Face Masks Become Optional Outdoors in The Philippines

Written by: Sara

Edited by: Ines

Visual by: Kahyun

For over two years, the world has been told that it must adapt to a lifestyle, which includes the compulsory wearing of masks, both indoors and outdoors. However, to the surprise of many on September 12th, 2022, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. put an end to mandatory mask wearing outdoors across the country. Just as the Philippines was one of the last countries to pursue online learning, it also was one of the last countries that required masks to be worn outdoors, however it has now come to an end.

Despite this, local medical experts have resisted the lifting of face mask requirements, stating that, “It would send the wrong message to the public that they should not be afraid of COVID-19 anymore.” The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) has additionally expressed that there must be a balance between healthcare and economy. The DOH is currently focusing on the country’s economy  as the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Philippines resulted in one of, if not the world’s longest lockdowns,the Economic Times said. Causing the Philippines to experience an extreme economic recession and massive spikes in poverty and unemployment rates. 

Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, ISM has been following the guidelines of the Philippines’ COVID-19 Inter Agency Task Force (IATF), therefore the recent change in mask regulations will affect our own community as well. ISM has quite a number of outdoor areas and corridors, and students and teachers will be able to unmask in these locations. Filled with excitement, Ms. Thompson, High School Assistant Principal, told BT, “I’m thrilled! We’ve all suffered through far too many restrictions and lockdowns and wearing masks outdoors is simply not necessary. I’m looking forward to the day when they are optional everywhere and I can fully see the students I love and have missed for so long!” Although face masks remain mandatory indoors, students can finally get the chance to see the smiles of fellow Bearcats in the outdoor corridors, providing a semblance of what life was prior to the pandemic. Adding on, It was mandatory to wear masks, even while playing sports, leading to students having “mask breaks”, where students got to take their masks off for a bit to breathe fresh air during PE classes, and it also led students to run out of breath more often. However, as a consequence to the new guideline, students and coaches are allowed to take their masks off while outside on the fields. Coach Angela, a high school PE teacher has mentioned “I am happy students have the option when in open spaces outdoors and when coming together having them near to wear. It’s been challenging with the heat and humidity to wear while exercising.” Now that masks are optional while doing sports outside Bearcats are able to exercise more comfortably!

As the Philippines slowly makes its way out of the pandemic era, the Bearcat nation can only hope that the restrictions lowers towards citizens in the Philippine, since for those who are unvaccinated, elderly, and have compromised immune systems, it is strongly recommended to wear a mask and maintain physical distance from others. Adding on, it is still required for masks to be worn indoors and on public transport. Additionally, Bearcats can not wait for a day that allows Bearcats to stay safe from the coronavirus, where the coronavirus is treated just like an ordinary flu, and where all nations agree that an end to this pandemic is in sight.