I’VE ALWAYS had a soft spot for artworks (read: “frustrated artist”), especially for editorial cartoons. There is just something beautiful in fusing text and drawing to show a satirical stand. If given a choice, I would rather choose an editorial cartoon than an opinion piece, mainly because in an editorial cartoon, all it takes is one look to get an idea of how others see a relevant or not-so-relevant issue (again, read: Halili-Kho). Perhaps a huge part of an editorial cartoon’s appeal comes from being so simple, and yet so relevant and encompassing of an issue. And I’m guessing a small chunk of its charm comes from the cartoon’s humorous, and sometimes grotesque, portrayal of politicians and villains we love to hate.

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As I was scanning the latest issue of the Inquirer, I happened to chance upon a gripping editorial cartoon about the swine flu pandemic.

In the cartoon, a businessman was shown standing on a ledge outside the top floor of a building. The man looked like he was about to jump (you can see he was nervous due to the enormous sweat drops emanating from his head), and for good reasons too.

Inside the office, a caricature of the grim reaper is seen holding his signature weed cutter. Death seems to be egging the man to jump to his doom to the pavement below, where the man would end up like a splattered fly whacked with a very heavy newspaper roll (the one you get on Sundays, with the additional “kiddie” supplement inside).

The cartoon labeled the man as “economy,” the pavement as the impending “recession,” and death as the “swine flu” virus. Clearly, it showed how the swine flu scare had affected the Philippine economy and perhaps directed it to a possible recession.

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The recent A(H1N1) scare had indeed stunted our economy of any progress it could have achieved. Efforts were poured into curing the flu through expensive medicines, as well as health advisories that also cost a hefty sum.

Despite the Department of Health issuing statements that the swine flu was not that deadly and that there was no need to panic, people still decided otherwise.

The opening of the school year had to be postponed, and up to this writing, there are still schools which haven’t resumed classes yet, for fear that the flu might be in the guise of a student.

Uncharacteristically, I was saddened to hear the news that classes would be postponed even in UST. Little did I know that the suspension of classes was just the beginning.

Because of the infamous “ahini,” (which is the term I hear students, and even professors, use nowadays, given that the proper name is a tongue twister) the University administrators had to sacrifice a few things, much to the student’s chagrin. A cartoon in the front page of the latest Varsitarian issue showed a bunch of freshmen eager to enter the Arch of the Centuries to finally be inducted into the University. However, a giant “swine” wielding a picket blocks their path, thus preventing them from participating in this age-old rite and becoming true-blooded Thomasians.

Plugs aside, the cartoon just showed how gravely the virus can affect everyday activities, and even traditions, within the University. Already, four buildings have been temporarily quarantined, thus making it hard for affected students to catch up on their studies. I have also been hearing vile rumors that there wouldn’t be any sembreak this year, due to the fact that the academic year needs to be stabilized. Who knows what else the flu may affect. Cancelation of concerts? Paskuhan? Org Weeks? Hopefully not.

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It is indeed looking to be a grim year for the University, as A(H1N1) cases escalate every minute and it shows no sign of letting up.

Still, I can’t help but echo Fr. Rolando De la Rosa’s words during last year’s graduation rites. “Be Hopeful,” the Rector said, adressing the fresh batch of graduates. His words seemed very timely especially with the crisis the University is currently facing.

Though the flu is gaining strength in numbers, it would seem that the University has decided not to submit to its bullying anymore.

Gone are the days of paranoia, when the whole campus shall be quarantined for every instance someone coughs or sneezes. Precautionary measures will still be taken though.

The University has followed the Department of Health’s guidelines in dealing with a confirmed case. Since UST is a big community, only the building with a suspected case shall be quarantined for the first instance. On the second instance, however, only the infected classrooms and the students in the class shall be quarantined.

Still, this is a good direction for a University that is on a path to recovery from the virus. There is still a chance to regain lost ground and bring back the traditions and events that makes college so memorable.

As a final note, I ask students suspected of carrying the flu strain to be responsible and humane enough to quarantine yourselves. Do not wait until an official calls your attention, or until you become the fuel for rumor.

Being lax about the flu is also a great sin during these times. Though it is not deadly, the flu is highly contagious; just one carrier could infect thirty people in a cramped classroom. Other than that, I urge every student especially the freshmen to go out, explore and experience life within the University. Just watch out for picketing pigs.

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