São Roque

EP14

Last Thursday the Government, in its daily 5pm Covid-19 press conference, announced that public service is to fully resume on March 2nd.

Equally, all business venues apart from the casinos that were ordered to close on February 5th  –  bars, night clubs, karaokes, beauty salons, among others –  are allowed to resume operations providing they fulfill the measures created by Health authorities for the purpose. Random checks will be conducted to ensure everybody is complying with these measures.

With the exception of the schools that remain closed, it seems that things are progressively getting back to normal. The Government is controlling the tempo of the proceedings, taking a cautious step-by-step approach.

Bravo

It’s been almost a month since we had our last Covid-19 case in Macau, which is quite an achievement in the grand scheme of things. Our neighbors Zhuhai and Hong Kong are not experiencing the same fate, with community outbreaks taking place and new cases almost every day.

To put things in perspective, Macau is geographically located in Guangdong Province, the second province hardest hit by Covid-19 after Hubei, where Wuhan is located. In short, Macau is surrounded by hard-hit cities, and yet we are stable now.

The very fact that things are under control in Macau simply shows the preventive measures put in place by the authorities were effective. As a matter of fact, the Government is managing things with a level of competence never seen before.

Let’s not forget not so long ago, in 2017, Macau was hard hit by typhoon Hato and the Government performed poorly, clearly unprepared to handle the crisis.

Lesson learned. One year later, with typhoon Manghut, things changed dramatically and the authorities showed good control of the situation.

Now with the Covid-19, it feels we can state with confidence that yes, the Government is able to grab the bull by the horns and manage the beast.

This is what we expect from the Government, this is how they earn our respect and from now on this is the standard we will expect in any future crisis.

Equally important for this positive outcome, and definitely worth mentioning, is the absolute cooperation of the population. We all understand the importance of the measures rolled-out by the Government and, in true Confucian fashion, we strictly follow the rules with obedience.

Not that we are blindly following without any critical thinking. It’s just that, overall, we do agree with the instructions set by the Government and we know we have to comply to make things work.

As a local Portuguese journalist stated in a recent article, ” (…) The level of confidence the population is putting in the Government is extraordinary, and this is one of the most beautiful forces to watch.”

We all raised to the occasion, fully aware of the potential catastrophic consequences any irresponsible act on a personal level could trigger in the community as a whole. And, as a Macanese, this makes me feel extremely proud.

Let’s keep up the good work.

São Roque

This story would be good enough as is. But I somehow feel there should be more to it.

After all, this is Macau.

This is the place where the Dutch invasion failed because a Jesuit priest fired a lucky cannon shot, hit a barrel of gunpowder that exploded and killed most of the Dutch invaders, turning things around for us on St. John’s day, the patron of Macau.

This is the place where sea goddess A-Ma protected local fishermen from a heavy sea storm and, when everything settled, climbed-up a rock and disappeared towards the sky.

This is also the place where the statue of São Tiago would come alive and patrol the fort at night, and a Portuguese soldier was assigned to clean his muddy boots every morning. One day the soldier forgot to clean the statue’s boots, São Tiago’s sword fell down and hit the soldier’s head.

I grew up listening to these stories. So if one day I am to tell the story of the Covid-19 to my grandchildren, here is my version:

“We were getting ready to celebrate Chinese New Year when Macau registered the first Covid-19 case. Initially we didn’t pay much attention to it and life went on as usual.

But then new cases kept popping up and that’s when we all started to get anxious because we didn’t know what would happen next. There was no vaccine and scientists were rushing to find a solution.

The Government decided to close the casinos and bars, all these entertainment venues were ordered to close. We were ordered to stay home to avoid cross infections. Streets were empty like a ghost town.

Your papá Diogo and auntie Joana could not go to school because schools were closed. So we all stayed home and prepared for the worst. Everyday at 5pm we would turn on the TV and listen carefully to the updates from the Government.

On a Sunday morning, grandpa and papá Diogo went to church at Sé Cathedral as usual. Diogo was one of the acolytes of Father Daniel, together with the other kids and seminarists José Maria and Adriano.

Everybody was wearing a mask, even Father Daniel — he celebrated Mass with a face mask on. Then something happened, different from the routine. When Mass came to an end, Father Daniel asked us to reach for a piece of paper with a special prayer to São Roque, a saint specially invoked against the plague and infectious diseases. We were going to pray for São Roque to protect Macau.

As we start praying in Portuguese — we were hundreds of people praying together in Sé Cathedral because Sunday Mass had good attendance in those days — grandpa felt a chill down the spine.

It was the strangest feeling. The feeling of knowing something very bad was about to happen, the feeling of fear, vulnerability and helplessness against something big and powerful leading us to this last resort.

To pray and ask for protection from a higher power.

It gave grandpa goosebumps.

Hundreds of us, praying together to protect Macau.

We were not aware this was going to be our last Sunday Mass for a long time. A couple of days later the Government ordered the stoppage of church service to avoid crowd gatherings.

Miraculously, following this day, things started to get under control. We had no new cases for over a month, while the virus kept spreading around the world in other cities and countries.

Macau was safe, our lives got back to normal. São Roque heard our prayers and rewarded us for all the hard work containing the virus, gave us the protection we prayed for.

This is why we say 澳門是福地 , Macau é uma terra abençoada.”

Macau is a blessed place.

 

 

 

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