Photo essay for the Special Initiative “From Fear to Resilience: Visual Storytelling of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia” by SEA Junction and Partners.
|Title:||Caregiving and Activism in COVID Times|
|Storyteller/Photographer:||Chi Laigo Vallido|
At 9:00PM we arrived at the emergency room of a hospital in the City of Manila. This isn’t our first trip to the emergency room due to a severe asthma attack. But this was our first time during this pandemic.
For a few months into the pandemic, health and rights advocates navigated through a drastic change in work set-up. As schools and offices closed down to prevent the spread of the virus, our homes have been re-arranged as extended offices. The dinner table or one’s bedroom dresser doubles as an office desk. The computer and smart phone cameras during online meetings have invaded the privacy of our homes. As advocates of policies that champion women’s and children’s rights, we are used to engaging legislators in the Halls of Congress and the streets of Manila. But the virtual platform has now become the gathering space of advocates.
But advocates are caregivers too and are not immune to COVID-19. As the virus rages across the country, Facebook posts have soon turned into obituary pages. COVID slowly creeps closer to home. We read about colleagues getting sick and dying or their loved ones. Instead of tight hugs of sympathy, we could only type our condolences in comment sections on Facebook posts.
“Facebook is the new EDSA”
After 19 months since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the country, many of us are still working from home or under a hybrid (partial home and office) set-up. We’ve learned to use the virtual platform that’s available. In 1986, thousands of Filipinos gathered in EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) in what has since been known as the EDSA People Power Revolution. But with more advocates stuck at home during the many months of lockdown, social media has become a venue to call out gaps in the management of the pandemic. That’s why many have called social-media as the country’s new EDSA where people or Netizens of common interests and concerns have found support. In some cases, due to massive commentaries on social media, a number of unjust policies related to COVID response had been withdrawn. Like the use of motorcycle shield or barriers for backriders that had been scrapped.
As cases continue to rise, advocates, activists and the woke citizenry must continue to face the advocacy issues through the screens of our computers, laptops and phones until we are able to join arms again in the streets of Manila with our megaphones and banners. For now, the sound of vehicles in the streets during rallies had been replaced by barking dogs or crows of roosters. Endearing sounds. Distracting when you’re speaking but we adapt and carry on.
Chi Laigo Vallido is an independent filmmaker, fundraiser, media content strategist and the director for programs and advocacy of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, a civil society organization.
“From Fear to Resilience: Visual Storytelling of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia” is a special initiative of SEA Junction supported partly by the China Medical Board (CMB) Foundation to promote an alternative narrative of survival, resilience and solidarity. We are asking for short stories in the form of photo essays, short documentaries and illustrated art essays in any language of Southeast Asia (to be later translated into English) or in English. For more background and other stories click here.
SEA Junction, established under the Thai non-profit organization Foundation for Southeast Asia Studies (ForSEA), aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions- from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 408 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium), SEA Junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information see www.seajunction.org, join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/1693058870976440/ and follow us on twitter and Instagram @seajunction