Lenten Lockdown: A Time for Reflection

Into the last days of our Lent, these last four days invites us to reflect more on ourselves and on what we have done throughout the year. While our situation might seem similar before with the re-imposition of ECQ in the Greater Manila Area and other quarantine classifications from MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ, in other regions, I can assure everyone that our situation today is better. 

Last year, going through this lockdown, we don’t know much yet about our enemy, the COVID-19. It was fairly new and our biggest weapon back then was only the initial developments for testing. Today, I am more hopeful than ever. As early as November, we have already secured millions of doses of our ultimate weapon against the COVID-19, the vaccines. This was made possible in part by the initiative and selflessness of our private sector along with the openness and passion of our government. 

Going back through those times when we were just securing a deal with AstraZeneca, back in November, nothing is certain. Our country hasn’t secured any vaccines yet, the government cannot buy any vaccines as there were no vaccines available that have the necessary approvals, and the economy was in an unfortunate state. The private sector, however, through the proactiveness of Tessie Sy-Coson and patriotism of Lotis Ramin, was able to secure millions of doses through a tripartite agreement—the first one of its kind around the world. 

In this tripartite agreement, the government allowed the private sector to procure vaccines for their employees and for our government frontline workers who are combating the virus since the start of this war. Even though the private sector was also challenged, they went beyond their current situation and put at the center the general need of the country. The tripartite model that our country has created is the first of its kind around the world—highlighting the Bayanihan spirit that Filipinos are known for.

Evaluating our situation today, I can’t help but think how this narrative fits what Lenten is all about—almsgiving, self-denial, and sacrifices. It was like a year of Lent for everyone. We all made sacrifices throughout the way just to ensure the safety not just of ourselves, but of others. The private sector, while also facing their own obstacles were open enough to give to others as their act of virtue. It was pure altruism on the part of the private sector as in the initial part of this initiative, nothing is certain. AstraZeneca has no MHRA or FDA approval when we purchased it, what we only have is hope and the sense of urgency to deliver for the people. 

Today, the vaccines started coming and we expect the 2.6 million doses from AstraZeneca to arrive in the country by May and June. The virus is giving us a fight, mutations have been constant. But this was something foreseen by our scientists, that’s why from the beginning of this initiative we have been proactive to make the procurement, and now even the logistics and administration, as fast and efficient as possible.

Even though we are down ourselves in the private sector, with the economy losing billions since the start of the pandemic, the private sector and the government would never stop. Like the story of how the Lenten came to be, our one-year experience of COVID-19 has been a story of suffering to revival. Started with Ash Wednesday that symbolizes death, Lenten ends with Easter, symbolizing life. This pandemic is our lent and the end of this pandemic is Easter—resurrection, and celebration of life.

Last year, it was a question of lives or livelihood, this year, this is not a question anymore, we have been consistent from the get-go that we will always choose both and we will always do our best to save both. While it was difficult to balance the two, never was lives or livelihoods been put out of the picture. This is the logic behind all the private sector’s initiative in procuring the vaccine, and now extending it to administration, that to save both lives and livelihoods, the private sector must move hand-in-hand with the government to win this battle and win it as fast as possible—the faster we accomplish our task, the fewer lives will be lost in the process and the faster livelihoods will revitalize. 

Let’s reflect deep during these final days of our Lent. We sacrifice a bit of our sense of normalcy during this pandemic and this sacrifice will not go to waste, everyone’s sacrifice is necessary. As we go through our Lenten lockdown, on the confines of our home, may we be able to see the glimpses of hope and goodness that this sacrifice of ours has given to our medical frontliners that are taking the tool of this pandemic. 

Time and time again, let’s use this Lenten lockdown to reflect on the deep questions of life and faith. Let Christ’s journey inspire us that we are not only living for ourselves, but also for others.

Happy Lent to everyone!