Manuel “Mel” Dizon has an unexpected problem brought about by the novel coronavirus (nCoV). No, he is not infected with the dreaded virus. Far from it, and if you believe his self-serving tales of romantic escapada, he is healthy, hale and strong as a bull. He is a mean golf swinger that can give lower handicappers among us golfers, corporate executive Rey Jose and lawyer Gi Ejercito, a run for our money in Nassau bet. But he is a globetrotter addict, which makes him vulnerable to contamination.
He owns one of the oldest and thriving tour and travel companies, Oltremare. He is a member of our exclusive golf group, which we call Tgers, an acronym for Tuesday Group because we play regularly during Tuesdays.
Months back, we asked Mel to package a golf tour for our group to Hanoi. We were all ready and raring to go for a weeklong tour starting 12 February until the outbreak of the epidemic. Initially we were unfazed. But we are now confronted with the reality that we are putting ourselves at risk of contamination.
What to do in the face of this dilemma? All our members are in the winter of life with weak immune systems. For a slight exposure to drizzle, some exhibit influenza, fever and other respiratory ailments, which could be mistaken as symptoms of the epidemic.
Added to the predicament is the fact that the tour includes our wives who will have their own guided tour while we hit the fairways. While we are all smitten by and have gone loco for golf and can risk being contaminated, our missus are having second thoughts. This will not be a problem with some members, like successful entrepreneur Bernie Bolisay who enjoys carte blanche freedom from his wife to travel alone. But for those strictly “attached” (no, not henpecked, so disputes retired United Nations diplomat Danny Bautista) to their wife like retired Councilor cum contractor Marcing Medalla, it will be a problem to disengage from the “shackle of love” of his wife.
When we confronted Mel about this dilemma, the most he can tell us was to make representations with the airline and his counterpart hotel and tour operators in Hanoi for the deferment or cancellation of the tour and refund of our payment.
Our disquiet is aggravated by media reports last Sunday that the first case of death from nCoV was recorded in the Philippines. This was admitted by the Department of Health, which will eventually alarm Vietnam of the gravity of our situation in the Philippines. What if we go and upon arrival in Vietnam one of us shows symptoms of the disease? There is a chance of being dragged to and held in quarantine for two weeks. That will be a nightmare. Instead of hitting balls in the manicured golf courses of Hanoi and enjoying the comfort and excitement that golf brings, we will be tethered in quarantine areas which we hope will not be one of the hundred tour caves used by the communists in World War II.
The case of Dizon is not an isolated one. He is the face of collateral damage caused by the virus. He represents the staggering loss of tourism receipts that a tourism country is incurring because of the plague. If this is not contained in the coming days, imagine the human, economic and social costs a nation will suffer.
Consider this report: “Based on the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) report, of the total $8.5 trillion contribution to the global GDP (gross domestic product), the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to the GDP in 2018 was $2.8 trillion (3.2 percent of the GDP)… (which) reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services….”
The World Health Organization is deeply involved in finding a solution to the pandemic. But this needs a united global approach and involvement of everybody regardless of race.
This tale lends currency to the religious truism that man has no control of his life. As the saying goes, “Man proposes, God disposes.” Even the best and meticulously laid-out plan could suffer a glitch.