To see streets shrouded in silence and deserted places that once teemed with people hurrying about to accomplish their daily business now gone quiet would have seemed unimaginable just a few months ago. But, here we are, in a once-in-a-lifetime experience that young people and old alike will long remember.
When I began writing these brief essays, I had only one intention in mind: to share my thoughts with people who like most of us were caught up in quarantine, in self-isolation, and later in total lockdown as the spread of corona virus took on more serious proportions.
The essays in general attempt to send out an urgent message to all of us caught up in the quarantine: there is meaning in what is taking place and there is a role for all us, for the brave people on the frontlines who take risks for all of us and for those of us who are asked to play a more modest part, asked to stay home and strengthen our community defenses in our common effort to stem the tide.
There are three themes which stand out in the pieces I have compiled from mid-Lent during the third week of March 2020 till Easter Sunday: solidarity, courage and hope. These are themes, moreover, which have become part of the causes I have pursued during an entire lifetime.
After the dictator fled, soon after the experience of people’s power I wrote “A Journey of Hope: Essays on Peace and Politics” which focused on the imperative for citizens to continue to be vigilant to engender a new way of doing politics, to bring about a just peace and to ensure hope for the successor generation.
Not many of the aspirations I had then have been realized, but we continue to strive, proving that most things worthwhile require what I call a “marathon mentality”. Two years ago, the Jesuit Communications Foundation published another manuscript I had written simply entitled, “Courage!”. At the onset, I had debated whether I should have underlined hope instead, but I realized that hope is possible only if we had the courage “to strive to make it happen”.
Defiant Hope! Quarantine Stories from a Distance emerges from this period of isolation similar to an experience I had of a thirty-day retreat (the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius) which I had undergone some sixty years ago. It is amazing how what has taken place in one’s youth keep coming back to remind one of the sources of one’s thinking and being.
This edition attempts to reach three audiences, so to speak, from the distance the contagion we confront has created: fellow citizens whom I can address through the wonders of modern day technology but not directly, the scholar-athletes whom I have been asked to guide as my continuing vocation in my years of post-retirement, and the people on the frontlines of service during this time to whom we all owe an immense debt of gratitude.
We face an uncertain future while we live through an unprecedented period in our history, but our hope remains defiant.
The Filipino will prevail!
This, I believe.
12 April 2020