A Message of Support

delivered by Hon. Romulo P. Echavez, Jr

on the Occasion of the IEES Stakeholders’ Summit ‘22

Pandemic time. So much about our perception of time has been changed by

the pandemic that the phenomenon has warranted its own name. In the listening

session of the Mental Health Hour Cebu last June 25, participants noted how the

COVID-19 health crisis has changed time markers or boundaries thus warping our

sense of completing tasks, our feelings around achievement and fulfillment, and our

ability to organize, decide, and execute planned activities. One participant was heard

to have said that she remembers being a completely different person during the height

of the lockdown and quarantine restrictions.

These distortions have been widely documented and social media, awash with

it so much so that it has taken the attention of Filipino psychologists like Rainier

Ladic. Interviewed recently by Inquirer’s Lora Reyes, Ladic stated, “This is just

difficult for us […] because we have already created a long pattern of time perception

in the past years that we have lived our lives. We stopped doing activities where they

should have been done—we study in school, we work in the office, we relax in a

coffee shop, and we rest at home. These all changed together with our time perception.

We feel more progressive with a dynamic life doing various activities within a

specific time.”

WATCH, this 2022, reminds us of the importance of “Working Towards a

Culture of Integrity through Honesty and Time Consciousness”. This has never been

an easy feat and it has only become harder now that we have all experienced how

dizzying pandemic time can be. It is difficult to behave with integrity even for the

simplest things such as finishing our modules, attending to household chores, and

investing time in nurturing our relationships during pandemic time. Did we behave

with integrity when we missed numerous deadlines for project or performance task

submissions? Can we proudly say that we acted with integrity when our housemates

cried foul because we did not seem to care about getting the laundry or the dishes

done? Would we be able to claim that we moved with integrity when we languished

in the recesses of our rooms, spending hours on our screens while failing to check up

on how our loved ones were doing?

None of these of course were entirely our fault. We can all point an accusing

finger at our collectively weird experience of pandemic time. Yet, we also understand

that there were elements of it that were under our control. Perhaps not entirely, but

certainly within our power to have changed or improved. This is why these year’s

WATCH theme reminds us to work towards it. We will have to put our backs into

developing a culture of integrity. How? Again, the WATCH theme provides answers.

In the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,

Lasota and Mroz (2021) revealed that we can indeed make the most out of our

pandemic experience and thus build a culture of integrity through honesty and time

consciousness. More particularly, findings from their cross-sectional study with 363

participants suggest that when we are honest about our pre-pandemic experiences, we

are more likely to be able to make sense of even our most difficult and challenging

pandemic experience. Honesty too, regarding how life was for us, both the good and

the bad before the pandemic, seem to lead individuals to greater levels of resilience in

facing stressors brought on by the health emergency.

These of course are easier said than done. It gets to be even more challenging

for persons who use drugs (PWUDs). If pandemic time has been figurativelyintoxicating for many if not all of us especially during heightened alert levels,

pandemic time was literally intoxicating for most PWUDS. As an example,

Additional Professor of Psychiatry and Consultant under the Centre for Addiction

Medicine at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Dr Arun

Kandasamy pointed out in his presentation entitled “Influence of Quarantine

Restrictions on Mental Health and Substance Use” that there were increased alcohol

use, relapse, and intimate partner violence because of drug use and fatal overdose.

The Barkadahan Kontra Droga (BKD), well aware of these unfortunate reports from

India, Indonesia, and in fact all over the world, tells us of the importance of

“Addressing the Drug Challenges in Health and Humanitarian Crises” in its 2022


PWUD or not, what can we do as learners, teachers, leaders, and citizens in

order to come out of pandemic time with a firmer sense of integrity? WATCH and

BKD provide directions, very similar to what participants of the Mental Health Hour

Cebu have underlined in their June 25, 2022 listening session. It is important that we

listen to ourselves and others with an unwavering honesty. As learners, we can be

resilient and purpose-driven amid pandemic time by being honest about where we are

in our academic progress; to be intellectually humble enough to express our

difficulties and deficits and seek help from those who can support us. As educators,

leaders, and citizens, we can use time to our advantage– our time consciousness, by

putting it into intentional and purposive activities for meaning making. This can take

many forms– talking to our children, spending time with our partners in order to

unwind and celebrate, and choosing to be with our families and people we have come

to neglect or forget because of our disorientation.

I hope that as we come through pandemic time, we will find ourselves as a

people who have grown in integrity because we willingly chose to work towards it

despite the confusions and challenges. I hope that as we come to the end of the tunnel

of pandemic time, we will see ourselves as having cultivated a culture of compassion

and charity because we preferred to heal as one with PWUDs and persons deprived of

liberty; recover as one with solo parents and impoverished families; and rebuild as

one with every man, woman, and child as our brethren. Mabuhay ang WATCH!

Mabuhay ang BKD! Mabuhay tayong lahat!




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