Some Days, You Can't Save Them All

Quarantigang
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QT31 is the last chapter for Isolation before we hit Isolated— the last phase.

 

Para ulit ito sa napakatapang nating mga frontliners. This will also be the last time we’ll be seeing Doc Tangi inside the rigorous COVID wards, a complete long summary of what she went through in her 9 months stay. This chapter is not mine. Had mixed emotions while writing this with lines taken from actual health workers, and stories taken from actual survivors.

 

 

 

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Also, please vote for Red Velvet on MAMA while you're here.

 

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TRACKS 11-13: Huminahon / Pag-Uwi / Sabay  |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 31

 

 

 

 

 

SOME DAYS, YOU CAN'T SAVE THEM ALL

[ISOLATION Part III]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joohyun

 

 

 

“S-Seulgi…”

 

Napakurap ka nang ilang beses trying to process what was going on. There your girlfriend was— in an equally surprised face as you are.

 

Your girlfriend whom you haven’t talked to in weeks.

 

Siguro ay dala na rin ng gulat, dahil pareho kayo ngayong hindi makapagsalita, hindi alam ang unang sasabihin, o kung meron man, hindi alam kung paano sisimulan.

 

Matagal-tagal na rin noong huli kayong nagkausap.

 

Kaya siguro hindi siya mapakali.

 

Kaya siguro hindi ka makapagkusa.

 

“H-Hyun…” but she was the first to break the silence anyway.

 

Your chest tingled at the call of your name. Ang pagkagulat mo’y napalitan na ng luwang sa puso dahil kahit hindi mo man aminin o kahit ikaw man ang naging dahilan, matagal mo ring hinintay ang sandaling ‘to, ang makausap at makaharap siya muli nang ganito.

 

“U-Uh, ano, s-si ano, si Joy nasa v-veranda kausap daw si Yeri saglit.”

 

Does Joy and Yeri know?

 

Kaya ba nagyaya si Joy ngayon? To set us up?

 

“S-Sorry, hindi ko talaga alam na—” She began rambling how Joy pulled her in out of a sudden, na hindi niya sinadya na magkausap kayo ngayon, na hindi niya sinabihan ang dalawa, at kung ano pa. She’s stuttering, explaining, it felt like she was uncomfortable being in front of you. “—tsaka s-sorry din, a-akala ko kasi—”

 

“Seulgi,” Napatigil na siya sa pagsasalita. “It’s okay.”

 

Your eyes were assuring, begging. Hearing her do that pains you in a way you can’t describe. What you felt may be uncalled-for with what happened, but it just didn’t sound right to your ears.

 

Tinignan ka niya na parang inuusisa ka. Her uneasy shoulders finally started to relax and a sigh was heard from her bago siya umayos ng upo. You could sense that she was starting to loosen up, her troubled face slowly contorting into a natural Seulgi you’re used to.

 

Hindi mo naman siya masisisi. Hindi rin ito ang inaasahan mong pag-uusap niyo after that long while. And you know it was never her fault…

 

“S-Sorry, nagulat lang ako…” bulong niya na halos hindi mo na marinig.

 

You felt a tug in your chest.

 

Hindi ka ba niya gustong makausap ngayon?

 

Isa-isang bumalot sa ‘yo ang mga hindi mo gustong isipin kaya napaiwas ka muna sa mga mata niya. Dito mo lang napansin ang paligid niya. Huh? At ngayon lang dumating sa ‘yo na magkasama pala sila ni Joy. Your widened eyes wordlessly wandered on the familiar wall behind her, at mukhang napansin niya ito.

 

Hindi ba’t…

 

“Uhm, oo, nasa, nasa Laguna na ‘ko.”

 

Mabilis na bumalik ang tingin mo sa kanya.

 

…Kailan pa?

 

“Kanina lang ako dumating,” dagdag niya, alam na alam kung anong iniisip mo.

 

Ni hindi mo ito napansin dahil sa gulat nang makita siya kanina. Umuwi na pala siya. You felt something, like a relief, like a burden leaving off your shoulders.

 

“Do you…” nag-aalinlangan pa siya sa gusto niyang sabihin, “Do you want to talk? Is this okay?”

 

Parang naging magaan ang hangin sa pagitan ninyo sa nalaman mo. Hindi mo alam. Baka para sa ‘yo lang. Alam mo lang na nagkaroon ka ng rason para itapon palayo ang lahat ng pumipigil sa ‘yong kausapin siya.

 

Binalikan mo ang kanyang sinabi.

 

Itinanong pa niya.

 

Hindi ka sanay.

 

You still gave her a reassurring smile, “Of course.”

 

Pinanood mo siyang agad na tumayo at naglakad palabas ng kwarto. You guess she wants to stay in her room. No other words spoken and you took this chance to stare at the face you missed the most.

