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[IRL] (UN)TRUE DAT

Updated: May 25, 2021

By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento


More pervasive than the Coronavirus has been the epidemic of conspiracy theories and fake news infecting the public discourse. It’s interesting, although sometimes scary, to speculate on why our friends and family choose to believe.


Eg., there was the veteran former foreign correspondent who earnestly asked our Chat Group to give him the personal contact details of COVID survivors we knew. He claimed to have an FB friend: a doctor in name only, it turned out, who could extract stem cells from recovered patients’ plasma and transfuse these to cure COVID sufferers. A more rigorous search of this so-called doctor’s bona fides revealed him to be a non-invasive, albeit unlicensed, vaginoplastic surgeon holding clinic in a residential condo. FB videos of nubile bikini models in the slenderest thongs abounded on his other accounts. The pandemic had effectively cancelled this “doctor’s” side hustles as a party deejay and the organizer of island tours for moneyed foreigners with said bikini models—all his patients. Thus, he had re-branded himself. Fortunately, the former newsman gave up on his attempt at rebranding himself as the procurer of plasma for Dr. Vagina.


But why hadn’t he researched on this snake oil salesman in the first place? Had the imagined glow of playing a heroic role, making headline news himself, in finding a COVID cure stifle all his journalistic instincts? Last I heard, he was now a Multi-Level Marketing peddler of oral stem cells, TCM concoctions and deworming agents. Part of his sales pitch was that he had actually been among the first Filipino COVID patients last year, and had cured himself with his inventory. When asked what his COVID patient number was (they used to assign these before the counts got too high), he became unaccountably deaf. That might just be one of COVID’s less well-known after-effects.


Over a year into the pandemic, most of us personally know someone who has actually died of COVID. We had attended the virtual funeral of another group member who had succumbed to the dread virus last week. That didn’t stop one of our members from posting another of those discredited memes that Coronavirus is a hoax and doesn’t even exist. She was a state university professor and a poet. I called her out on this. Was it early dementia or thoughtless insensitivity on her part to trumpet that nasty bit of fake news within our little group of which the widow of the recent COVID casualty was an active member? The last time I checked, she hadn’t bothered to delete it.


Then there was the selfie-queen who still persisted in purveying the hoary fake news that Bill Gates is implanting micro-chips in all and sundry through the Coronavirus vaccines. When asked what interest or profit Gates might have in doing so, she preened in her artfully lit little Zoom box, as if telling us, “Well, I don’t know about you losyang losers, but just look at me: why wouldn’t Bill Gates be interested?”






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.



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