June 5, 2023

I received a call from my in-laws, who are retired and based in Quezon City, last Wednesday. They called to request if I can make a reservation for them in one of the hotels at Legarda Road from Sept. 10 to 12 because accordingly, they are coming over to the city to be with us and some of their friends whom they have not seen for over five months due to the pandemic. They plan to visit because they terribly miss their grandchildren and their amigos and amigas. I was taken aback by their bold request.
I courteously told them that we, too, miss them and can’t wait to see them, though there might be trouble getting them booked in a hotel. Not that hotels in Baguio City are full during this time of the year. On the contrary, they are empty. I doubt that they will be able to cross the borders of the city considering that Mayor Benjamin Magalong has imposed strict protocols on individuals from other places who may want to enter the city for any purpose.
So, I informed my in-laws about the prevailing conditions in Baguio City and the strict requirements concerning the need of a barangay clearance, health pass, and other pertinent documents before they are allowed entry. I hastened to add that considering they are coming from a “hot spot,” they may be quarantined for 14 days upon their arrival which, if it happens, will altogether spoil their vacation.
My mother-in-law interjected by informing me that there are reports that the mayor of Baguio will open up the borders of the city and allow tourists to enter starting September, precisely the reason why she chose Sept. 10 to 12 to travel here. She is positive she and her companions will be able to come over because of the lifting of the restrictions against travel to Baguio City. Really? Mayor, please say this isn’t so.
I think every resident in the city is itching to see their loved ones from other places to hug them, to meet them in person, and to exchange pleasantries about unforgettable experiences related to recent events that severely affected our lives. People who come to visit are more than welcome. Truth to tell, we yearn for their presence and long for their company. If I had my way, I’d want my in-laws to come over right now. No need to wait for Sept. 10 because in as much as they miss me and my family, we miss them likewise.
However, this is not the time to be sentimental, if you know what I mean. This is a time to be safe and to be protective of our health. A time to take all the necessary precautions from being contaminated with the coronavirus. Sure, our relative’s presence is important as it is desired. But so is our health and wellbeing. Given that most of those who were contaminated in our city did so by being exposed to persons who traveled here from other places, I think it is time to exercise caution. Since we do not know who carries the disease, it is best to avoid persons who originated from provinces, cities, and municipalities that have reported a high rate of infection, Quezon City included. It is best to look at all travelers with a discerning eye and a suspicious mind.
It may be hurtful; it may be discriminatory. Yet in the absence of a vaccine, what else is there to do to protect ourselves? No less than the World Health Organization has advised us that under the new normal, it is okay to feel as if all persons around us are infected. Thus, the need to observe physical distance and wear face mask all the time.
If it is true that the mayor is opening up the borders of the city in September 2020 to welcome tourists and visitors, I think this needs a second consideration. I hope he has thought about this decision over and over. There are health consequences that may arise. Look, even without the tourists, the city is already experiencing a surge in the number of active Covid-19 cases.
We are proud that our city has been mentioned time and again by health experts as the model when it comes to containing the virus and in contact tracing. But any poise to shift from this policy will wipe out the gains that the mayor has so far achieved in controlling the spread of the virus.
True, there is the economy to think of. Tourism is a major player in the economy of Baguio City. Now is not the time to think about economy. There are more significant concerns that go into the very survival if our city and the health of its people. These two tops it all. As the saying goes, “Aanhin mo pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo?”
In the end, I discouraged my in-laws from their plan to travel to Baguio. Even if the mayor will lift the travel ban, there is the inherent possibility that their presence here will pose a danger to themselves and to others, as well. They insist that they are not infected. Who knows? It is better to be safe with worry rather than to be dead and sorry.
Notwithstanding what is confronting is it is not the end of the world. There will be better times to be together. There will be worthier times to accept tourists and visitors. Not now, not yet.