 

She’s home.

 

Akala mo magtatagal siya doon.

 

Hindi mo naman hinahangad.

 

Masaya kang wala na siya doon.

 

“Kamusta ka na?”

 

Naputol ang pag-iisip mo sa boses niya. Ito kaagad ang unang tinanong niya sa ‘yo nang makaupo siya.

 

Her concern made you bring out another timid smile. “I’m fine, though it's getting a little…out of hand.”

 

“Tumataas na ‘yung mga kaso.”

 

“I know…”

 

“Are you eating well?” she asked. You studied her face. Nakakunot ang noo niya at seryosong nakatingin sa ‘yo. She looks so worried. Hindi mo tuloy mapigilang mahinang matawa.

 

“I am,” ngiti mo sa kanya. “May nagpapadala lagi ng food packs sa ward. Inuuwi ko minsan.”

 

She subtly sighed in relief pero rinig na rinig mo ito. “Buti naman. Nag-aalala ako kung paano ka kumakain dahil siguradong hindi ka lumalabas ng bahay, kaya nga lagi kong tinatanong kay Jisoo—”

 

Natigilan siya, pinching her lips into a firm line.

 

“—na ano, k-kung kumain na ba…kayo.”

 

Now you’re trying so hard to bite back a grin dahil sobrang cute ng nahihiyang mukha niya.

 

Alam mo naman. Masyado ring obvious si Jisoo. Araw-araw ka ba naman tanungin kung ayos ka lang? She’s been constantly bringing you food pa, na libre raw lagi ni kuya niya, and they were all your comfort food. Jisoo never did that, siya pa nga laging nanghoholdap sa ‘yo sa caf dati.

 

Seulgi’s ways of showing care were always implicit. They all come off from her nature kaya minsan hindi na niya kailangan sabihin pa. But being beside her for years, you’ve learned to read her between the lines.

 

You’re thankful.

 

Really.

 

Does she realize that too?

 

You tried to catch her averting gazes and pretended you knew nothing. “Ikaw? How are you?”

 

Your question sparked the beginning of your usual conversations with Seulgi. It was like back in the days, ‘yung tuwing magpapahinga ka between stressful shifts, and talking to her over the phone was way better than a cup of coffee for sanity. She began telling you bits of her life lately… how they went past the border… and some other stuff you enjoy listening from her.

 

Sobrang laki ng pinagbago but you like where this is going.

 

Parang dati lang…

 

Parang hindi ganoon kahabang panahon ang nagdaan…

 

Oh how much you missed this. The buzz wasn’t there, alam mo ‘yon. It wasn’t full of laughter anymore, of teasing, ‘di gaya noon. May halong alinlangan na sa bawat sasabihin, kulang ang pag-arka ng ngiti sa mga labi.

 

But the warmth of talking and being with her tonight is enough to put you heart and mind at peace.

 

Ito na muna ang pananaigin mo.

 

 

 

You’re not sure if she wants to talk about what happened.

 

As she went on, you unknowingly stared at her and fell into a daze. It suddenly made you realize how much you longed for Seulgi during the entirety. Kumirot ang puso mo habang iniisip ito, habang pinapakinggan siya ngayon.

 

You don’t exactly remember how it began to stumble.

 

Bigla na lang naputol ang lahat. Lagi mong hinahangad na kausapin siya noong mga araw na ‘yon pero kapag nasa harap mo na siya, biglang nauubos ang mga salita mo. Nahirapan kang harapin siya sa ‘di mo malamang rason. Days turned into weeks, and then it happened. You were a fool waiting for something, for nothing, yet not giving the tiniest effort to make a move.

 

You know you needed the silence.

 

But the same emptiness broke you more than anything.

 

“Tapos na yata silang mag-usap.”

 

Maybe that’s why it aches to see her like this, like nothing happened, your guts to find comfort from her words tonight irks you like how could you?

 

“Hyun?”

 

You wonder how she’s feeling.

 

“Hey…”

 

Kung bakit tinitiis ka niyang kausapin ngayon na parang walang nangyari.

 

“Tangi.”

 

Napakurap ka na sa kanyang boses. “H-Huh?”

 

Dito mo lang narinig ang malalakas na katok mula sa likuran niya. Sigurado kang si Joy ang nasa likod ng pinto dahil nilingon lang ito ni Seul at hindi muna pinuntahan.

 

“Hinahanap ka na niya. Okay ka lang ba?”

 

Hindi ka nakasagot kaagad kaya nakita mo ang paglunok niya.

 

“Ibabalik na kita kay Joy.”

 

Bumilis ang tibok ng puso mo. You were intending this talk to be longer. Gusto mo pa siyang makausap, makita nang ganito. Akala mo Joy purposely made you talk… mukhang hindi pala.

