The Crazy Quest to Find a Surgical Face Mask in The Philippines

I normally don’t write these kinds of posts as I know they won’t get all that many views but I just felt this entire thing would be rather cathartic for me. But hear me out. There is a weird twist in this entire story at the end I’m about to tell you as it does pay to be a geek even in times of crisis.

2020 has started off on the wrong foot, hasn’t it? The world is currently experiencing a worldwide health crisis thanks to the spread of the coronavirus. While it’s generally centralized in China, it has now spread to different areas, including the country I live in, the Philippines. The coronavirus itself has proven to be deadly and, as of this writing, at least one person has died due to the virus in the Philippines.

News of the virus has hit a fevered pitch in the country. This is most especially true in social media sites. I can’t open up my Facebook page without someone or other posting his or her thoughts about how to handle the situation. But there is one trend that I picked up on. A lot more people are deciding to wear surgical face masks now and putting their covered mugs on things like Facebook. I guess that is a general good idea as surgical face masks is a good way… if you wear them properly, of course.

But the coronavirus has kind of led to a situation where people are hoarding the surgical face mask. I understand the fear but I still think it’s a dick move. Anyway, this made me come up with a rather fun but pointless activity for me to do over the weekend. With so many people living in fear of the coronavirus and trying to stockpile on face masks, would it be possible to even try to find one now outside? Also, how easy or, more probably, how difficult would it be? Well, I went out this Saturday to the Ortigas area to find out!

My first stop was the usual suspect: the drugstore. After all, they are the stores that do sell medical supplies! Since I was in the Ortigas area, I went to the multitude of drugstores, namely Mercury Drug and Watsons, in several areas, specifically Megamall, Shangri-La Mall and Greenhills Shopping Center. It is a large swath of area to cover but I did want to be thorough. I didn’t expect them to have them in stock because of the frenzy to get surgical face masks and I was right. None of the drugstores had them. I will commend the people who do work in the stores as they were apologetic and handled my query for face masks in a different manner. The people at Watsons generally offered disinfectants or alcohol as an alternative while the folks at Mercury Drug offered to call me when they did. All I had to do was give my contact details. Even so, I was on a quest to specifically find a surgical face mask so those options wouldn’t do. I trudged on.

Maybe they should offer more medicine and less cosmetics, though?

I then tried the department stores in the area. Unfortunately, no. None of them had any surgical face masks available, which was a bummer because I was hoping to get one of those washable face masks because they do feel better. I did get kind of lucky at Shangri-La but not at the mall’s department store. I found a place called Kosneyland Kidz Shop in the fancy East Wing of the mall. It’s basically a kiddie store but they do sell face masks there. Also, the back of the store sells cookware and even meat! Unfortunately, I think the masks they had available were pitta masks, which are made for allergies and not viruses. I probably could’ve got one and made modifications to it to work as a virus blocker but it would’ve been against the quest I was on. So I continued on.

I then had the bright idea to look for a respirator instead. Kind of like the ones that painters use so that they don’t inhale any noxious fumes. Now, I’m not really sure how effective they are against viruses but I guess it would be good to know if they have them in stock just in case they do work against biological elements. Now, the hardware store in Shangri-La didn’t have any in stock but the ones in Megamall and Greenhills did. The ones at Greenhills were rather pricey but dust masks at Megamall were pretty cheap. In fact, I think they had a fresh shipment because they were a couple of boxes of the stuff just laying there! I did get a couple of the plain dust masks but I wanted to buy the full-on chemical respirator and wear it but I was worried that would freak out all the people around me. I mean, that thing looked like something you’d wear against nuclear radiation!

I mean, look at the ones on the left!

I thought that I was basically done with my quest as I did find a face mask. Although it wasn’t a surgical face mask, it was a face mask that may be suitable for viruses. Like I said, I’m not sure if they’re rated to biological situations but I felt satisfied because, well, they had honking load of the stuff they could unload. Even if it wasn’t effective, it may just be a placebo effect that may put a lot of people’s minds at ease. Even though I did get one of the masks, I didn’t feel my quest was complete but I resigned myself to the fact it was impossible to find surgical face masks now.

On a side note, I did decide to wear the dust mask while walking around just to see if anyone would think it was weird that I was wearing a non-surgical mask. I don’t think anyone looked at me strangely, which was kind of disappointing. I will say that the dust mask was effective since I did walk the polluted streets of the city and I didn’t feel the need to cough or sneeze at all!

Anyway, while exploring the Greenhills area, I stumbled across a small toy convention. Thinking I would at least find something of interest in there, I decided to head in. I approached the entrance and the girl at the table informed me that there was an entrance charge. It was only P30 so, sure. However, as I gave her my money, my eyes drifted over to the side and, not only was she selling tickets to get into this small toy fair, she was also selling surgical face masks! I mean, the genuine deal face masks!

It’s in the really bad red circle I put in the picture.

I will give her props as, while she is being an opportunist by selling surgical face masks during a shortage, she is doing it in a nice way. For one, each mask was P10, which is not a bad price, especially when you consider it’s literally impossible to buy surgical face masks everywhere. Also, she’s only allowing a mask per person, making sure that, not only will she have a supply that would last for a while, no one will just hoard it. I did buy a face mask off her and I did consider my quest to be completed successfully.

Now, here’s the strange thing about this story. I set about to find a place that sells surgical face masks and the only reason I found someone who was selling them was because I am a geek. Throughout my quest to find a face mask amidst the coronavirus scare, I went to all the places that should’ve the surgical face masks in stock. I went to the drugstores. I went to the department stores. I went to the hardware stores. None of them had it. That was because I was looking at the normal places. Yet, because I am a geek and I love geeky stuff like toys, I went to a place that shouldn’t sell face masks and, lo and behold, that’s where I found one!

I guess it does pay to be a geek, even during a coronavirus outbreak!

Of course, I’m not really sure how effective surgical face masks against viruses… but it’s nice that fellow geeks are looking out for others, even if it is to make a few extra bucks.

What kinds of precautions are you taking during this coronavirus outbreak? Let me know in the comments section below!

One thought on “The Crazy Quest to Find a Surgical Face Mask in The Philippines

  1. Pingback: Episode 351: Things You Can Do While Social Distancing by Yourself | 3rd World Geeks

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