COVID COMBATANTS. From left-right (front row): Dr. Gail Zafra- Paquingan (Internal Med), Dr. Janice Bacani- Carandang (Pedia), Dr. Mervat Pasigan (Pedia) and Dr. Ruchiebelle Baunding- Kintanar (Pedia). Back row: Dr. Kris Karen Awit (Fam Med), Dr. Nely Dechaves (Pedia), Dr. Jose Carlo “Dee” Loren (Internal Med) and Dr. Aura Lanaban (Fam Med).

Who says frontliners cannot be glamorous in this time of the pandemic?

Tell it to these bunch of Davao City medical doctors who fashionably dismantled the chains of the coronavirus instead of the latter dismantling the scaffolding of our daily lives. 

We are in a pandemic, yes. But it certainly doesn’t mean this world is stuck to a somber black and white. It certainly is no reason for people not to splash colors of hope in an otherwise maddening times.

Working in hospitals and their clinics (after the lockdown restrictions) amid the pandemic, doctors Dr. Gail Zafra- Paquingan (Internal Med), Dr. Janice Bacani- Carandang (Pedia), Dr. Mervat Pasigan (Pedia) and Dr. Ruchiebelle Baunding-Kintanar (Pedia), Dr. Kris Karen Awit (Fam Med), Dr. Nely Dechaves (Pedia), Dr. Jose Carlo “Dee” Loren (Internal Med) and Dr. Aura Lanaban (Fam Med) have been finding ways to comfort each other as well as their patients. 

DR. GAIL ZAFRA-PAQUINGAN (gray): The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.
DR. JANICE BACANI-CARANDANG (red): You don’t need a Corona to be a queen. CoViD is not an excuse to be drab and dull, it is up to you to color your world with 50 shades of fab!
DR. MERVAT PASIGAN (maroon): You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy rainbow colors of PPEs and that’s basically the same thing in this pandemic.
DR. RUCHIE BAUNDING-KINTANAR (pink): Walking through darkness with thoughts full of colors-  Prajakta Mhadnak
DR. KAI AWIT (dark gray): Life is Art. Live yours in color.
DR. DEE LOREN (white): When you reduce life to black and white, you never see rainbows.
DR. AURA LANABAN (maroon): Life is a train of moods like a string of beads.

This group of medical doctors is the original batch of junior consultants in Metro Davao Medical and Research Center (MDMRC) when the hospital started operating.

At the beginning of the lockdown, they stayed connected sharing how their lives have been and sharing videos and online shopping finds. Then it shifted to the shopping for the pandemic essentials like alcohol, masks and PPEs.

The group would later showcase their colorful PPEs inspired by the pandemic vibe on social media attracting not just massive like clicks and shares but even a special feature on local television news program. And because it’s Kadayawan month, their latest finds are in festive Kadayawan hues.

For them, the coronavirus pandemic is not an excuse for a fashion show, but they are in the right mindset that as most of us lose our ability to communicate through smiles and visual cues with most of our face covered up, we have to come up with alternative ways of making a first impression. And yes, rightly so, fashion has always been a platform for self-expression. As face masks and face shields are quickly becoming a part of our daily routine, many of us are choosing to showcase our individual style through them.

This isn’t to trivialize the global pandemic. It’s one thing dressing for frivolity, but another thing entirely to be frivolous. For these doctors, dressing in vibrant colors is not frivolity nor plain fashion, it is a message that fighting a formidable foe doesn’t mean being lame. The colors are an expression of hope and precious lives.

“Actually these are PPEs we just bought online because we were looking for ways na makapangarte kasi bawal na mag-accessorize, mag-shoes and bags na sosyal coz you have to continuously disinfect. And being girls and kikay, this is our way of keeping our sanity,” Dr. Janice Bacani-Carandang told this writer in an online interview.

What used to be fashion defined by season and cycles of capital, culture and commerce, the pandemic has interrupted that, leading to a shift in clothing that is driven by circumstance, not trend. 

“Naa mi barkada GC. All throughtout the lockdown, we kept each other sane and we comforted each other.  First kabuang project we did together was kadtong “pass the steth”, tapos we would source out our materials together, mga alcohol, gloves, mask, etc. kung asa ang reliable sources, even our PPEs. Until when we resumed clinic and gakita na mi in person, nahilig ra mi mag- document sa among mga bonding,” Bacani-Carandang said. “It keeps on levelling up each time we meet, until the group became bigger.

Naa na pud mi extended friends nga ma- recruit namo sa among concepts. All for fun ra. Something to look forward to after clinics.”

All for fun, as they’d insist. However, the truth is, these fun-loving and fashionable frontliners have inspired many Dabawenyos.

Medical doctors from Metro Davao Medical and Research Center burst in vibrant PPEs.

For frontliners like Dr. Bacani-Carandang and her fellow medical doctors, there may be a reduced compulsion – one that is generally felt unconsciously – to dress a particular way, especially in the workplace. 

That vibrant Kadayawan-during-the-pandemic culture will be part of a wider, restriction-adjacent moment, in which we seek new ways to look good yet comfortable, without betraying the greater concerns for safety that the pandemic has supposedly laid out.

Notwithstanding the limitations we have to live with in this crazy covid times, clothing has the power to define something, and shape it. 


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