I arrived at SM City Bacolod Monday, May 3, to accompany elderly relatives, Tito Bert and Tita Edith Espina, for a scheduled inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines.
It was much publicized and although it has been hammered that one must have registered online and be part of the priority group – the senior citizens and those with comorbidities only – many still went ahead to line up, not knowing there is a process to follow.
In general, there was chaos but it was managed chaos thanks to the staff of the Emergency Operations Center and other volunteers from the Department of Education, private hospitals and even among citizens who were lining-up who managed to appease the crowd and restore order.
City Administrator Em Ang who heads the EOC was there on the dot along with EOC Deputy Dr. Chris Sorongon who was not only facilitating patient interviews and getting their vitals, but was also up and about explaining the process to a lot of people.
SM officials were also there, like PR Manager May Castro, to quickly respond to request for additional chairs and mobilize their own people to ensure social distancing is followed.
There were two vaccination areas – one for city residents and another for a specialized group under the Hall of Justice which included judges, prosecutors and lawyers. I saw Councilor Archie Baribar there getting inoculated as well as some lawyer friends and media personalities waiting to interview Em.
Perhaps since I was chatting with Doc Chris, or maybe I was projecting that I was sort of in-charge of something, some thought I was part of the EOC team and was approached many times for clarification. A young doctor who said he was from Riverside Medical Center even asked me what do I want him to do and where he should sit. I directed him to Doc Chris and decided to keep myself scarce lest more will start coming on to me.
An elderly man who was lining up was walking to and fro asking others to follow protocols and wait for their turn to be served.
As I was talking to Em, a young lady approached and asked permission to volunteer her services for the succeeding days. I was actually eavesdropping by then and after exchanging details with an EOC staff, I talked to her.
Eden Cornel turned out to be an OFW. She arrived in the country just last April 21 and flew home to Bacolod after the usual quarantine procedures for incoming travellers.
Eden is a lead nurse at the Carnival Cruises based in Miami, Florida, but flew in from Los Angeles after descending from their vessel docked in Long Beach.
She was lining up for vaccination as a medical frontliner and offered her services to Em after seeing that the EOC needs volunteers.
“I have been part of testing company crew and passengers and also took part in quarantining positive patients. I have been trained for this as our company is very strict in complying with requirements and protocols set by the Center for Disease Control (CDC),” said Eden.
She made mention of the elderly guy who was helping manage the lines and that made her decide to volunteer, whether it’s monitoring of vital signs and or even crowd control, “I can do that and I am trained for that.”
It was quite magnanimous of Eden who just arrived for a much needed holiday to dare volunteer instead of enjoying her time with family and friends whom she has not seen for quite some time.
And indeed, volunteers are needed especially at the post-vaccination monitoring section where only a few nurses are running around to monitor the vitals of those inoculated before releasing them.
I was waiting for my relatives to be released and it took some time because my aunt who was very petite needed a smaller cuff to read her blood pressure. It took three BP apparatus until they got a reading.
During that time, despite the accommodation given by SM, which I think was better off than what my sisters and my son went through in Manila where they had to line up under the scorching sun and get vaccinated inside a gymnasium, there were still a few grumpy fellows who were complaining of the set-up.
One elderly couple who just got vaccinated and were about to enter the post monitoring area couldn’t find seats. It was understandable that they have to wait their turn because post monitoring takes about 30 minutes to ensure that no one gets any adverse effects during that time.
But the old lady was so fired up that she started complaining in a loud voice. She talked down to one of the nurses saying, they would have been better off outdoors in open air and not within the SM mall where there were too many people breathing the same air.
She was such a grumpy old soul that I had to step in and told her in a loud voice that she should be thankful to the people who are there to serve from 10am-5pm. Besides, she should have been grateful that she got the call to get vaccinated while others are still waiting. I can really be loud if needed and that’s when her husband finally pulled her to an empty chair to simmer down after she was getting looks from everyone.
As I left the place, I realized it was my first time in SM after more than a year of voluntary lockdown. Strangely, I was already pondering that I may volunteer for two days this week if the EOC needs more volunteers.*