 

You bit your lip hesitantly. “S-Sure.”

 

Wala sa sarili at labag sa puso mo itong sinabi. Nagtataka ka nga bakit ito ang ‘yong nasabi. She stared at you for a second bago malimit na ngumiti. You wonder what’s going on her mind. You wonder if her mind is battling the same doubts like you have. Wala na rin siyang sinabi pa, tumayo na at naglakad papunta sa pinto habang ikaw ay naiwang nakatitig sa kanyang mukha.

 

Hanggang dito na lang ba?

 

You wanted to more. The need to extend this little bubble you’re sharing is skyrocketing at this point.

 

Biglang hindi ka sigurado kung anong mangyayari pagkatapos nito.

 

Maliliit rin ang mga hakbang niya, na parang may hinihintay mula sa ‘yo. Hindi mo alam pero mas lalong sumikip ang dibdib mo.

 

“I…” Napatigil siya sa tawag mo at napatingin sa ‘yo. “I love you.”

 

Baka ito.

 

Baka ito pala ang kulang.

 

Maybe that was what you needed to let out.

 

Napatigil siya at tumingin sa ‘yo— ‘yang mga mata niyang umaaninag ng lahat ng mga nararamdaman mo.

 

“I love you,” you uttered for the second time. “I’ll…call you again.”

 

You know you would never let this end without saying those three words.

 

You had to.

 

You know you just had to.

 

At dito na umarka ang mga labing gustong-gusto mong pangitiin.

 

Iba ito sa ngiting nakita mo sa kanya kanina.

 

Marahil ay hinihintay niya pala…

 

Marahil ay nangangati mo ring sabihin…

 

You don’t even know where that courage came from. Ayaw mo nang isipin. Masaya kang nasabi mo. Masaya kang narinig niya. That smile— that solace made you mirror the curve of her lips.

 

“Good night,” you whispered one last time, eyes never leaving her.

 

Ang ngiti niya’y umabot sa kanyang mga mata, the prettiest thing you’ve seen in a while.

 

“I love you too, tangi.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe that night, you laid on your bed with the lightest chest… for the first time in months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

The month of May was nothing compared to the previous months.

 

Palala na nang palala ang COVID cases sa Manila. The lockdown got extended, classes were still suspended, many businesses were closed, many lost their jobs, and everyone was left to stay at home.

 

More or less 200 people are getting infected each day.

 

Kahapon lang ay may 356 na nadagdag, the country passing the 10,000 mark.

 

On this month, the usage of COVID critical care beds in hospitals also reached its first peak of 42%. Dalawang buwan pa lang ‘yan since the outbreak. Ganoon kabilis. Ganoon karami.

 

At this point, what’s happening next was already clear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaya ng sabi mo noon, St. Paul was able to adopt quickly.

 

Bago ka pa nga na-deploy, mabilis nilang binago ang protocols sa loob ng hospital. More so ngayon na ginawa kayong referral center. The hospital imposed this “task-sharing” model to address the problem of manpower na para sa dedicated COVID units. Kasali ang Neurosurgery department niyo.

 

Operations were limited. As per rotation policy, your department had to work with reduced staffing. Nag-shift na rin online ang training ng residents and were grouped accordingly dahil iilan na lang talaga ang pinapapasok sa OR. Sobrang laki ng pagbabago. They even decided to deploy a neurosurgical resident sa COVID ICU, on call for 1 week at a time.

 

Kaya andito ngayon si Wendy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above all, isang problema ang kinakaharap ninyo ngayon.

 

It’s the lack of PPE.

 

Hindi sapat ang sets na hinanda at nilaan ng St. Paul sa sobrang dami ng pasyenteng dumarating araw-araw. Alam mong hindi lang ito problema dito, pati na rin sa ibang mga ospital. Ito ang laging laman ng balita. Ito ang laging panawagan ng mga kasama mo.

 

Pahirapan na raw sa pagbili kaya sana man lang ito muna ang gawing priority ng gobyerno. The shortage is leaving you and your colleagues ill-equipped to care for these patients, risking your lives even more. ‘Yung iba, nag-iimprovise na lang dahil sa sobrang limited ng mga PPE.

 

Hindi pwedeng tumigil at maghintay muna.

 

Paano? Kung maraming dumarating na kailangang alagaan at hindi maaring iwanan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than a month of treating COVID patients, you finally got a hang of everything.

 

The long hours and successive shifts, the two to three-day rest after two weeks in the wards, the crucial donn and doff of your PPE— everything.

 

You’ve learned to accept every single thing bound to happen in this rigorous place— even the unfavorable scenarios you could imagine while being here.

 

Parang nung isang araw lang na buhay na buhay ang ICU. Magkasama kayo ni Jisoo at ang isa pang anesthesiologist na iniintubate ang isang lalaki, a man probably in her 50s.

