Journal de quarantaine: confinement et desinfection

Desinfection de la plage.

Jour 8 – et j’en ai deja marre. Seul point positif, ayant ressorti mon routeur wifi j’ai enfin acces a Messenger – mais c’est tout. Messenger est gratuit et le plus souvent accessible ici, tout comme Whatsapp et evidemment Facebook. Rien d’autre ne passe. Mais au moins je peux communiquer avec mes co-detenus.

Depuis quelques jours, on sait officiellement que le virus est parmi nous. Un touriste australien de 23 a ete confirme positif. La gestion du cas a ete, comme on pouvait s’y attendre, magistrale de rigueur et d’efficacite. Le type a ete severement malade trois jours durant dans sa chambre d’hotel de Port Barton, avec tous les symptomes (fievre, toux, diarrhee). Transporte a l’hopital de Puerto, celui-ci a envoye les prelevements a Manille pour analyse… et laisse partir le type dans l’intervalle. Celui-ci a pris un hotel et s’est balade librement pendant deux jours avant de prendre l’avion et de rentrer chez lui via Angeles, tranquillou. Trois jours plus tard, les resultats sont arrives.

Heureusement, apres ce fiasco, les autorites competentes ont su prendre la seule decision qui s’imposait: desinfecter le sable de la plage de Port Barton Je ne plaisante pas. Ils ont fait asperger le sable de la plage par des Ghostbusters. Peu importe que le virus ne survive que quelques heures a l’air libre, il s’agit d’etre proactif et de justifier l’envoi de ces equipements par Manille. On se sent tout de suite rassure, notre sante est en de bonnes mains. Esperons qu’ils ont pense a donner un coup de spray sur l’ocean aussi, a defaut de pouvoir changer l’eau tous les deux jours.

Les Philippines sont deja en temps normal un pays profondement chaotique, fragmente, desorganise, ou les choses fonctionnent a peu pres, tout juste, ou pas du tout. Ou rien ne semble vraiment avoir de sens. En temps normal, on s’en accomode. Avec les evenements a venir, on ne peut que craindre que les choses atteignent tres vite un niveau de bordel, d’inefficacite et d’absurdite effrayant.

Journal de quarantaine: State of Calamity

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Le President Duterte a declare l’”Etat de calamite” pour l’ensemble des Philippines et pour six mois. Ce plan est prevu pour etre declenche localement pour les tremblements de terre ou les eruptions volcaniques, jamais a cette echelle. Je ne sais pas ce qu’il implique exactement, mais ca semble signifier qu’on fonce vers une grosse catastrophe sanitaire, et peut-etre a terme la Loi martiale ou a peu pres.

Ce virus etant maintenant global, il ne va pas disparaitre. Les mesures de confinement, les fermetures, tout ca ne fait au mieux qu’inflechir un peu la courbe des infections pour reduire la pression sur les hopitaux (en pensee avec les infirmieres et infirmiers de partout qui vont etre les poilus dans les tranchees de cette sale guerre). Je ne suis pas virologue mais je ne crois pas que cette courbe va redescendre avant un mois, donc tres probablement les mesures vont etre prolongees, le controle des citoyens renforce (via des lois liberticides “exceptionnelles” qui evidemment resteront en place indefiniment). Et a supposer que dans 3-4 mois ou plus la courbe commence effectivement a redescendre – des que les mesures seront relachees elle repartira inevitablement a la hausse. Jusqu’a ce qu’une majorite de la population mondiale ait ete infectee et ait developpe une immunite (ou qu’on trouve un vaccin). C’est la seule issue possible il me semble. Ca signifie des centaines de millions de morts, inevitablement. J’espere me tromper.

