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Italy-Based Filipina Student Shares Her Thoughts On Dealing With The COVID-19 Outbreak

Mickaella Bergantino says, "We are not at war against each other... it is COVID-19 we should fight against. We should be each other's allies and not enemies"

Mickaella Bergantino is a fashion student based in Milan, Italy. Like many young people, she enjoys traveling, dressing up, nights on the town, and has big dreams for her future. 

But in a blink, life as she's always known it would change, and the country she calls home would be brought to its knees by the nationwide, and now global, consequences of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). She talks about the failure of Italians to heed advice, take matters seriously, and in the end, to remember to have compassion and empathy as main contributors to the crisis. These days, she spends her time at home, completing online classes and postponing all social activities indefinitely—life is on hold, at least for now. 

Seeing headlines about the Philippines from across the Mediterranean, Mickaella spotted a pattern; she knew that Filipinos were heading down the same path as the Italians and sent out a warning: "Do not do the same mistake that we did." 

"It is not too late for you too, Filipino people. You still have time. Don't let this opportunity slide. It is better to take actions now than regret later," she adds, more hopefully this time. 

After gaining recognition for a Facebook post (which now has 21,000 shares) that described that Italian COVID-19 crisis in detail, she now urges Filipinos to act more responsibly and in her own way, help them save the country from a similar fate. 

We are facing a war right now. But we are not on war against each other. It is COVID-19 we should fight against. We should be each other's allies and not enemies

In an exclusive interview with Metro.Style, Mickaella shares pieces of advice as someone who has witnessed some of the worst effects of this global pandemic: 



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Looking back at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, what did you observe was lacking? What did Italian citizens not understand about it initially? 

"Before the total lockdown, fake news started to spread that supermarkets are going to close for a month. People started to panic buy and hoard not only masks and hand sanitizers, but also food, leaving less or none for other people especially the elderly. What was lacking during the situation was empathy and discipline. People took the situation lightly without thinking about the consequences that we are going to face."

When it became clear that the virus' threat to the country was something to be taken seriously, what were the changes that occurred in both the government and the citizens? 

"The moment we understood that the situation is serious and should not be taken lightly, the government took drastic measures such as suspending the activities of businesses that involve a lot of people from going in and out such as malls, restaurants, [and] coffee shops. We were not allowed to go out without a valid reason and some who disobeyed the rules were either put [in] jail or fined 200 euros (around P11,000). The citizens started to understand and we were more educated about the situation and how we could protect ourselves and prevent this pandemic."


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What piece of advice can you share for people to stay safe, and just as importantly, to keep others safe, too? 

"To people who don't have a valid reason to go out, please do not go out. This is just a temporary thing. We are sacrificing a little bit of our time at home for a bigger cause. Just by staying at home, you are saving lives already. To people who still need to go to work in this situation, you are our heroes, thank you for your service! But always keep in mind to take care of yourselves. Take proper measures and practice proper hygiene. We are praying for you!"

What would you like to tell others about having compassion and empathy during these trying times? 

"It is normal that we have different opinions and views. Freedom of speech is really important to know and be aware of in this situation, as well as the points of view of each and everyone. But what is not normal is trying to exchange harsh words just because what they stand for doesn't align with the opinion of other people. Every story has its own side. What we need in this situation right now is cooperation and not division. We should be more understanding and compassionate especially right now. We are all different in many ways but let us not make it a reason to be divided but make this situation a reason to be united."


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What are your thoughts on caring for mental health, and not only physical health, right now?

"I highly agree that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. What we need right now is comfort and assurance, not fear and anxiety—comfort from our loved ones that everything is going to be okay and assurance from the government that despite the situation, they will not abandon us especially the ones who are financially unstable."

What would you like Filipinos to remember during this time? What lessons can they learn from the Italians? 

"As what I wrote in my post: 'Do not do the same mistake that we did.' If possible, avoid going out if not necessary, always stay healthy, and practice proper hygiene. Rally and rebellion are the last things we need right now. I understand that we are facing a war right now. But we are not on war against each other. It is COVID-19 we should fight against. We should be each other's allies and not enemies. Nothing good will come out if we continue to be divided. People in Italy made a mistake, but it was not too late for us to change our ways, obey the rules temporarily given to us, and improve our situation. It is not too late for you too, Filipino people. You still have time. Don't let this opportunity slide. It is better to take actions now than regret later."


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What has this experience taught you? What takeaways can people gather from it? 

"Personally, this experience taught me to understand other people's perspective and to understand their situation. Not everyone lives the life I'm living, and not all of us share the same beliefs and opinions. It taught me to appreciate the things that I have and to not take them for granted. It also taught me to be compassionate to other people because help doesn't only come financially but through kind actions and words too. As a young person, it taught me the importance to let my voice be heard because it is valuable and can bring a good impact to society. I may still lack in a lot of things and I still have a lot to learn but this will not stop me in helping and raising awareness to other people because I know that I have God beside me, guiding every decision that I make."

Photos from @mikeeylaa