The President just extended the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for Metro Manila, the country’s seat of power, as well as other parts of the country where the pandemic has remained aggressive. There is much anxiety and fear over this God-awful forced isolation dealt on us. And as expected, you hear a lot of complaints, a lot of anguished cries over the curtailment of certain liberties, etc.
Lucky for me, the extensive military training I got from my previous life has helped me adjust to the restrictions and rules imposed without so much of a hoot. All I have to do is think of the 1-year of plebe training in the Academy; and the month-long ‘confinement-to-quarters’ suddenly looks bite-size. I think of the Scout Ranger training in Tanay, the Escape and Evasion Drill in the Special Forces; and the sparse rations and supplies look puny. I remember the taps and reveille bugle calls; and the curfew restrictions seem right out of the ordinary.
The physical, mental and psychological stress being imposed now is something our soldiers are trained for in military training. Thus, even in this new environment, and faced with an unseen enemy – with its unpredictability, its lack of clear battle lines – our soldiers are ready to serve. Our soldiers are quick to adapt, quick to move into action. No whimpering, no whining, just willful obedience to help defeat an uncommon enemy in an uncommon crisis.
And as I dig back to my past life as a soldier, I recall some small nuggets of wisdom I learned from the Army, which I believe can be useful during these difficult times.
- Stop bickering and just do your part.
Situations like this call for tough decisions. So once a decision is made, and your mission spelled out, don’t go griping and grumbling as if the world owes you some. Your mission has been spelled out for you; and to most, it is a simple: STAY HOME. Staying home may be an awful-boring thing to do, but it sure is far better than being asked to gut it out in the hospitals, or the checkpoints, or do other services that could put you – and your family – in harm’s way. Your role is to make sure you and your family do not get sick. That way, you are not giving our overworked health workers more problems. Just do it, bro! Stay home.
2. Always remember the team. Always be there to assist your teammates.
Among the many things the Army taught me, one which I hold dear to my heart is the concept of the buddy system. I protect my buddy, I support my team and my brothers-in-arms with my life; knowing that my life could depend on them as well. Your team in this case is your own community. You support your own community by ensuring that you don’t bring in the enemy with you. You help your buddies by making sure you are virus-free, by helping ensure your community is clean and safe. So lace up those proverbial boots, bro, and help man those imaginary barricades so that this unseen enemy, this sneaky virus doesn’t come in stealthily through you or through others.
My classmate, Pipes Buena, was elected the AFP Officers’ Village (AFPOVAI) President last year. When this crisis blew up, Pipes immediately went to work beefing up the village defenses. To his credit, he has created proper protocols to make our village’s health security program robust. He was also able to organize a village trading post to get neighbors in the community to help each other. Today, the AFPOVAI community is so much closer from the experience brought about by these trying times.
3. KISS means Keep it simple, stupid.
However, don’t complicate your life by taking too many tasks. Soldiers are trained not to think much about things beyond their control. In order to survive, soldiers are taught when or where to focus their efforts and limited resources. I know I said you have to help your community, but be sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew.
You help in protecting your community, but you don’t spread yourself thinly and get unnecessarily exposed to the enemy. Particularly if you are part of the most vulnerable age group. Maybe this is the golden opportunity to bond with the kids, to impress on them the need to stay home and stay safe; to inculcate in them good values and teach them new responsibilities; or make some home repairs or do the long-delayed yardwork perhaps. There’s so much you can do at home. By staying home, you are helping your community, you are helping the cause.
My snappy underclassman, Harlie Llave, is now learning to bake, another proficiency for a very accomplished guy! Another PMA mistah, Vic Porto, has started to grow veggies in his backyard, clearly adding more trophy points to please his beloved wife, Gigi.
4. Always be prepared.
And while you’re at it, keep working your plan. You have to make sure you have enough for the week or so ahead. You have to anticipate your needs. You have to anticipate what your adversary will try to do. You have to have viable options for a worst case scenario. Are you ready for an extended lockdown? Will your supplies be enough for you? If not, what are your options? What about your neighbors? Your community? Who’s in charge? Who’s in danger of falling behind? How do you help each other cope?
My daughter, Bianca, is the family’s go-to-guy when it comes to worst-case scenario planning. If big companies have their Business Continuity Programs (BCP), my daughter has taken it upon herself to make our family’s equivalent of a continuity program of sorts. It’s a big comfort to know that we have our supplies and prior coordination always covered.
5. Don’t worry. Be happy!
When I entered as a plebe in the Academy, there was simply too much tension and stress brought about by the sudden imposition of strict military regulations, apart from the much-dreaded upperclassmen who just loved to make our lives miserable. But we learned to deal with it. And what’s the best way to deal with it? Have fun. Learn to poke fun at yourselves. Laughter has a way of lifting spirits, and even relieve pain. So stop looking for the negatives. There is just so much in life to be thankful for. Don’t stress yourself out over-thinking the problem. Sometimes, too much COVID news can cause people to panic and think it’s the end of the world. No, it certainly is not.
Dante Balao was my buddy during my plebe year in PMA. Dante was a bubbly guy who always found something to cheer and laugh about, including himself. No amount of harrassment from the upperclassmen could unnerve him. And to a large extent, I survived plebe year because of the attitude and the funny antics of this crazy friend, Dante. We went through so many trials together, but we certainly had lots of good laughs as well. And most of them, directed at ourselves! In the end, we survived.
Come to think of it, this episode in our lives has its good points as well. There’s the growing community spirit, with neighbors learning to help each other with basic needs. People have started planting. There’s the resurgence of family bonding, and the growing awareness and respect for nature and the environment. Finally, there’s the return to Godliness and spiritual rebirth.
Hence, before you whine about the controlled conditions you have to face daily, before you complain about having lost the beer-time with your friends at the pub, think instead of how easy your role is in this ‘new normal’ as they call it. Think instead of how lucky you are for being called a hero by simply staying inside and watching Netflix with your popcorn and beer. Think about – and appreciate – the risky work done by our frontliners, and how you can lessen their burden by staying safe at home. Remember, you are being asked to stay at home not only to protect yourself, but to protect others as well, including your very own families.
Today, it is not just our soldiers who are out there in the frontlines. Today, our combatants include the doctors, nurses and the other health workers; they include the market vendors, the truck drivers, the delivery people, the cleaners. They are joined by the utility technicians, the security guards, and other support elements who must risk their lives to keep sustaining us. Let us support them in this noble endeavor as well. Let us all do our share to acknowledge their sacrifices.
This war may not be over yet. But I’m confident that we’ll survive this, and we’ll come out of this experience stronger and closer to one another. Let’s give of ourselves now. Let’s show how humanity cares. Let’s SOLDIER on!!!
Here’s a special shout-out for some of my friends who have gone beyond the comforts of their homes to be of help. Fellow Habitat alum, Dabs Liban, who has been constructing dorms for frontliners and Emergency Quarantine Facilities for PUIs and PUMs; my mistahs Ernest Villareal and Rudy Magtibay, who have been organizing soup kitchens for hospital workers, checkpoint personnel, other frontliners and urban poor communities; my Pisaymates, Bing and Elise Del Rosario, who have busied themselves producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for our medical teams; my officemate, Odess Lacia, who has taken it upon herself to support the ‘no-work, no-pay’ cleaners and support elements at Udenna; and many more who I may have failed to list here. You know who you are; we thank you for your heroism.
Cover Photo courtesy of: UNTV News. Other pics courtesy of GMA Network, ABS-CBN News, YouTube, CNN Philippines, Manila Bulletin News, WFF Philippines, GoodNews Philippines, Business Mirror, The Mercury News, Everett Herald and TheStar Online.