PREVENTION is the best cure.
That's exactly the mindset of Obando mayor Edwin Santos in this troubling times as his municipality, which is Metro Manila's gateway to the north, remains free from any COVID-19 cases.
"Kung magiging pabaya kami, kawawa kami," he said.
How did Obando do it?
First off, the 52-square kilometer municipality has been enforcing a strict lockdown since the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine has been installed in March, denying entry from neighboring towns Valenzuela, Malabon, and Navotas in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Bulakan in the province of Bulacan.
Tough as the decision was, Santos said that these stern measures speak for itself.
"Halos lahat ng nasa paligid namin, meron nang cases. Kaya hinaharang namin lahat ng papasok sa lugar namin. Ang hindi lang namin hinaharang yung mga nagdadala ng pagkain at mga frontliners," he said, sharing that he's also in constant communication with fellow leaders like Malabon mayor Lenlen Oreta and Bulakan mayor Vergel Meneses.
Even the Obando residents who are working in the medical frontline are advised to refrain from coming home. Santos himself gives financial assistance straight from his own pocket to these individuals so that they can find a place to stay near their hospitals.
"Natatakot ako sa mga frontliners na pabalik-balik sa hospital. Kaya kung gusto nila, doon na lang sila mag-stay kasi sila ang masyadong exposed eh. Sinasagot natin ang upa, allowance, at grocery. Ginagawa natin ito hindi para i-discriminate sila, pero para proteksyunan din ang familes nila at ang bayan natin," he said.
Santos also shared that despite Obando not yet having a hospital of its own, it is making the most of its Rural Health Unit (RHU) and taking advantage of the doctors manning the facility.
"Wala kaming facilities, pero meron kaming ginagawa na isolation room na yung mga PUM na hindi naman COVID-19, na suspect lang dahil sa symptoms, doon na namin sila nailalagay. Nakahanda na sila doon. Pero habang wala pa yung testing, gagamutin na namin yung sintomas," he said.
Santos continued: "Kung nilalagnat o inuubo, dadalhin na namin sila doon sa mga isolation room at doon na namin sila gagamutin. Bibigyan namin sila ng vitamins, antibiotic, at kung ano pa para sa hygiene nila para yung sintomas pa lang, napapagaling na namin. Kaysa dalhin namin sila sa ospital na may tendency na doon pa sila mahawa.
"Kaya naman namin pagalingin yung sintomas pa lang eh. Para na rin kaming may hospital. Para kung di pa sila positive, nagiging negative na dahil napapatay na namin yung mikrobyo. Pero para na rin sa pag-iingat, yung mga doktor at nurses namin, naka-PPE na rin sila."
Among Obando's near-60,000 citizens spread out across 11 barangays, the amiable mayor said that his constituents have followed the municipality's call for them to stay at home.
How? By addressing the public's hunger.
Santos and the rest of the Obando local government unit are doing rounds in their municipality, going to two barangays per day to distribute food packs.
"Binibigyan namin sila ng food. Walang nagrereklamo dahil walang nagugutom. Hindi napapatid yung food," he said.
The LGU has been working hand-in-hand with the local barangays in distributing these goods, which was pooled from their own budget as well as donations being given to Obando by the national and provincial government, as well as the non-government organizations (NGOs).
"Sosyal nga kami kasi hindi lang kami sardinas dito eh. Iba-iba ang ulam ng tiga-Obando, may luncheon meat, may corned beef kasi ang hirap na rin bumili ng delata," shared Santos.
"Yung isang barangay nga sa Paco, ang naibigay na namin kasama ng bigas, buhay na manok. Kaya sa Paco, pare-parehas na manok ang ulam nila nung gabi na yun, iba-iba lang ng luto."
Also given out in these distribution drives are the envelopes of cash in the government's social amelioration program, which is done hand-in-hand with the respective barangays.
So far, the feedback has been nothing but positive.
"Natuwa sila. Nasanay na rin sila at sumusunod na sila. Konti na lang yung lumalabas dahil malaking bagay yun sa tao," he said. "Kaya nga sinasabi ko sa kanila, sa gutom di ka mamamatay, pero sa COVID-19 mamatay ka."
Until now, Obando has no confirmed COVID-19 cases which, to Santos, means that their ordinances are rousing successes.
"Pag mabilis ang instinct natin, mabilis mo mako-control yung sitwasyon dahil naaagapan mo yun," he said.