As students complain about having to carry heavy bags to school and adults about having to be stuck in hell-like traffic, terror has already found its place in the Philippines.
Shock and fear were understatements to describe how medical workers felt, as another pandemic, a century later, awaits to bring horror and danger. Distress and fright were understatements to describe how mothers felt as a brand-new danger awaits them and their families outside. But how much does the pandemic cost a mother-frontliner?
Rowena Busalpa, a 46-year-old mother of two, a caregiver, and a healthcare worker for 18 years in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija (Central Luzon region in the Philippines), had no choice but to worry about her and her family’s health. As she was called upon to face a foe, she never knew she would meet.
Rowena lives a simple yet challenging life with her children. After studying midwifery at Araullo University-Cabanatuan, she took different jobs to support her family. She worked as a midwife, then as a salesperson, as a caregiver in Saudi Arabia, and then as a medical caregiver and a midwife at the Health Center of General Tinio.
And now that the world has turned upside down, her life has also changed—from taking care of children to battling an invisible opponent; from being the life of every party to being the one who saves lives to keep the party going.
Rowena describes her experiences with the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines as "a tight battle."
She fights a tight battle with an invisible opponent, a meticulous one. Her battle is more than who wins or loses. It is a battle between life and death; not just for her but also for the people around her. And little did she know that she would have to put years of her life at risk, risking everything she had.
She interacts with different people daily. And she has no idea who among those people carries the covid-19 virus that would bring danger to her life. She has no idea who among those people has the capability of killing her.
It seemed like they were battling an unseen force with a blindfold on. It seems like they were authoring a story with nothing but a broken pen.
Rowena valued her health more than anything else. She has a home she comes back to. She has people waiting for her. And she has people, whom she cares for enough for her to even double her armor.
"The hardest situation I have been in is probably directly managing Covid-19 patients and transferring them from their homes to hospitals," she said.
She also notes that it was the hardest because they knew that those people were infected. And that their chances of being at least a carrier of the virus had increased, so do the danger she brings to her family.
The pandemic even made her ‘free time’ a luxury, for it has become something she hardly ever has.
She was unable to do the things she usually does. She was badly off on time to take care of herself even. She used these rare privileges to rest her bones, collect enough strength, and prepare for another battle.
There was even a time when she had to be isolated for two weeks. It was one of her greatest nightmares, for she was not allowed to directly interact with her children.
Fear always finds its way to her. Fear always visits her, even in her dreams. She will never live her life the same way again, not until the country wakes up from this nightmare—which she hopes to be possible now at this moment.
As of April 28, 2022, around 67.79 million people were already fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.
As the daily numbers of new cases continue to decrease, she was able to find time to at least close her eyes and breathe, even just for a little while, but only to wake up to the same nightmare over and over.
Nevertheless, Rowena feels nothing but gratitude as the country continues to step forward and show improvements from the first year of the crisis. Her baggage as a medical worker has become lighter, and she hopes that it will continue to be that way.
On top of that, she still wishes for the government to improve its pandemic response. She says that it is important to invest in the country’s healthcare system and to focus more on places and regions that continuously record high positive cases.
Despite being on the frontline all the time, she never fails to meet the needs of her children—who are now also thriving to become just like her: heroes that save lives. She hopes to see a much brighter day ahead for herself, her family, her colleagues, and the country.
Fulfilling her duties and responsibilities as a medical frontline alone is already hard and exhausting. How else so if she was also worried about her family. Rowena has all the means to say "no" to the call of duty. But she would rather put herself through uncertainty than turn her back on the community she promised to serve.
The pandemic cost Rowena, and all other Rowenas, the time they could spend with their families. It cost her assurance that she would always have a home to come back to, or that she will always come back home.
Healthcare workers and mothers, like Rowena, are indeed the world’s modern-day heroes. They may not be as powerful as Superman, as fast as the Flash, or as intelligent and wealthy as Batman and Ironman. They may not have superpowers, but their courage, sacrifices, and bravery have saved more lives than any fantasy hero ever did or ever will.
There is no guarantee as to how long one will live in this world. Telling one’s loved ones how much one loves them or how much they mean to one is more than just a pre-requisite. It is even a luxury, especially now.
This is what the pandemic has taught Rowena. This is what keeps her fighting. This is what keeps her going. And this is what wakes her up every morning. - Charles Vincent F. Nagano
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.