 

Tatlong kama naman mula sa inyo ay may pasyenteng binibigyan ng CPR.

 

Hindi kayo pwedeng lumingon dahil may nililigtas din kayo.

 

Nagtagumpay kayo, sila hindi.

 

Nagbigay kayo ng pag-asa sa hawak niyong pasyente pero sa kanila, wala na, tapos na.

 

 

 

Ganito lagi ang mga eksena sa loob ng ICU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kahit ganoon, natutunan mo ring tignan ang liwanag mula sa bangungot dito sa loob ng isolation.

 

The dawn of healing and recovery… it’s what’s keeping you going…

 

Gaya ngayon.

 

Nakatayo kayo ni Jisoo sa main lobby kasama ang ibang mga colleagues mo. Papanoorin niyo ang tatlong pasyenteng uuwi na sa kani-kanilang mga tahanan ngayon.

 

The hospital decided to stage a simple send-off ceremony for them… starting from the isolation room where they were wheeled out… up to the exit where you and their ride home was awaiting.

 

Hindi ito ang unang beses na ginawa ito rito. This isn’t even necessary but you love it. The resounding cheers and claps of celebration you give are priceless. Since then, the send-off celebration for recovered patients became a significant part of the discharge procedures, only kung papayag ang patient.

 

“Grabe, they really made it. I’m so happy for them,” emosyonal na sabi ni Jisoo.

 

You don’t even have to say something para malaman ni Jisoo na ganoon din ang nararamdaman mo. The two survivors in front are a couple— both in their senior years. Yes, on their senior years.

 

Frankly speaking, most patients their age weren’t able to make it.

 

Though their smiles were covered by masks, the curves of their eyes didn’t fail to tell how overjoyed they are to have made it.

 

At wala kayong pinagkaiba.

 

It’s enough. Knowing they’re off to home outweighs everything, every struggle you faced.

 

“Ayan na si Lia!”‌

 

Nabuhayan ka sa sinabi ni Jisoo and there the last survivor was, ang pasyenteng ilang araw mong nakasama. Agad kang napangiti habang pinapanood siyang papalabas.

 

“Yieee, walang iiyak!” asar ni Jisoo sa ‘yo nang mapansing hindi ka makapagsalita.

 

“Baliw.”

 

Naaalala niya siguro dahil palagi mong kinukwento sa kanya ang bata. Si Lia ang unang pasyente na talagang nakasama mo sa unang araw nang cinonfine siya dito na binigyan ngayon ng ganitong pa-send off.

 

Kaya hindi mo maitago ang ngiti mo.

 

A college girl with big dreams.

 

Sobrang saya mong makakauwi na siya.

 

The happiness you feel when a patient gets well is incomparable. Most of the time, you watch them leave this horrifying place with teary-eyes.

 

Like now…

 

Your eyes never left the girl. She looked around like she was trying to find someone, and then it stopped on you. Maybe it was the fact that you were with her every day that despite being covered like this, she was still able to recognize you.

 

Sobrang lawak ng ngiti niya…

 

And what she did next tugged your heart.

 

She cried.

 

You could barely hear her but she was gesturing a million of thanks… to everyone around her but most especially to you.

 

Kinawayan mo siya pabalik at hindi mo namalayang napaluha ka na rin pala.

 

Naalala mong itinanong niya kung paano ka niya mapapasalamatan paglabas mo. Ngumiti ka at isang bagay lang ang hiningi mo.

 

You told her to hug her family tight once she gets home, something you can’t do for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Oh my god!” Napaigtad ka sa pagsigaw ni Jisoo at talagang napatigil sa pagbabasa. Sinamaan mo siya ng tingin. Bakit ba nagsisigaw ‘to?

 

“Anyare sa ‘yo?”

 

“Joohyun, halika muna, dali! Bilisan mo!” Wala sa sarili ka namang tumayo at lumapit sa kanya para maki-usyoso sa pinapood niya. “Nasa vlog ka ni Winter!”

 

Vlog?

 

Winter?

 

“Ikaw ‘to, diba?! Taray mo teh! Artista ka na!”

 

Nanlaki ang mata mo nang makita ang sarili sa screen. Hindi ka pwedeng magkamali. It’s really you!‌ Hinampas pa ni Jisoo ang balikat mo, “Hindi mo naman sinabi na may celebrity ka pa lang pasyente!”

 

You had to check it for the second time if this was the same Winter na kilala mo. At siya nga. Wow. Vlogger pala siya sa Youtube and you almost choked when you saw the amount of subscribers she has.

 

Kaya pala may camera siyang dala noon. You thought she was just into photography, like what she said, but wow, you didn’t even know she was this big.