En toute honnetete, je ne sais que faire. Rentrer tant que je le peux? Mais rentrer vers quoi? Qu’est-ce que je pourrais faire en Suisse maintenant? Peut-etre juste tenter de subsister dans un pays civilise (encore que…)

Rester ici? Mais combien de temps? Et comment survivre, en attendant quoi? Le retour a la normale, le retour des touristes? En 2022, peut-etre? Et pendant deux ans, manger des bananes et pecher? Il va de soi que si le pire devait arriver et que l’un de mes parents tombait malade je rentrerais tout de suite – mais si c’est impossible, si tous les vols sont suspendus?

Et meme une fois que tout cela sera termine, combien de compagnies aeriennes auront survecu? La libre concurrence, les vols bon marche, le tourisme global, tout cela est probablement termine. On assiste a la fin d’un monde… ma situation est certes anxiogene, mais elle l’est ou le sera bientot sans doute pour (presque) tout le monde. Et au moins je suis ou j’ai choisi d’etre.

Journal de quarantaine: Philippines Lockdown Blues

On vit des temps extremement etrange… Palawan en general et Port Barton en particulier sont verrouilles pour un mois au minimum. Il n’y a plus de vols entre Palawan et Metro Manila / Ninoy Aquino Airport, j’ignore s’il y en a encore pour les autres aeroports desservis, Cebu et Angeles, et s’ils sont ouverts aux etrangers. Il n’y a plus ni bus ni vans qui circulent sur les routes. Les touristes qui n’ont pas reussi a partir sont coinces ici avec nous. Il est preferable de ne plus se déplacer – avant-hier j’ai pu encore pu me rendre a la ville la plus proche pour ramener des provisions, mais des Israeliens, venus de la station balneaire d’El Nido qui a ordonne le depart des non-residents, etaient bloques au barrage militaire qui controle l’acces a Port Barton. Comme d’hab’ aux Philippines c’est brutal mais pour une fois cela parait presque sense (probablement par accident), si l’idee est de ramener tous les profils consideres a risque sur Puerto Princesa ou sont regroupes ce qui tient lieu d’hopitaux – meme s’il vaut clairement mieux ne pas en dependre vu l’etat des infrastructures et l’absence d’equipements.

Pour l’instant il n’y a officiellement aucun cas confirme sur Palawan. J’insiste sur officiellement. Au vu de la severite des mesures en cours tout le monde s’accorde a penser qu’ils mentent. Il faut dire aussi que chaque test doit etre envoye a Manille pour analyse et il y a deja eu plusieurs cas ou les patients sont decedes bien avant d’avoir obtenu les resultats. Je ne connais pas le nombre exact de cas “en attente de confirmation” a ce jour sur Palawan, mais c’etait deja plusieurs dizaines il y a deux jours, donc on a probablement passe la centaine, et ce ne sont evidemment que les cas hospitalisés, dans un pays ou les pauvres meurent souvent chez eux.

La situation change tous les jours. Depuis hier nous sommes en quarantaine, supposes rester a la maison. Couvre-feu de 20h a 6h. Le detachement de Marines lourdement armes qui a debarque il y a quelques jours patrouille et controle les allees et venues. Hier matin j’ai pu aller au Jeepney prendre des provisions, aujourd’hui on verra s’ils me laissent passer. L’ambiance est lourde, etrange. Les restaurants n’ont le droit que de vendre des plats a l’emporter. Vu les resultats en chute libre de la derniere semaine j’ai pour ma part prefere réduire les couts et fermer.

Difficile de faire des plans d’avenir evidemment. Combien de temps avant que la situation revienne a peu pres a la normale, quelles consequences a moyen terme sur l’economie occidentale et le tourisme, comment survivre huit longs mois en attendant une tres hypothetique prochaine saison… je n’en sais rien.\

