By Veronica Pedrosa
Mar 16 2020 (IPS-Partners)
First of all, I wish everyone reading this good health.
Second of all, I wish for everyone to get informed – I mean properly informed from the many reliable sources out there. These areextraordinary times and every one of us needs to find a way to getthrough them the best way we can for ourselves, our families andour communities.
COVID-19 has governments around the world asking us tofundamentally change the way we live: working from home ifpossible, restricting travel, sports and entertainment venues areshutting their doors, as are schools and universities. Someaccounts say it’s all happening “amid fears of coronavirus” but Ithink that’s lazy writing, a useful cliché. Better to remember thatthese steps are being taken for very good reason. They are wellstudied measures to slow the spread of infection. Of course many people are indeed afraid, if not for themselves then for their lovedones and their livelihoods, but the point of these actions is to find away to stay healthy and alive.
In China, in Italy and as of tomorrow (Sunday) in the Philippines governments are putting millions of people in lockdown andenforcing it with varying degrees of severity, but not here in the UK, not yet anyway.
The government’s view is that it wouldn’t make much difference atthis point, and is primarily concerned with delaying the spike or “flattening the curve” for as long as possible so that the health caresystem isn’t overloaded. That’s what’s happened in China, Iran andItaly with health care workers having to make terrible choices over which patients will receive life-saving therapies because there isn’tenough equipment, beds or carers. Doctors and nurses arecatching the virus and dying. All this is happening in rich nations with adequate healthcare systems.
If the spread of the virus is going to be slowed, ultimately it will beup to us ordinary people to take the guidance at face value andfollow it. The single most powerful thing any one of us can do is tofrequently wash our hands for at least 20 seconds with soap andwater, if that’s not available then use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. “Frequently” for me means every time I leave or arrive anywhere, especially after touching a surface that others may have touched. Certainly more often than you would normally.
Next: don’t touch your face. The most common way of catching any virus is getting the germs on your hands (the virus survives longer on a hard surface), then touching your mouth or nose.
There are mixed views on wearing a face mask. If you’ve got any flusymptoms then you’d protect other people if you wear one,otherwise the very least is that it would stop you touching your face.
If you can minimise going to public places, do so; when you have tobe near others – distansiya lang. The lockdowns around the worldare to deny people movement and places to go so we don’t infecteach other in the process; but we can voluntarily decide to changeour behaviour to “social distancing”. Hunker down, work from home,and know you’re helping make the world a safer place. It’s a serious challenge to our social nature, but it is also potentially life-saving. InItaly, people are lining up to get into the grocery with two metres between them and they’re only being let into the shop a few at atime.
One expert here has said it just isn’t possible to reduce the number of deaths from COVID-19 without it having an impact on theeconomy. Millions of people are likely to go unpaid, overseas workers stranded and lose their jobs. Already millions of dollars have been wiped off the value of shares in stock markets aroundthe world and the worst of the virus is yet to come in the USA, UK, the Philippines and many other places.
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In London, pubs and restaurants are bracing for the worst, even in Shoreditch, one of the hippest neighbourhoods in the capital. This part of east London is where the cool bars, eateries and shops buzz with creative energy that is modern and multicultural.
Pinoy cuisine as interpreted by chef Francis Puyat at Rapsa@100Hoxton is a unique addition that’s been a big hit with the hipsters. Puyat told me when he was just 10 years old in Mindoro he’d go tothe river with his friends, catch guppy fish and cook them on thespot, but his dad would scold him when he got back for not makingpaalam.
30 years later, having worked in one of London’s best knownrestaurants, NOPI, with celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi, Puyat’s created a menu that takes Asian fusion to a new level. It’s innovative but accessible, as the restaurant’s website puts it: “designed with a modern twist that makes it perfect for newcomers to try and grow to love the beauty and taste of the best Filipinorestaurant in London- mouth-watering in its simplicity and heartwarming in its prices.”
I met film-maker Leah Borromeo and Rohingya activist Ma Htikethere for Sunday brunch. Htike had salmon kinilaw, and adoboeggplant salad with cashew, and pickled pepino. I couldn’t resisttocilog breakfast: the tocino bacon was stupendously sweet, salty and sticky. Leah had the cured salmon with bibingka loaf, scrambled egg, salted duck creme fraiche, herb salad, and candiednuts. Dessert was a grand finale of warm, sticky, cold and gooey sweetness: biko with chocolate brownie ice-cream and latik caramelised coconut.
Andrew Zilouf, owner of Rapsa and third generation east Londonrestaurateur, says Philippine food is the original Asian fusioncuisine, he loves it and came up with the restaurant’s trademark
“boodle fight” served on banana leaves. He told me a lot ofLondoners come without even realising the food is Filipino, and he’s planned new promotions despite the challenge of this newcoronavirus. “Chef has reinvented the dishes, but it still has authenticity and traditional elements, like the oxtail kare-kare thathe’s made with croquettes. Come and try it!”
I promise it’s worth risking a special journey out, armed with handsanitiser of course.
The author is journalist and communications specialist; veteran of Al Jazeera English, BBC and CNN International.
Life is Sweet