 

“Hindi ko alam na sikat pala siya…” wala sa sarili mong sabi habang pinapanood and COVID journey ni Winter. Patient 4320. She remembers it clearly.

 

“Bestfriend ‘to ng ano, ng pinsan ni Jennie, ano ka ba!”

 

Gulat kang tumingin sa kanya. “Si Karina?”

 

“Oo! Andito nga siya sa vlog niya lagi eh!”

 

Really?

 

“Grabe, saang dimension ka ba galing?”

 

Oh my god. Had you knew edi sana nabanggit mo sa kanya!

 

At dahil nawili ka na, pinanood niyo pa ni Jisoo ang ibang mga vlogs niya. Ang masayahin niya pala talagang bata. Nakakatuwa dahil totoo nga palang bestfriend niya ang madaldal na pinsan ni Jens. Oo, madaldal. Isang beses mo lang nakasama si Karina pero invested na invested talaga siya sa inyo ni Seulgi. Ewan mo ba.

 

Winter’s recent vlogs had you smiling. Nag-initiate na siya ngayon ng donation drive para sa mga hospitals at typhoon victims. She’s really making use of her platform to spread awareness too.

 

Nakakatuwa.

 

She did ask you before if she could film you and she’ll upload it somewhere. Hindi ka naman nainform na itong somewhere pala ang tinutukoy niya at ganito karaming tao pala ang papapanoorin niya.

 

You chuckled at the thought.

 

You don’t mind at all.

 

You’ll probably find her on Insta and message her or something.

 

Sobrang liit talaga ng mundo.

 

“Ang daming nagtatanong sa ‘yo sa comments.”

 

Asus. Eh hindi ka nga masyadong kita dahil balot na balot ka sa PPE. Sinoli mo na kay Jisoo ang phone niya at tumawa ka lang bago bumalik sa mesa mo.

 

“Ano ‘yang binabasa mo?”

 

Tinaas mo ang libro at pinakita sa kaibigan.

 

“Ahh… Some Days, You Can’t Save Them All… ‘yan ba ‘yung sinasabi mong senior resident mo dati ang author?”

 

Napangiti ka. “Oo, ito nga. Sabi ko sa ‘yo bilhin mo na kasi eh.”

 

Tumawa lang si Jisoo at humiga na. Magpapahinga na siguro siya. Normally, isa lang ang ibig-sabihin nito sa ‘yo. Tuwing matutulog na siya, nagsisimula naman ang araw mo.

 

Tumayo ka na at nag-unat.

 

Panibagong araw na naman.

 

Palabas ka na ng quarter pero bigla kang napahinto. Binalikan mo ang mesa mo at binuksan ang teleponong bihira mo nang hawakan. You just stood there blankly for a few seconds. Ang nilalangaw niyong messages ni Seulgi ang nasa screen.

 

Good morning :)

 

Only two words, hindi mo pa kaagad maisend.

 

You still did, anyway.

 

And when you were finally out and walking along the hallway, muli ka na namang huminto at napaugong. Nahanap mo ang sarili pabalik sa dinaanan mo, at kung may buhay itong telepono mo ay malamang tinatawanan ka na ngayon.

 

Can I call you later?

 

At ngayon ang walang alinlangang pahabol mong,

 

I love you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nag-usap talaga kayong dalawa after you finished your shift.

 

You told her before that you’ll call again, right? You’re sorry it took you a few weeks to do it. Naalala mo pa ang kinakabahan mong mga kamay habang naghahanap ng lakas para tawagan siya ngayon.

 

Kahit ganoon, ang mahalaga ay andito na nga kayo.

 

Random stuff…

 

Kamustahan…

 

She even brought Waffles in front of the screen and this was maybe the first time in the day that you laughed wholeheartedly.

 

Your baby boy was barking the screen.

 

Parang nakikilala ka talaga niya kaya tuwang-tuwa ka tuloy. Ilang araw mo na siyang hindi nakakalaro ‘no? Minsan nga tuwing umuuwi ka ng bahay, may mga araw na hinihintay mong marinig ang tahol ni Waffles tuwing sasalubungin ka niya… na parang dati’t noon na dalawang masasayang mukha ang naghihintay sa ‘yo at nakakapag-aalala sa ‘yong nakauwi ka na.

 

Tapos bigla mong maaalala na wala pala sila, na mag-isa ka lang pala.

 

Tinignan mo ulit sila pareho ngayon, may ngiti sa ‘yong labi, and you only thought of one thing;

 

You miss them so bad.

 

 

 

Like before, it still felt so different.

 

She’s very careful sa mga sinasabi niya, her eyes fail to meet yours for most times. Once in a while, a short silence engulfs na parang nauubusan kayo ng mapag-uusapan kahit hindi naman talaga.

 

But like what you said, what’s important is she’s here, you’re here. You could hold on and stay like this forever if you may.

