Now You Know PH
[IRL] DOES JESUS JAB?
By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
If only He would, as that might be the only way, that I, a bona fide A2 with multiple comorbidities, is ever going to get the vaccine—you know which one I mean. Two months ago, with eager faith and dewy hope, I took the first crucial step of registering for a QCitizen ID, a prerequisite to even be considered for the precious vaccine. The LGU’s Facebook proclaimed all it took was three simple steps. Except that one of those steps was divided into 14, just like the stations of the cross.
I kept at it, almost literally from dusk till dawn, without success. It was now time for regular office hours. I phoned the QC Hotline. Be warned that if you have a genuine emergency, don’t expect anyone to pick up on the first ring, or often even the fifteenth. The factotum who finally answered told me to expect glitches and suggested I register for the QCitizen ID after midnight, better yet, around 2 a.m. Our household has 75 mbps of fiber broadband speed which is thrice the national average, but the digital gods or demons, crushed me on whim.
With my QCitizen ID ensconced at last in my phone, getting a vaccine slot on EZConsult should be, well, easy. It was not. The email address for my QCitizen ID was unacceptable. EZConsult told me to click on <forget password>, a non-existent or invisible command. I tried a rarely used alternative email address, and progressed to the page for my weight, height, birthday and uploads of my QC OSCA ID and UMID. But I couldn’t submit them no matter how often I tried. The shadowy “SAVE” on the bottom right of the page was unclickable. I was in virtual limbo. Others got QR codes and solicitous phone calls from their Barangay. My friends in other neighborhoods were waiting for their second shots. As for me, there was nothing but the dull, dead silence of the dumb bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, to cover all the bases, also around two months ago, I had written on actual paper to ask the usually helpful Barangay to prioritize the four A2 members of our household. Following up a week after, I was told that my letter with the photocopies of our OSCA IDs wouldn’t do. There was an official vaccine application form. We accordingly filled these up, and submitted them, again with the photocopies of our OSCA IDs. Another week went by. That was a decent interval for yet another follow-up. This time, the forms had been changed. We filled up the new set, and waited, and waited, and are still waiting. When the Pfizer vaccines came, the Barangay said to Viber them our names and details, I did so, hopefully: thrice, but just as often my hopes were dashed. Yesterday, I was told to email them this time. Again, I heard and obeyed. A Kagawad took pity on me and gave me one slot. I let our 64 y.o. family driver who runs errands and takes public transportation on his days-off have it. He was more at risk for the virus than me.
Last Friday night, my daughter logged into my EZConsult and weeks after my failed attempts to register, I finally got an email that my “vaccination interest and CEIR form was received and it’s under review.” I was instructed to wait for them “to notify (me) when (my) eligibility is approved.”
“Don’t wait,” my daughter said. She clicked and refreshed in a frenzy, until it was time for her Zoom meeting, but voila: she had gotten me a morning vaccination slot 16 km. away. She suggested I try to change it. Four hours later, and already the next day or Saturday, I found a more convivial location at a mall closer to my house. Exhausted, I fell asleep, only to awaken in the throes of a bronchial asthma attack, but with no fever and my sense of taste and smell intact. My immunity couldn’t hold up to those sleepless hours of numbly and doggedly clicking away at new schedules, new sites only to be told countless times that there was “an error fetching data,” or more usually, that “There are no available sites within your local government unit.”
My spirit was willing, but my aging flesh is weak, and no match for the heartless and artificial intelligence that runs the apps which control my fate. I just pray that I get vaccinated before I have to register for a national I.D. Lord, have mercy.
Menchu Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate. IRL (In Real Life) are short verbal pagmumuni-muni, the essay equivalent of fast fiction--but in real life. She really wants more Filipinos to care, and to do something legal and non-violent about it, preferably together, so that we act more like a civilized country, a mature democracy.