

"As one of the front liners, I think that each and every person who offers their time, effort, and expertise during this pandemic has their own worries, in varying degrees. Despite these, we choose to be of service and uphold the vow we made when we decided to do this work," geriatric nurse Mary Queen Claire Delmoro said.

Media giant shutdown

On top of the pandemic, the country also witnessed the closure of media giant ABS-CBN after Congress denied it a franchise. 

As part of MovePH's #StoryOfTheNation campaign, several people shared their insights on why they think it matters and how they would be affected by the shutdown. 

"The shutdown does not only threaten the network’s freedom of the press, but also threatens every Filipino’s right to information. The shutdown proves that the Philippines is a democratic country that suppresses the media," said Clarenz Jay Mendoza, a journalism graduate.

Journalists and other media workers expressed dismay as they continued to fight for press freedom. Alongside this, ABS-CBN employees, whose jobs were cut off following the shutdown, also voiced their frustration.

Typhoon survivors expressed their concerns of how the closure of ABS-CBN regional stations affected disaster response efforts in far-flung areas in times of natural disasters. 

SONA 2020

Ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address in July, MovePH also captured the different experiences of the common Filipino and how their lives have been changed by the pandemic. 

Duterte’s 5th SONA came against the backdrop of a pandemic that has disrupted the lives of millions of Filipinos that caused an economic downturn and high unemployment rate and the aftermath of recent controversies on the anti-terror law, continuous attacks against the media, and the drug war. 

Through the #StoryOfTheNation, Filipinos lamented the government’s response to the pandemic and how the crisis showed the true colors of those in power, making them reassess the leaders they voted for. 

“This crisis made us see that, aside from our fight against the virus, the Philippines is in a constant struggle to fight poverty, corruption, and abuse of authority,” teacher Neil Bartolay said. 

They also mentioned how the pandemic pushed the marginalized and vulnerable communities to “further helplessness and desperation.”

“Having to lose their source of livelihood is already bad enough but to be slapped with government insensitivity and callousness, driven with their incompetence and self-serving greed is adding more to their day-to-day struggle,” said Zena Bernardo, a co-initiator of #BabaeAko movement and Bayanihang Marikenyo at Marikenya.

Despite the trying times with no end in sight, others remained hopeful for the better days ahead even if it meant carrying the burden on their own. 

Distance learning

In a bid to continue education even during the pandemic, the government pushed for a shift to distance learning but had only exposed the gaps in the country’s education system.

MovePH asked students and parents showed they were affected by the shift to distance learning through the #StoryOfTheNation campaign in August. 

They shared that it has been a struggle for families who can't afford gadgets and who live in areas with no steady internet connection and expressed their fear of how the shift towards distance learning modalities will only worsen the challenges already being faced by different students and teachers.  

Many have turned to the online campaign #PisoParaSaLaptop to raise funds to buy gadgets before the start of online classes. As a result, donations came pouring in from generous donors and partners that helped more than 90 students and raised over 1 million pesos for them as of December 2020. 

But while a lot of students are able to acquire their laptops for their online classes, their struggle continues in finding the means to access and fund a stable internet connection.

Sa face-to-face classes pa lamang ay kulang na ang pondo, paano pa kaya para sa new normal learning ngayon? Sana lamang ay mabigyan kami ng kapwa kong mag-aaral na walang kakayahang magkaroon ng internet connection at gadyet ng konsiderasyon ukol dito,” 18-year-old Joriza Lope said.

(We already lacked funds during face-to-face classes in the past, what more during the new mode of learning that we would have? I hope that my fellow students who do not have internet connections and gadgets are given consideration.)

Despite connectivity and accessibility issues, however, teachers shared why they remain optimistic.

“This pandemic made us teachers go back to square one. It felt like I was in my first year of teaching once again as we all see ourselves adapting to online learning. While there’s fear and uncertainty in the changing of gears department, we put our brave faces on for our students,” Dar Murillo said.

Academic strike

But just as we thought that things might start to get a little better towards the end of 2020, the series of disasters struck the country down once again. 

Students and faculty, moreover, were left to face the brunt of having to deal with the demands of  distance learning in the midst of disasters during a pandemic. This has led students from Luzon to Mindanao to call for a nationwide academic break.

In MovePH’s video campaign #StoryOfTheNation, we ask students, scholars, and faculty to share insights on why members of the academic community have resorted to leading academic strikes to make their pleas heard.

For many, these academic strikes are an opportunity to send a message to the government that one student left behind is still a student left behind. 

“The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has become useless in the face of national crisis, abandoning its constituents when needed the most. But, still, we can fight for our voices to be heard in our respective universities,” Ateneo student and petition initiator Elise Ofilada said.

This year's #StoryOfTheNation was defined by the worst crises and events that unraveled in the past months.

In the midst of all of these unprecedented challenges, Filipinos voices rang louder as they shared their stories of courage, persistence, and collaboration. – 

Jene-Anne Pangue

Jene-Anne Pangue is a community and civic engagement specialist of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. Her involvement with Rappler started when she became a mover in 2014 and an intern in 2015. Since then, she learned the importance of building communities of action for social good as she continues to work with movers and doers across the country.