The virus took root in an open-air “wet market” that sold various goods, including carcasses of animals only a few brave souls would take as food. Then came the warning from a doctor about a novel virus. Unfortunately, the world initially dismissed him the way the Trojans ignored Cassandra – he saw something terrible coming. Still, people were too busy to pay him attention or to believe at all. Until it was too late, WHO declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, and life as we knew it would never be the same again.
None of us is ready for this. We made plans, but most of them were destined to be plans for a long, long time. No one realized that 2020 would be signaled by a nightmare rooted in a less-known province in China.
Businesses, big and small alike, started shutting down, nourishing very little hope that they would still be operating when this is all over. Countless people went jobless and were desperately queuing for government support. Public transportation was paralyzed, and people were stranded; their only choice was to walk for kilometers upon kilometers to be with their families or stay where they were. People stayed indoors, with just one member of their family allowed to go out to get their basic needs. Busy streets suddenly became deserted, and shops teeming with people closed. People hardly recognized their friends and acquaintances because of the face masks they were wearing. Everyone seemed to have become a germophobe overnight, spraying their hands with alcohol now and then and keeping a safe distance from others. The health sector was in a race to find a cure, a vaccine against the disease whose very name we have come to fear – CoVID-19.
The news was equally alarming as each evening; it reported the number of cases skyrocketing. First, there were two. Then there were 10. Then, 22. Now, it is over 400,000. And there’s the death toll too. But there was good news too. Over 80 percent of the active cases are mild. The mortality rate is low. No other thing has given me a better understanding of “human interest” as an element of write-ups than the evening news featuring people helping people. So here’s the good thing about this pandemic – it has tapped the philanthropist in each of us.
Watching these acts of random kindness on TV moves you to tears. Well-to-do families are cooking for their neighbors. A debutante was foregoing a grand party and opting to prepare packed food for jeepney drivers. Vegetable dealers are returning after delivery picking up a total stranger walking home. The bicycle shop owner gave an old fellow one of the bicycles on display to not walk for hours anymore to get to work. Police officers buying all the produce a vendor was selling so that he could go home early. The “human interest” stories are endless, and boy, how they inspire!
These very stories have also inspired la Union Multi-Purpose Cooperative. Other stories have also inspired La Union Multi-Purpose Cooperative. Other than the inspirational part, the Cooperative has always willed itself and its employees to help people, not because they have to do it, but because they love doing it. The pandemic is a perfect opportunity to practice this advocacy. So off went the LUMPC staff, where they saw an opportunity. While it is true that they were affected, they knew they fared better than most people. They still have their jobs; many don’t.
Our first line of defense against CoVID-19, the frontliners do the most sacrifice, taking care of the sick and not caring for their own families. They are at the most risk of the disease. For this reason, LUMPC gave Agoo and San Juan RHUs and Rosario District Hospital facemasks and bottles of alcohol to keep the frontlines hands clean and free from disease-causing germs. For these medical professionals to do their duties well, they have to be physically nourished too. For several occasions, the Resto Grill staff prepared for them packed meals delivered right at their doorsteps.
LUMPC also saw the distress in the people’s eyes in the marketplace, just a stone’s throw from the main office. With controlled entries into the market and scheduled market dates, the vendors had fewer patrons. LUMPC gave them food packs lovingly prepared by the Resto Grill cooks to lift their spirits fleetingly.
The operation of the Cooperative was suspended in March and April, and there was no movement of its resources for more than two months. The Board and the management then decided that the cooperative would impose no penalties on past-due loans to help ease the borrowers’ burden. When the ECQ was lifted in late May, the employees started reporting to work. Several members came to transact business with the Cooperative, each going home with a pack of groceries.
LUMPC is aware of the likelihood that that one or few of its employees could catch the coronavirus in their line of duty. Since its operation is back to normal, many of them now commute to work and transact with clients daily. Though they take precautions in these everyday dealings and strictly follow health protocols, they still lay vulnerable, just like everybody else. For this reason, the Cooperative sets aside a portion of its monthly income for the health care of the people who work for it, from the directors down to the custodians.
Before 2019 ended, the The Board of Directors and the management prepared a calendar of activities for 2020. Little did they know that a novel virus that originated from Wuhan would suddenly throw them off the path. Sadly, the pandemic has forced them to change their plans. There may be a change of plans, but there is no change of heart. LUMPC still has a soft spot for people, regardless of who they are. And there is one thing this pandemic has taught us – nothing could get in the way if anyone is willing to help (Evelyn P. Carpio LU MPC).