‘Sakit’ and ‘Malasakit’

The Pilipino word “malasakit” was formed from two root words— “mala” and “sakit.”“Sakit” means illness, disease, pain, hurt, soreness, anguish, ailment, and ache in English.  “Mala” on the other handis a Spanish word for bad, wrong, amiss, wicked, poor, wretched, evil, and sick.

Mala in Pilipino is often used as a prefix to express similarity. When translated in English, it could mean “somewhat,” “like,” or “semi,”— “mala-kolonyal” (semi-colonial) and “mala-anghel” (like an angel)— but this does not hold true when we talk about the wordmalasakit.

Malasakit in English means concern, adherence, devotion, interest, and care.

Why am I writing about the word malasakit and its meaning?  Well, to be very frank, malasakit was the word that first came to mind when I read about the following news headlines from the Philippines—

“DOH: Measles outbreak expands to other areas of Luzon, Visayas”

“At least 70 deaths due to measles – DOH”

“’Panic’ over Dengvaxia harms other vital vaccination programs, health experts say”


“Robredo appeals to parents: Vaccinate your children vs. measles”

People in the Philippines who are not even doctors or trained experts in infectious diseases like Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta have attributed the deaths of several children to the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.  Acosta is one of the more popular personalities who spoke with “conviction” and pointed fingers to the dengue vaccine even if the Philippine Department of Health and many doctors from the UP-PGH (the Philippines’ premier public hospital) have repeatedly said that there was no conclusive proof or evidence that Dengvaxia caused the death of the children who were vaccinated with it.

Philippine vice-president Leni Robredo expressed concernafter reports came out that hospitals are overcrowded with children who are sick with measles. Some of the children have also died because of the refusal of their parents or guardians to have them vaccinatedearlier due to the Dengvaxia scare.

Politics and political agendas have no place when we talk about public health and public safety.  People like Acosta should not have talked as if they have solid medical proof and evidence.Dengvaxia was and is still being used to inoculate against dengue in almost twenty countries.  How come that it is only in the Philippines where children die?

Growing up, I remember thathaving a “bakuna” or vaccination was part of our rite of passage.  The community, the school, and the neighborhood then were aware of not spreading diseases like measles.

Measles cases in the Philippines is up not only in the provinces but also in huge metropolitan and high density regions.

We try hard to avoid finger pointing butirresponsible journalism, fake news, politicians— including non-experts— they allspoke against Dengvaxia without solid evidence causing a domino-effect of spreading fear with regards to vaccines that could have protected children from diseases like measles.

Where is the malasakit here?  Their acts damaged the image and the people’s trust in the DOH.  The effect of the Dengvaxia scare resulted in community health workers being doubted and shunned.  I heard that some were even cursed when they knocked on the doors of people that they were trying to help and educate.Similar to “Operation Tokhang,” the poor people are the most victimized again.

There is a Filipino saying that goes like this—“Ang sakit sa kalingkingan ay dama sa buong katawan” (The pain in one finger is felt by the entire body).

The nation now feels the pain caused by the Dengvaxia scare and children are dying from measles.  I would say that— “Ang gamot sa sakit ay pagmamalasakit.” The remedy for illness is caring.Politics and selfish political agendas should not mess with public health and public safety.

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.