Getting jabbed was rather uneventful for me, thank God. This was last May, when, upon an early morning tip-off from a friend at SM, I just drove to the mall that very hour and had my turn swiftly because there was no queue yet, even if the city mayor was there doing the rounds—and doing selfies with interested mall-goers.

My vaccination was done in less than half an hour, with a free juice tetra-pak. We were given a brief on post-vaccine pointers by the medical staff detailed in the mall during the post-vaccine observation period. That was commendable.

What was not commendable was how in our city (Parañaque), many never got notices or feedback to their online registrations, no matter their senior status or comorbidities. The vaccination schedule just went around by word of mouth, and one simply had to take one’s chance. In the Philippine context, with the national government unable to get its act together, and on time, our life raft is the LGU. Now if your LGU sinks or stinks, then….


The author (right) at SM Sucat vaccination center, with Bambi Santayana of SM Malls

What was commendable was how the malls have become vaccination centers. I found it convenient, like being in a comfort zone; looking around as you waited for your turn somehow took your mind off the biggest threat that humanity is facing. When I was at SM Sucat, I suddenly remembered the lunch Jullie Yap-Daza and I had with “Tatang” Henry Sy many years ago, even before he could open SM Megamall. Tatang, obviously comfortable with Jullie, talked about a variety of topics, from feng shui of SM buildings (he had his own formula and didn’t depend on so-called experts) to the challenges of developing malls. He was proud of the fact that against common opinion, he built SM North Edsa on a “tumbok” (intersection) spot, which was considered bad luck in feng shui—in fact, SM North Edsa became the most popular SM mall and with the biggest foot traffic for a time.

Had ‘Tatang’ lived, he would have been even more proud that his malls are at the forefront in the fight against the deadly virus

At that lunch he seemed quite disheartened that SM would be hit by labor disputes. It was then that we told him that he could be proud of the phenomenon that SM had introduced “malling” to Filipino lifestyle and culture. That comment at the media lunch table seemed to have revved up his spirits—I distinctly remember that.

Had “Tatang” lived to this day, he would have been even more proud that his malls are at the forefront in the fight against the deadly virus; even he wouldn’t have thought that his malls would be a health refuge one day.

Vaccination is no quick fix in this pandemic, but it is a step—one of the steps—towards the new normalcy (forget the old; the past is no longer a reliable yardstick for anything). There are still so many knowledge gaps about COVID-19 and this pandemic. The fake news/information and half-truths have produced an infodemic that is just as deadly as the physical one.

A COVID-free world is only, still, in our dreams. Herd immunity is not completely achievable with a government that’s ill-managed or worse, hopelessly corrupt, in a science and medical field that’s badly politicized, and in a populace that’s so ill-informed or mired in poverty or both.

That being the case, like it or not, we must live with the vaccinated and the not vaccinated.

Wear your mask. All the time, when you interact

So here’s etiquette (remember the word?) for the vaccinated and the not vaccinated, for whatever it’s worth.

  • Wear your mask. All the time, when you interact. Whether you’re Sinovac, Astra, Pfizer, Sputnik, J&J, Moderna, it doesn’t matter; I don’t welcome your breath—or worse, your saliva spray.

  • To each his own saliva space. Keep your distance. Today, it’s a sign of respect—an arm’s length or more. At one dinner, a guest, after having announced that he’d been vaccinated, proceeded to poke his face within kissing distance of each seated guest. I wouldn’t allow even BTS Jin or Cha Eun Woo to do that to me, really.

  • A jab is no status symbol, so don’t brag. Keep in mind that many people lost their loved ones in this pandemic, and many of them died without a fighting chance. So don’t brag that you have a fighting chance. While it is good that people post on social media that they have been vaccinated—this is, in fact, a welcome move to create awareness and that feeling of community, as are the freebies and treats some establishments are offering when people flash their vaccination cards; a friend got a free mango pannacotta at Cibo!—one must always be sensitive to the pain and loss that many have suffered and continue to suffer. There’s a way of posting that will not turn off others.

  • Stop comparing. It’s like saying that you’re better, safer, or more well-connected because you got a “superior” vaccine, like comparing designer duds and cheaper streetwear. Do we really have to flash labels, even when we’re talking about saving lives? A friend in my chat group said, and I agree, “People shouldn’t preach that this vaccine is better than the other vaccine. This only spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Some people tuloy become more afraid since they feel that they got an inferior vaccine.” And besides, let’s leave that to medical journals and reputable medical institutions. While we can quote this or that finding, we must keep in mind that the battle against COVID-19 is a work in progress; findings surface to refute other findings, and so on. In short, the jury is still out.

  • Is it proper to ask whether or not one has been fully vaccinated or not before inviting to a meet-up? I got that question in my chat group. With the pandemic still going on and people getting sick and dying, one has the right to know, over and above political correctness or inclusivity. It is not a political right or perhaps not politically correct—but it is born out of sensitivity, of being considerate, even of compassion. As a friend in a chat group said, “It’s just being considerate of the comfort level of the person inviting.” But be tactful while you’re being considerate.

  • Stop trivializing or politicizing COVID. A friend posted in a chat group: “Stop saying it’s just like the flu or that it’s a conspiracy of pharma firms. Some of our friends have lost dear family members, friends to this cruel pandemic.”

Indeed, there is no understating the full gravity of this pandemic that has been compared to a world war, and rightly so. I still resent how an international broadcast medical expert, so early on in the pandemic and even before initial medical findings, gave a sweeping opinion that COVID boiled down only to one’s immunity and that if one had a strong immune system, one needed not fear. Such a global statement emboldened the young, including my sons, to think that they were pandemic-proof; they would quote that “expert’s” report about immunity each time. Thank God, the young’s mindset has changed since then.

  • Read, think before you click. That is, if you must click and forward posts at all. Not even the educated and the mature are fake news-proof. On the contrary, I note, it’s the senior demographic that is more vulnerable to fake news/information because for many of them, Facebook is their only access to what’s going on. They believe and share what pops up in their feeds. I even saw a post warning against vaccines because vaccines were a way to put the old “to pasture.” That’s so Soylent Green, where the aged were turned into…cookies and sausages. (Google the 1973 Charlton Heston film.)

  • Probe the source before you read. It’s not enough to read only what’s posted in your chat group; even the Pope’s name could be misused in any post. For veracity, go to the official website of the institution/person being quoted.

  • You can share but not impose. You can decide what you share, and I can decide what to believe. Also read as: please don’t use the vaccine to impose your religious beliefs on anyone, whether it’s fatalistic (only God/Buddha/Allah, not the vaccine, will protect us) or the downright obnoxious (the end of the world is nigh, so repent).

Give your condolences, but don’t use it as prelude to probing the cause of death

  • An expression of condolences does not carry the same meaning as—Did he/she die of COVID? Offer your condolences, but don’t use it as prelude to probing the cause of death. If you are that close to the kin of the departed, you can perhaps ask it as a sign—of concern and affection, not as object of gossip. Whether your ties are close or not, show respect for the departed and the surviving kin.

  • Don’t be a bigot. So you don’t miss anything of what that means, refer to the dictionary.

  • It’s okay not to be okay (as the K-drama series goes). You can share your anxiety and pandemic-induced insanity—just give it limited shelf life. Don’t do a 24/7 livestream, or you could get un-friended.

  • Respect. Respect. Each other’s pain and loss, need for well-being, and each other’s right to live.

Feel free to add your own.



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