I feel like the world ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This is dress rehearsal for the catastrophic new normal coming at us fast.
And in case you think we’re living in paradise (we kinda are, because we are in a rural area), we don’t live on Easy Street. In fact, all around us, people are suffering in the new normal.
The picture above shows two people on Boracay Island, sifting wet sand for snails to eat on a recent stormy afternoon. Anything from the sea is free. But if you don’t have a boat or a large net to cast from the shore for fish, an alternative is to hunt beach snails. Americans would turn up their noses.
And in places like Boracay, the entire island, and to some extent the region, depended on tourism in the old normal. That was then; this is now – the catastrophic new normal for survival.
Before the pandemic, Tedly, Mom Diane and I saw people digging for snails the world over, including the Philippines. But now it’s different. Former ‘white-collar’ workers in the tourism industry are the people now digging for snails and learning to fish.
None of them likely ever thought they would have to hunt to survive.
Catastrophic new normal
Before the ‘Rona virus rocked the world, August was traditionally known as a ‘hunger month’. It’s low season, rainy season, rough water season. There is less fishing in bad weather, meaning less food and income.
Like Americans, Filipinos will struggle to put food on the table and pay bills. But there are no food banks here. There are no social programs. There will be no government stimulus checks.
Mahah Mangahas is a social researcher and president of Social Weather Stations (SWS), a nonprofit institution that conducted recent surveys of the catastrophe already here for so many people. One recent SWS survey found nearly 22 percent of Filipinos face severe hunger.
Mangahas points out livelihoods of government people who make lockdown decisions haven’t been affected. They have private cars with which to get to work. They have a steady income. They won’t go hungry.
“Their real worry is that they and their friends and relatives might be infected by COVID-19,” he writes in The Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Their apparent priority is to prevent the spread of the infection” and not hungry Filipinos.
It is important to note he does not downplay the potential cruelty of contracting COVID-19, and he acknowledges the suffering of its victims.
But Mangahas raises a point I hear more often as the pandemic stretches well into 2020: “Whereas COVID-19 victims are in the tens of thousands, the hungry are in the millions.”
A second new survey by SWS reveals crazy-high unemployment. Logically projecting, this mans hunger will get worse.
The survey found overall 45.5 percent of Filipinos are currently unemployed. That’s the highest ever recorded by Social Weather Station.
Some people think the unemployment number is even higher, because the survey was conducted by mobile phone and many poor Filipinos don’t have mobile phones.
We are in the Visaya region. This is the central portion of the Philippines with several tourist destinations, such as nearby Boracay, Palawan, Bohol and Panglao, Cebu, Dumaguete.
Unemployment is highest here in the Visayas, according to the SWS report:
- Metro Manila – 43.5%
- Balance Luzon – 45.2%
- Visayas – 46.6%
- Mindanao – 46.5%
The unemployment rate is highest among young Filipinos, 24 years old and younger.
Another named storm?
Another low pressure system is headed towards the Philippines with potential to become a tropical depression.
Everyone is hoping there will be no severe damage from any storm system this year. The Christmas Day 2019 typhoon Ursula was enough to cause a lot of damage in this area, including the Ati henhouse that was knocked down, and which we helped to rebuild.
So far, so good. We have had some rain, typical during the habagat season, but there hasn’t been any serious issues, aside from more mosquitoes.
Another serious typhoon in this region this year would only increase the already catastrophic desperation that’s setting in.
Making the best of it
So, with all of this going on, really all we can do is make the best of it.
And help people whenever we can. Especially the kids. Because none of this is fair to them, most of all.
Thanks for reading, “Catastrophic new normal coming at us fast.”
What to read next:
- I want the world to be better for kids. Don’t you?
- Pandemic fishing plans with ‘Hang Out Express’
- How to catch fish, pandemic or no pandemic, the Filipino way