Heroes: A Letter to Our Frontliners

An appreciation letter to all the Philippine frontliners fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heroes: A Letter to Our Frontliners

People often forget, that behind the face mask and underneath the protective equipment, is a father, a mother, a child, a lover, a friend. Ordinary people with mundane problems, dreams, and failures. We often tell ourselves that the frontliners like you, the medical workers, down to the hospital staff, are simply doing your jobs. Except that you’re not. Maybe it’s the guilt and the difficult thought that while we, the non-frontliners, enjoy our family, away from the reach of a raging pandemic, you, in turn, must make some impossible decisions, work under risky and stressful conditions, and will probably come out of this crisis with some moral injury like soldiers who’ve been to war.

When you’re about to step outside your house, how do you tell your kids that “mommy” has to go to work and fight the virus? And when they, with their confused, delicate little faces, ask “do you really need to, mom?” do you find yourself fumbling for reassuring words? Is there an explanation that would suffice for a lover in the morning? How about your sweet nagging parents? Is there some silver-bullet spiel, some peculiar combination of words, that can be uttered to drain all their worries away?

There isn’t one, is there? Instead, in some cruel twist, often it is yourself who ends up needing the most convincing that all this is the right thing to do. Clutching at words like “duty” and “responsibility” which had empowered you so benevolently in simpler times, but now offer a scant reprieve from all this madness. You had a doubt. You must have? For nobody is born a hero. Circumstances set the stage, but heroism is a difficult choice only trifled with by men and women with immovable resolve.

So, when you finally decided to put yourself and your family at risk, to keep other people’s fathers, mothers, siblings, lovers, friends, and children safe from the virus— it was a profound sacrifice that many people can’t even begin to comprehend.

They say there is one enemy present in any feat of heroism—fear. It is not the extinguishment of fear that makes heroes, but the tenacity to live it and breathe it. But how do you manage this? To you, our medical workers, volunteers, and hospital staff, where do you get the uncanny calmness to tuck fear in at night only to greet it again, bright-eyed, in the morning? How do you stare this great bully in the face and say, “not today!” Every patient you treat, every hour that alternates between frantic and plodding, the intense pressure— we are so undeserving, but thankful that you are made of sterner stuff and holding the world together as we know it.

But in your moment of weakness, in the lull after a particularly crazy day; and it feels like a watershed is about to break, we hope you have someone too. Heroes need saving too, after all, don't they? A father, a mother, a child, a lover, or a friend-- we hope you get the strength that you need from them to keep going. And for what it's worth, we're rooting for you too.