Living in a pandemic world

Chay F. Hofileña
Living in a pandemic world
We will survive this!

How have you been doing? Not too badly, I hope, during this pandemic scourge. If it’s any consolation, like you, I, too, am locked up at home, connected to the rest of the world and to you only through gadgets, devices, and the internet.

In case you missed last month’s newsletter you can still read: We need leadership, sanity during crisis.

This is being written a day before Maundy Thursday, when most devout Filipino Catholics pause and say a prayer when they do the Visita Iglesia, a pilgrimage or visit to at least 7 churches. It will be radically different this year as churches remain closed and the closest to community that the faithful will feel is the togetherness in virtual Masses. 

None of us ever imagined a month ago that the world would be turned upside down this way – empty streets, work from home, bluer skies, ubiquitous face masks, and sputtering systems exposed, along with bungling officials. We’ve seen countless crises bring down worthless and irascible leaders, both here and abroad. You will agree that there’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the best and the worst of humanity. 

About 80% to 85% of the Philippine population profess to be Catholic, yet over a quarter of the population or about 26.3% live below the poverty line, according to latest available data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. Even in this upside down world, where an invisible but very palpable enemy continues to rage, the vulnerable and disadvantaged see little of a difference. Their situation prior to, and during, this tempest has remained unchanged.

The Vulnerable

Ask the farmers. Farmers trash spoiled vegetables while poor go hungry

Ask the urban poor. Poor Filipinos fear death from hunger more than coronavirus

Ask those who have been arrested and the lawyers who have to bail them out. In Duterte’s Philippines, lawyers are pandemic frontliners too

Ask even small businesses. The heavy impact of lockdown on micro, small businesses

To survive this, common sense tells us that our army of doctors, nurses, health workers and their support staff must be given all the battle gear and resources they need to win the war.


Did you know:

  • A hospital uses up 200 to 500 personal protective equipment a day.
  • The country has an estimated 5,250 ventilators only.
  • The Philippines has 3.9 doctors, 8.6 nurses, and 1.3 medical technologists for every 10,000 of the population.
  • 440 out of 1,233 hospitals in the Philippines have ICUs, as of 2016.

Experts have spelled it out: IN NUMBERS | What hospitals need to treat COVID-19 patients

What are we up against? Where is the enemy? Where should resources be funneled and prioritized? We mapped areas of the country where there have been reported cases of the fatal disease. We know that the number of cases accounted for reflect data 7-10 days ago, according to former health secretary Dr Manuel Dayrit, because of the backlog in testing. 

Thousands of asymptomatic carriers go undetected and unknowingly spread the virus. As of Wednesday, April 8, there are over 3,700 positive cases in the country and we haven’t even started to peak yet.

Where are the coronavirus cases in Metro Manila?

Where are the coronavirus cases in Luzon?

Where are the coronavirus cases in the Visayas?

Where are the coronavirus cases in Mindanao?


Because of inadequate support and protection, many of our frontliners live with a constant and gnawing fear that it will just be a matter of time before they themselves become infected with the deadly COVID-19. Yet duty calls. 

We tried to capture some of their stories and experiences in these narratives. Journalist Patricia Evangelista, in collaboration with visual artist Geloy Concepcion, tried to sketch for us what it’s like for them in Nine Rooms and a Hallway. Two other narratives recount the nightmare of Iligan City’s sole infectious disease specialist (just 33 years old and a father of an 8-month-old baby) and the daily anxiety of health workers in high-risk hospitals.

Next question: do we have the resources, more importantly, the funds, to fight the enemy? 


Given leadership inadequacies, Senate reporter Aika Rey walks us through the budget intricacies to determine whether there truly are funds sufficient to fight the coronavirus. Read her story: Funding the fight vs the coronavirus. As it turns out, according to Aika, there’s a budget, yes, but government – unless it borrows or collects taxes vigorously – does not have enough cash at present to support the poor, the unemployed, the sick, and even the dying.

Surviving the pandemic

Do we even stand a chance, given the quality of leadership exhibited by Mr Duterte in his signature late-night addresses that call to mind lines from MacBeth (pardon me): “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I’d like to think that – despite, and in spite of, government – we will survive. Collective wisdom and collective action, creativity and innovation from scientists, the medical profession, data scientists, economists, lawyers, community organizers and local leaders, students, academics, journalists, and anyone else who cares about humanity will guarantee that. Come 2022, let’s be reminded of who inspired us and who let us down big-time during this historic period

Let me know what you think via It’s always good to hear from you especially during these tough times. If you have tips or suggestions for stories we should pursue drop me a line. And Happy Easter, too!

Listen to our Newsbreak: Beyond the Storiespodcast on Spotify or Apple anchored by researcher-writer Jodesz Gavilan. There’s a whole menu of podcasts and video you can watch here

Newsbreak is where you’ll find Rappler’s investigative, in-depth, and data- and research-based reports. Be updated on the latest stories by liking Newsbreak on Facebook and following @newsbreakph on Twitter.

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Chay F. Hofileña

Chay Hofileña is editor of Rappler's investigative and in-depth section, Newsbreak. Among Rappler’s senior founders and editors, she is also in charge of training. She obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.