Pour l’instant ma situation est aussi bonne que possible – entre mes courses d’hier et les stocks du jeepney j’ai assez de nourriture pour tenir au moins deux a trois semaines je pense, assez de sous aussi pour voir venir deux ou trois mois. J’ai des amis sur qui je peux compter en cas de besoin et l’heure est a l’entraide. Je me sens bien et n’ai pour l’instant aucun symptome alarmant. Ma maison est la plus chouette que j’aie habitee depuis deux ans, sur une colline au milieu d’un grand jardin avec une vue magnifique sur la jungle et la mer. J’ai obtenu sans peine une reduction de moitie du loyer, a P5000 / CHF100 par mois. Le seul souci est l’absence totale de signal, qui m’oblige a en descendre et a prendre ma moto si je veux me connecter au monde ou meme telephoner, mais tant que je ne suis pas malade, ca va. J’ai un chien qui me suit comme mon ombre et une chatte qui dort avec moi, donc aujourd’hui, tout va bien. Demain…. c’est une autre histoire.

The Ati-atihan Festival in Port Barton

 
The Ati-Atihan Festival, held annually in January in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus), originated in the island of Panay, Philippines. The name Ati-Atihan means “to be like Atis” or “to make believe Atis”, the local name for the Aeta aborigines who first settled in several parts of the archipelago. It was originally an animist festival, but Spanish missionaries gradually added a Christian meaning. Today, the Ati-Atihan celebrates the religious conversion of the Atis to catholicism.
 
Kapares Restaurant sponsored the “tribu” that won the dancing competition of the last edition.

In the Philippines, Facebook IS internet

Internet neutrality is slowly disappearing everywhere, but in the Philippines it is already dead and gone, it probably never even existed. There are only two telecom companies, Globe and Smart, resulting in a bad duopoly situation. For no reason, I am with Globe, but I am pretty sure Smart is just as bad. In Port Barton, coverage is so poor it is impossible to go online for most of day time – except, strangely, Facebook. Facebook is nearly always accessible. Basically, Facebook IS internet for Filipinos in rural areas, that is all there is to see online. Why? The only explanation I can come up with: Facebook has secured a priority deal with the telecom duopoly, that enables it to be the only site millions of Filipinos can see on their phones every day. Also, when you buy a “load” (ie, buy data for surfing and/or phone credit – in a place like Port Barton, where there are no landlines, prepayment is universal, I have never met anyone having a phone subscribtion), you are sometimes offered a “freebie” of 1 extra GB – but only with a very limited choice what you can use this data for: it’s either Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Viber, or some games like Pokemon. Choose one and that’s it. Freedom of choice? No, that one is not available, sorry.

I wrote this about 2 months ago for my blog, but never finished and published it. Today I stumble upon this interesting (though very biased) article, that confirms and explains what I had noted. Wether President Duterte can, or can’t, be considered a “dictator” is another matter entirely, but let’s say that even though I think it excessive to say the least, since I am no longer in Port Barton and therefore have daily access to newspapers and wikipedia, my own views have naturally become more nuanced – which kind of proves the article’s main point.

 

Knocked down, but getting up again

FINALLY I am able to leave the nightmare that Kapares had become behind me. It was a good lesson, though a pretty expensive one, and I learned a lot. First of all, I learned that you really, REALLY should be careful who you associate yourself with. My former associate’s real passions (and I’m sure he will keep pursuing them for the rest of his life them now that he is finally free from that evil foreigner who tried to make him actually DO stuff) are sleeping (mostly), drinking, hanging out with his broadened family, and bossing around these poor boys he gives shelter to. Out of all these activities, only the last one was of any use to Kapares, though I was never comfortable with it. He is easily the laziest person I ever met (and I’m far from being a stakhanovist) – I once saw him literally stomp and cry because he had to do some work (he was drunk of course). He hates Puerto, never went to El Nido, never left Palawan; he will never try anything new, or different, or change anything. His only loyalty is to his family.I wonder if Fililpinos like him, with this attitude, aren’t at least a part of why the Philippines have been left behind economically these last decades. Luckily, I also think this “small town, small mind” mentality will soon be a thing of the past here.

That guy was an extremely unlucky choice of a partner for sure, but I am guilty too, of course. Of taking what seemed the easier and cheaper (ha, big mistake) way at the time. Of deciding at first to trust and not get too involved in the daily operations (biggest mistake ever). Of wanting to believe that a proper partnership involved mutual respect and honesty. All this naive, egalitarian bullshit.