 

She cleared nang mapansing wala ng nagsasalita. It was until she told you she’ll send you something, and you must see it.

 

“Ano ‘yon?” nagtataka mong tanong.

 

Ngumiti lang siya sa ‘yo. “You’ll see.”

 

A message indeed popped out from your phone so you immediately took it.

 

It’s a link from Ateneo’s website. An invitation for her dissertation defense.

 

Halos mabitawan mo ang telepono sa gulat.

 

Agad mo siyang tinignan at nakangiti lang niyang hinintay ang reaksyon mo. It’s on the 31st, a few days from now, at nagiging emosyonal ka na dahil alam mong matagal niyo nang hinihintay ‘to, na finally, after years of her hard work, nandito na siya.

 

“I am so proud of you…”

 

Ito lang ang nakayanan mo.

 

“Umiiyak ka ba?” at may gana pa talaga siyang asarin ka kaya natawa ka.

 

Umiling ka at pinunasan ang nangingilid na luha sa mata mo. “What? No,” you chuckled. “I’m just so happy, that’s all.”

 

You’ll be talking about this for the following days, for sure. Proud is an understatement. Masayang-masaya ka talaga para sa kanya.

 

“Thank you,” ngayon ay hindi ka na iniwanan ng mga mata niya. “For everything. Hindi ko ‘to magagawa kung hindi rin dahil sa ’yo.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the day of Seulgi’s defense came.

 

You won’t be able to make it in time dahil you’re still on your shift. Sumakto kasi sa oras ng defense niya. Kung hindi lang dahil sa napakabait mong colleague who offered to cover you just for a few hours, hindi ka sana nila makakasama ngayon.

 

Everyone will be there, Seulgi’s friends, and even yours. Si Lisa lang ang papasok sa Zoom and she’ll be streaming it para marinig at makita niyo si Seul.

 

From outside your tangi’s room, nanonood naman sa malaking TV ang pamilya niya ayon kay Joy.

 

Nakakatuwa. Everyone’s so supportive of her, even your friends.

 

“Ayan na si jowa!” sigaw kaagad ni Jisoo nang makapasok ka na sa quarter kung saan siya nanonood na pala.

 

Hi, doktora!

 

Lagot ka nagtatampo na si Seulgi sa ‘yo!

 

Ito kaagad ang bungad nila nang umupo ka sa tabi ni Jisoo. Inirapan mo lang sila at agad mong hinanap si Seulgi na ngayo’y nag-didiscuss na. Hindi niya kayo naririnig at hindi niya nakikita ang lawak ng ngiti mo ngayon.

 

Alam naman niyang manonood ka.

 

You promised.

 

Against all odds, you’re sure you’ll find a way to watch her today.

 

She called you at around four in the morning, alam niyang gising ka na sa oras na ito. She said she was nervous and she wanted to hear your voice. She’s too worried. When she got the news that she was going to be defending online, she was heartbroken. Alam mong this isn’t the kind of defense she imagined to have. And honestly, nalulungkot ka rin para sa kanya. She waited for this certain moment, and the pandemic sadly had to change the course.

 

You kept on assuring her she’ll do just fine, after all, you saw her work from the beginning ‘til now, sa mismong defense niya. She’s long been prepared for this.

 

“Ang talino talaga ni Seulgi ‘no?” bulong ni Jisoo sa tabi mo. “Naka-jackpot ka talaga, gaga ka.”

 

Natatawa ka nga ngayon sa mga kaibigan niyo dahil sinasabi nilang wala silang maintindihan sa pinagsasabi ni Seulgi. Si Solar nakanganga pa nga habang nakikinig kaya inaasar nila. Hahahaha. Ikaw rin naman. Kaya ka nga namamangha habang pinapakinggan siya ngayon.

 

So many numbers.

 

Equations.

 

Nakakahilo.

 

You can’t believe she did all of these alone.

 

By the way she explains, kitang-kita na alam na alam niya ang pinag-aralan niya. Especially when she finished and the panel started to raise their questions, pareho kayong lahat na kinabahan para kay Seul.

 

“Nakakatakot naman ‘yung mga mukha nila,” comment ni Jisoo.

 

“Kailan ba hindi nakakatakot ang mukha ng panel?”

 

Natawa si Jisoo sa sinabi mo, “Oo nga, kailan ba hindi?”

 

And as expected, she effortlessly answered them. All of them. Medyo halatang sa ‘yong kabado siya pero it didn’t compromise the substance of her answers. She’s so cool. She never missed any of the clarifications and ang detailed ng mga sagot niya.

 

If the panel isn’t impressed by that, then ewan mo na lang.

 

“Yung mga mata ni Joohyun oh, kalmahan mo teh!”

