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Maskless in Manila: Will the world look any different if we all took off our face masks?

By Juaniyo Arcellana Published Jul 18, 2022 5:33 pm

Into the third year of the pandemic lost in the masquerade of a lonely game we play (Leon Russell), in sight is the prospect of people finally taking off their face masks, the last to go of the minimum health protocols.

Will the world look any different suddenly seeing each other’s faces, breathe in breath out, or will some form of culture shock prevail? Remember that the search for face masks as prime commodity didn’t start with the onset of the pandemic, rather the eruption of Taal volcano in early 2020.

A volcano’s ashes prefiguring the next three years of barely seeing the other’s face in conversation, unless it was by Zoom, which can’t exactly qualify as in-person. How then should people prepare before finally shedding their masks?

A majority of the populace should be boostered by then, no telling how the subvariants and their assorted mutations can sneak up on the unwitting observer of health protocols. The vaccination drive should get up to speed again after the lull of elections, where strangely enough there was no surge of COVID-19, as there was an entirely different disease circulating.

There’s no telling how masks could come in handy again, seeing how Filipinos reelected into power a family driven out of country 36 years ago. What goes around does come around, even if face masks are not exactly reusable, they can still serve to hide our faces amid this bathos: judge us by our actions, not by our late dictators.

Mayor is finally back in his southern city, in his favorite karaoke joint singing MacArthur Park is melting in the dark, nursing his brandy like a baby tokhang. Certainly his legacy can be seen beneath layers of hype and presidential ad libs.

Even the present administration is into recycling: finance chief is former central bank governor formerly budget secretary. Solicitor general transplanted into Commission on Audit. Justice secretary recruited into solicitor general. Defense chief now expert in bases conversion. Labor secretary turned into envoy of de facto Philippine embassy in Taiwan. Undersecretary of interior and local government to undersecretary of education. And so on and so forth, welcoming the new boss same as the old boss.

Will they look any different in their new portfolios? Surely not by much, especially with face masks still on, except maybe for the change of insignia or badge of the agency emblazoned on the uniform’s left breast.

Is it forbidden? Asks the eldest sister of the Chief Executive on the birthday celebration of their 93-year-old mom. Definitely not, but reaching 80 already feels like something akin to anathema, at least for lowlifes like us.

So expect the unexpected as people gradually take off their masks in the next months or weeks, now you see faces now you don’t, but together we will rise as one. Much like Michael Jackson leading a posse of zombies out of cemetery, maybe to try lift the blockade of wheat from Ukraine, and let their beautiful tennis players come home again.

People can talk of their north stars and resilience, but in the land of SARS-CoV-2 it is never a walk in Rizal Park, much less MacArthur Park. So don’t take them off yet beyond the expiry of health protocols, masks serve as worthy camouflage for an ugly pimple, blackheads, a fractured denture or no dentures at all.