Frontliners header by Alliyah Robles

The Vanguards of Hope

“I wear a mask, and that mask is not to hide who I am, but to create who I am.”

Batman

When we were younger, we would always wake up early in the morning and patiently wait for our favorite cartoons and beloved superhero movies to be shown on TV. For years, our oblivious minds had always believed that heroes are those who possess supernatural powers, superhuman strength or the power of teleportation and invisibility. We would always memorize their meaningful lines, mimic their spot-on facial expressions, and dress ourselves with curtains as capes just to recreate their legendary looks. We often jumped in joy and triumph every time they defeated the villains and overpower the evil, though we knew it was bound to happen after rewatching the movies several times. Our young, innocent hearts sincerely wished to be just like them when we grow older. We had made them our protector- our role models of bravery and grit.

And just before we go outside to play under the blazing sun, we turn off our televisions in a single switch. Just like that, our world today shut down as if it was switched off in a second. Our once cheerful, hopeful world was overwhelmed with troubling concerns, mental and emotional anxiety, and demoralizing fears. Our reality coincides with fiction, once a fantasy, now a horror. Pieces of ourselves are slowly eaten by the monster of today’s battle against COVID-19. Death has claimed lives as if it belonged to him all along. We were obliged to wear masks and meticulously protect ourselves against the dreadful touch of the virus. As our bodies grow weary and debilitated from the threats of the invisible enemy, our thoughts and emotions grow in frustration and stem negativity that creates ripples of panic in everyone.

Wear the masks of bravery 

Thankfully, the torch of hope was ignited once again and sparked the light we needed in this moment of darkness. It’s as if our childhood heroes were reborn to bring this light back into the world, but now, they no longer wear the red capes they were known for; instead, they wear the masks of bravery. Our modern day heroes are the selfless, dedicated frontliners who with their unwavering efforts, served as vanguards of hope. 

They tolerate the scorching heat under the layers of lab suits and personal protective equipment (PPE) they wear. Rather than enjoying the comforts of their home, they chose to be the warriors in the battle field. Every second of the day was a danger they had to conquer in order to serve the Filipino community amidst the pandemic. 

Despite the devastating risks of acquiring the virus, they altruistically shield us in these hope-shattering circumstances. Their gentle touch, lifting words, and unsurmountable hard work assure us that this adversity will end soon. Furthermore, they guarantee us that as long as we have hope and optimism within us, no evil will ever kill our spirits.

Standing strong in the front lines are our health authorities, government employees, military and police personnel, journalists, staticians, news and media reporters, food delivery drivers, janitors, garbage truck collectors, and traffic personnel. Their remarkable courage, compassion, and altruism made them the superheroes we owe our gratitude.

In the country, ever since the beginning of the year, humanitarian workers have courageously stood on the front lines dealing with the challenges arising from COVID-19 and other disaster events, like the eruption of Taal Volcano,  the damage wrought by the super typhoons, as well as continuing relief efforts to those affected by the Cotabato and Davao Del Sur earthquakes. Despite the many risks in these extraordinary times, the Filipino frontliners put their own safety aside and continue to do their work, diligently and selflessly providing life-saving support and assistance to people who need it most.

COVID-19 might be today’s super-villain, but it does not hinder the unwavering spirits of our real-life heroes from tirelessly doing their respective work in finding ways to combat the threat and eventually beat the invisible nemesis. Behind these masks of bravery are not just mere human beings but their stories and sacrifices dedicated in protecting the lives across the globe.

Facing trials 

Until today, an avalanche of COVID-19 cases are recorded every day. This has left our frontliners exhausted. Aside from the lack of personal protective equipment, our frontliners are underpaid. They chose to remain in the frontlines, answering to the call of duty while battling fear and anxiety of their work.  Moreover, on top of prolonged exposure to the virus, they also suffer mentally and physically from pressure, fatigue, stress, insomnia, denial, worry, anger, and fear. 

They ask for effective interventions from the government. In order to cope with the distressing situations, counselling and psychotherapy are significantly needed. Though the national government provided added benefits to frontliners such as Special Risk Allowance and hazard pay, COVID-19 packages from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and free transportation, the Philippine government has rejected the call of the medical groups time and time again. To make things worse, some government officials even insisted that a lockdown is no longer necessary and that medical workers should just do better jobs. 

These insensitivity and inconsideration from the government demean the job of the frontliners and deny them the respect they deserve. The government should improve their interventions; everyone must fulfill their duties better. After all, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, stated “Even if we do everything else right, if we don’t prioritize protecting health workers, many people will die because the health worker who could have saved their lives is sick”.

Red capes, interesting tricks, and mesmerizing appearances doesn’t define a real hero. Bravery, compassion, altruism, and dedication coalesce the essence of a superhero. While we continue to live, fantasizing our loved fictional characters, let us not forget that there are real heroes out there who fight the challenging battles in order to shield us from the biggest enemies of time.


Featured image by Alliyah Robles

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