Our people deserve a Happy Christmas this year. After prolonged lockdowns, anxiety about their jobs and their future, Filipinos deserve to celebrate this coming holiday with a sense of normalcy and, of course, cautious celebration. And you can feel it building up, with the cool, crisp air, the return of traffic, the sound of Christmas jingles, and people chatting over dinner or coffee. A lot of people have been vacationing as well. Flights have not returned to pre-pandemic levels but destinations like Boracay, Tagaytay, Palawan, and the like have seen the influx of many local tourists.
The number of daily infections has gone down dramatically. The positivity rate last Dec. 11 was 1.1 percent which was a record low. Our seven-day moving average is down to 355 from a high of more than 20,000 in mid-September. And after some kinks that slowed its rollout, our vaccination program is up and running efficiently with more than 92 million doses administered. This includes more than 736,000 doses given as booster shots which are critical in ensuring the immunity of our people especially with new variants lurking.
It is important to remember that our Christmas celebrations should be cautious, not raucous. It is not Christmas as usual. We need to strictly follow all health protocols especially the wearing of masks. We should also observe distancing protocols especially in crowded areas, which, if possible at all, we should avoid.
I think we should use the Christmas season to rekindle and renew ties with loved ones and friends. One of the often neglected negative impacts of the COVID-19 lockdowns is the repercussions it had on our psychological and social makeup. I know a lot of people who were unable to see relatives for months because of travel restrictions. Families who were devastated by the coronavirus are continuing to suffer long after they recovered from COVID.
Keep celebrations small and intimate. The best memories I have of Christmas is just lounging with the family watching a holiday rom-com while waiting for midnight. Before the pandemic, we used to have a family tradition of taking a trip during the holidays. Looking back, I think the travel is just an excuse for us to be together despite our busy schedules. We’d check out the local tourist spots, we’d go on tours, or simply, wander parks and malls. But at the end of the day, we’d just be together enjoying each other’s company. Parties and big celebrations are nice, but I treasure the small, intimate get-together with my wife and my children.
We can’t travel abroad yet but we should be able to spend quality time with our loved ones. This should allow us to reconnect which I think is very important. These ties are important to our well-being. Just imagine the joy in your heart as you see your lolos and lolas, pamangkins, and other relatives after a long time. This is good for us.
Unfortunately, relaxed restrictions have their negative aspects too. Unlike last Christmas ninongs and ninangs would have fewer reasons not to give their Aguinaldos. Wala ng palusot kasi pwede ng mamili sa mall. So do not be stingy this year, ninong. But seriously, I think the gift-giving will also help heal the emotional impact of the lockdown. It does not have to be expensive. Just give something meaningful to someone who has meaning in your life. That should be therapeutic to both the giver and receiver.
Most of all, let us pause amidst the celebrations and be thankful that we survived another year. Given all the challenges we have to face, the fact that we are still standing strong is an exceptional achievement. Let us also remember the friends we lost, whether because of the coronavirus or some other reason. Let us be thankful for friendships we have kept or made during these trying times. Let us cherish these. If the pandemic has taught us any lesson, it is the importance of social ties, something we probably took for granted before.
So have a Happy Christmas everyone! Be with the people you love. Be with the people dear to you. Be happy. And more importantly, be safe.