 

Boses talaga ni Baek ‘yun pero hindi mo sila pinansin because you’re literally swooning over your girlfriend now.

 

My god.

 

She looks so attractive like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then one of the panel members announced that they’ll be moving to another room but this time, alone with Seulgi. Ewan mo pero kinabahan ka na kaagad. You’re a hundred and one percent sure she’ll come back as a succesful PhD but you still held on you seat tight in anticipation.

 

Few minutes later, they came back.

 

From the looks of it, Seulgi’s face was visibly emotional. Dito pa lang, alam mo nang maganda ang feedback na natanggap niya. You smiled dahil ang uhugin talaga niya.

 

And so the moment of truth didn’t have to wait long.

 

For the first time, Seulgi got introduced as a doctor.

 

Parang nabingi ka at napatitig na lang sa kanya nang marinig mo ito. Hindi mo mailarawan ang nag-uumapaw na saya sa ‘yo ngayon.

 

You could even cry if you only you could.

 

Your heart’s bursting with so much happiness right now… you’re so proud of her. You’ve watched her struggle all the way through. You’ve seen her deal with internal struggles and you’ve always admired her determination to finish what she has started. There’s nothing more you want to do now except hug her and tell her how proud you are.

 

“Congrats, madam! Ang galing galing!” Napatili na lang si Jisoo at napayakap sa ‘yo sa emosyonal na sandaling ito.

 

You didn’t even realize it already ended.

 

Nag-iingay na ang mga kaibigan mo while they wait for Seulgi to join your call. You’re sure she’ll go bursting out of her room first to hug her parents tight.

 

So who would’ve thought that the second it ended, you’ll be seeing her name on the screen of your phone instead…

 

“T-Tangi.”

 

…now how could you not be emotional too when she’s like this?

 

“Thank you. This is for you. I love you so much.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“K-Kailan po ba ako makakauwi?”

 

Hindi mo na mabilang ilang beses mo na itong narinig.

 

“Gusto ko na pong umuwi…”

 

At palaging hindi mo alam ang itutugon sa bawat tanong.

 

“Ayaw ko na dito…”

 

“Magpapagaling po muna tayo,” ito na lang lagi ang naiisipan mong sabihin, sinsiguradong boses ay masigla, para maramdaman nilang pati ikaw ay hindi nawawalan ng pag-asa. “Makakauwi ka rin.”

 

Minsan, nakakauwi nga.

 

Minsan, hindi.

 

Maghahating-gabi na. Siya ang panghuli mong pasyente ngayong araw. Bago tuluyang makalabas, isa-isa mo munang pinagmasdan ang mga punong kama dito sa ICU.

 

Nakakaawa ang kalagayan nila.

 

Napabuntong-hininga ka bago tumalikod at umalis na.

 

It’s almost the end of July. Andito ka pa rin sa giyera. Same work, same routine, just made worse.

 

One deep breath.

 

Ito ang laging napapalabas sa oras na matanggal mo na ang PPE mo.

 

After Manila transitioned to GCQ last June, critical care beds began to fill up again. The occupancy rate even peaked yesterday. Hindi mo alam if it has something to do with the loosened restrictions pero mas dumami ang mga kaso lalo na dito sa Manila.

 

Kung dati 200-300 lang,

 

Ngayon may mahigit isa’t dalawang libo na kada araw.

 

We barely passed the 10,000 mark at the end of May, at ngayong nasa huling linggo na kayo ng Hulyo, hindi lang dinoble ang dami matapos ang dalawang buwan… because damn, the cases are already near a hundred thousand.

 

Isa lang ang masasabi mo, ninyo.

 

Pagod ka na

 

Pagod na kayo.

 

Normal naman siguro ‘to, diba? Hindi ba magagalit ang sino mang makakarinig sa ‘yo kung sasabihin mong pagod ka na?

 

Dahil totoo.

 

Patuloy na dumarami ng mga pasyente pero kayong mga healthcare workers, nananatiling ganoon pa rin, minsan, nababawasan pa.

 

You try to look into the light. The country's death rate remains low while the recoveries are high. Ang problema nga lang ay ang positivity rate na mataas pa rin kumpara sa benchmark ng WHO .

 

Mapapagod, pero hindi hihinto hanggang ito’y matapos.

 

But then again, everything still seems so futile.

 

Here comes the first day of August 2020 and the country just had a record of almost 5,000 new positive cases— its highest count since the onset of the pandemic.

 

Hindi ka na nagulat na sa sumunod na mga araw, mas lumobo pa ang bilang ng mga nahahawa. Nilagpasan na nga ng Pinas ang Indonesia at ngayon ay ang bansang may pinakamataas na bilang na ng confirmed cases sa buong Southeast Asia.

 

It’s becoming too risky for the Filipino people.

 

Bugbog sarado na rin ang mga frontliners.