I learned that if you pay, you call the shot. Keep an eye on everything. Have everything properly documented (having all receipts to my name and religiously keeping them was probably my only smart move). Don’t be too nice. Don’t trust anyone without knowing them well – and even then.

That means also, do not buy anything yourself, you will pay twice as much as a Filipino. When dealing with contractors, remember that a set date, an appointment, a deadline don’t mean anything. “Yes, tomorrow morning” can mean “maybe one of those days”, or “no, never”. On the administrative front, having all clearances, permits and registrations doesn’t mean that your business won’t be declared illegal at some point. Conversely, not having any of these doesn’t mean that your business will be closed either… It’s might still be about who you know, and possibly what you pay, though this seems to be changing/ The days of “build / open first, ask permits after” seem well and truly over with the closing of Boracay and partial destruction of El Nido beachfront. I don’t know anymore, actually. Maybe it’s just that everything is always in a transitory state here.

The more you stay here, the less much of what is happening makes sense, the more troubled times seem to be. Trying to set up a business is not easy, particularly when you have zero experience, in a totally foreign and different country, with laws to prevent foreigner to set up businesses on their own. But I console myself remembering that setting up a business in Switzerland would have been forever out of my reach. And that I’ll be much smarter (though poorer) next time. Onward! 

It could have worked out though…  

5 more things I have learned about the Philippines so far

  • 1. Filipino techno is awful

The Philippines have their own brand of techno music, it’s called budots and (sorry Filipinos, don’t mind the opinion of a sad old Westerner) it’s just terrible. Basically a kind of happy hardcore, budots (a slang bisayan term for a jobless person, someone with way too much free time in their hands) originated in Davao city and is also a dance, pretty much like French tektonik was both a music and a dance style. Like tektonik also, budots was originally a street kids thing that got popular nationwide through Youtube channels. What can I say, this racket just drives me nuts (but not in a good way), I’m really way too ancient for this.

2. Filipinos are outlaws

Filipinos don’t care much about rules and regulations. You want to open a business, just open it. You want to build your house on that piece of land, just build it. You can always get the permits and authorization later. Of course, you might also not get them. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything will actually happen any time soon. Who knows. You want to drive but don’t have a driving licence? Who cares. Even professional van drivers don’t have theirs. Of course, don’t expect them to respect any traffic regulations. Like a friend told me, “I’ve never felt as free as in this country”. This freedom comes with a high risk price, but to us modern Europeans who have only ever known the opposite (anything that is not strictly forbidden is mandatory under severe financial penalty), it still seems totally worth it.

3. Pets are disposable commodities

To keep a puppy alive is a matter of luck – like one vet told me, all known dogs diseases flourish here, so natural selection is hardcore. If your puppy gets sick, the chances it will die are pretty high, and there is really not much you can actually do – react as quickly as possible (not so easy when the nearest vet is three hours away), and hope. Surprisingly, enough dogs make it through so that strays are becoming a bit of a problem, though.

Same goes with cats. I got lucky with mine, she’s in perfect shape without any vaccination, but I’ve lost counts of all the kitten I have seen just vanish overnight. Very few actually get to adulthood.

4.  Calamansi make everything better

Filipino hold a deep belief that the juice of calamansi, a local variety of small, green lemons, goes with everything. And that means E. VE. RY. THING. Their credo is that anything that can be eaten or drunk is significantly improved by the addition of calamansi juice.

5. Macaroni are dessert

Just like they serve a type of sweetened red sausages on sticks together with marshmallows as candies for kids parties, Filipinos consider macaroni are best with sugar, condensed milk, canned fruits… and cheese. Because at this point of confusion between sweet and salty, why the hell not.
Then there is also buko salad, with fresh coconut meat, condensed milk… and mayonnaise. Whatever.