 

Nasa huddle room kayo ngayon at pinapanood ang umeereng balita. You’re here with Jisoo and Dr. Han, along with two other nurses who are yet to have their first meal of the day.

 

Nakakagalit ang nakikita niyo ngayon.

 

Panawagan.

 

Protesta.

 

Ang sakit sa puso panoorin ang mga kasama mo sa industriya begging like this, fighting for something that should’ve been already given sa simula pa lang.

 

Napapaisip ka na lang habang tinitignan ang hazard pay at SRA mo. You are just privileged enough na wala kang pinapakaing pamilya ngayon, wala kang sinusustentuhan, wala kang binabayarang renta para lang mapalayo sa pamilya. Paano naman ang mga kasama mong meron?

 

Underpaid.

 

Overworked.

 

Even before, health workers were already struggling from shift fatigue. Dati na ring panawagan ng mga kasama mong nurses ang dagdag sahod para sa kanila. How much more ngayon? Ngayong nasa gitna na kayo ng pandemya na hindi lang dinoble o triniple ang pagod… with the same benefits…

 

Ngayon naman ay pinakita na ang mga aktwal na numero at nakakadismaya sa totoo lang.

 

Isa lang ang masasabi mo.

 

Philippines was never ready.

 

Tinuro pa ni Dr. Han ito, “Kitang-kita sa mga datos na tumataas pa lalo ang mga kaso. Hindi naman sana ito ganito kung ang mga interventions na ginagawa ay nakasapat para pigilan ang pagdami.”

 

Tumango ka.

 

Halatang-halata.

 

“Tama! Tama ‘yan!” naiinis na sumbat ni Jisoo pagkatapos marinig ang puna ng isang doktor sa isang interview. “We should be blunt enough to say what needs to be changed instead of simply criticizing the country’s slow response!”

 

Still, the Philippine government has rejected to heed the calls of many medical groups.

 

For one, they keep on reiterating that there is “no shortage of PPE,” but the constant pleas from hospitals and health alliances say otherwise.

 

Isa pa, may panawagan kayong ibalik nila sa ECQ ang Metro Manila dahil punong-puno na talaga ang mga ospital sa dami ng na-aadmit. Pero may mga opisyal na nagsasabing hindi na kailangan ng lockdown para masugpo ang problema dito sa lugar niyo dahil:

 

“Metro Manila will be a living experiment. It’s an experiment that we believe we can be successful at, and it will be something that we can be proud of,” rinig mong sabi ng presidential spokesperson na ibinalik sa balita.

 

Living experiment.

 

Muntik ka nang matawa.

 

Really? A “living experiment” where lives of Filipinos are at stake?

 

When will this government realize na itong mga pinapakitang numero ngayon aren’t just mere statistics? These are actual Filipinos fighting for their lives, dying, for pete’s sake!

 

“Walang plano,” iling muli ni Dr. Han. “Plano ang kailangan. Plano. Resulta kaagad ang iniisip nila, walang plano. Walang sense of urgency.”

 

At mas nagulat pa kayo sa sunod na narinig.

 

Mas nakakagalit.

 

Isang senadora ang nagsabing hindi na kailangan ng lockdown at nagpayo sa inyong “pagbutihin na lang ang inyong trabaho.”

 

You scoffed.

 

Literally.

 

The way it got to you provoked you for whatever reason.

 

Really? Iyan lang... ang magagawa nila?

 

“Gago?” sarkastikong tawa ni Jisoo. “Nahihibang ba siya?”

 

At dito mo lang naalala, na noong isang araw, pumutok ang balitang labinlimang bilyong piso ang hinihinalaang nakurakot sa pondo ng PhilHealth.

 

Mas nakakagalit isipin na ngayon talaga ito lumitaw, when you’re in a middle of a pandemic, with millions of Filipinos hardly making a living and here they are...

 

Damn...

 

You cannot fathom the greed of these people.

 

How much more are they willing to prove the incompetence of this government?

 

Alam kaya ng mga kurakot na opisyal ng PhilHealth kung ilang pasyente na ang minsang nakiusap sa ‘yong “Dok... sa susunod na buwan na lang ako magpapaopera kasi nagamit ko na ang PhilHealth ko...”?

 

Alam kaya nilang maraming umaasang makapagpa-admit sa PhilHealth ward dahil ito lang ang kaya nilang pag-ipunan? Dahil dito sila makakatipid?

 

Tapos ganito?

 

Kung mapapatunayan ‘tong kagaguhang ‘to... ewan mo na lang...

 

Napatayo na si Dr. Han, may dismayadong mukha na walang pina

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Pekitita
Omg thanks for the feature?!?! Ang cute ng star! Para at para lang po sa inyo ‘yan! Merry Christmas pala talaga!
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