COVID-19 Watch Editor's Pick FACT CHECK Health News

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Manila Vice Mayor Lacuna demos wrong way to wear surgical masks, calls it the ‘proper’ way

Manila Vice Mayor Sheilah “Honey” Lacuna-Pangan, a former physician at the Manila Health Office, is wrong in saying the correct way of wearing a surgical mask depends on whether one is sick or wants to be protected against germs or virus.


In a now-deleted video, originally posted on the Facebook page of Manila’s Public Information Office on Jan. 23, Lacuna demonstrated how to wear a face mask, which the office of the city mayor was distributing.

A netizen screen-recorded and posted the video on Youtube, including the portion where Lacuna said:

“’Yung tama hong paggamit nung ordinaryong face mask, ‘di ba kung nakikita po niyo ‘yung ordinaryong face masks, mayroon pong blue at saka may white po… Kapag tayo po ang may sakit, ‘yung white po nasa loob, kasi ‘yung white po ‘yung nagpe-prevent o humaharang po sa bacteria. In other words, para hindi po tayo makahawa, dapat po ‘yung white ang nasa loob, ‘yung blue ang nasa harap.

(The proper way to use the ordinary face mask: When you see an ordinary face mask, there’s the blue side and the white side. If we’re sick, [we should wear the mask with] the white part on the inside because the white side prevents or blocks the bacteria. In other words, we can prevent the spread of sickness; the white part should be inside while the blue should be outside).”

Lacuna added:

Ngayon, kung ayaw naman po natin mahawa tayo, o tayo ‘yung mahawahan, ‘yung white po ang nasa labas (Now, if we don’t want to get infected, the white part should be worn on the outside).”

Source: Trending ni Andres Youtube account, Live Update Corona Virus Alert from Isko Moreno, Jan. 23, 2020

Seated beside her was Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, who said he had just recently learned the “proper” way of wearing a face mask from Lacuna.


The World Health Organization (WHO), the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), the Department of Health (DOH), San Francisco’s Department of Public Health: Disease Prevention and Control, and the Hong Kong government are all one in saying there is only one way to wear surgical masks.

WHO Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control Director Seto Wing Hong of Hong Kong University said in a Jan. 24 Bloomberg interview that the right way to wear surgical mask is to have the blue color on the outside and the white on the inside.

Wing Hong explained that the blue or colored side of the mask is waterproof, while the white side is absorbent:

“You gotta wear it like this: the blue on the outside, the white on the inside. You’ve seen people wearing it like this (shows the white side of the mask), [it is] totally wrong.”

Source: Bloomberg Facebook page, Coronavirus: How To Wear A Mask, According to

WHO expert, watch from 0:30 to 0:33

On Jan. 28, the PRC, a non-government humanitarian organization which assists the government in humanitarian tasks, posted an infographic about determining which side of the surgical mask should be worn.

Photo from the PRC Facebook page

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, Disease Prevention and Control likewise published on its website:

“Determine which side of the mask is the front. The colored side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.”

Source: Population Health Division, San Francisco Department of Public Health: Disease Prevention and Control, How to Put on and Remove a Face Mask

The Hong Kong government in its website also said the “colored side of the mask faces outwards, with the metallic strip uppermost.”

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III in a Jan. 27 Manila Bulletin interview demonstrated the proper way of wearing a mask; with the blue, or the colored side, facing out.

Fact-checking organizations Africa Check, Agence France-Presse, and media outfit Straits Times have flagged similar claims on the uses of surgical masks.

Surgical masks are meant to prevent the spread of contaminants. However, the use of the mask “alone” is “insufficient to provide the adequate level of protection” and should therefore be combined with other “equally relevant measures,” such as proper hand hygiene, according to WHO Philippines guidelines released on Jan. 29.

Wearing a mask “incorrectly” may “hamper its effectiveness” in reducing the risk of transmission, it added.

Former Health secretary and now Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janet Garin in a Jan. 29 CNN interview said surgical masks would not necessarily prevent a person from being infected, but will help people to not get in contact with droplets and transfer them to the eyes, nose, and mouth, which are the usual entry points for viruses and germs.

WHO Philippine representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe in a Jan. 28 press briefing said, while those showing signs of respiratory infections are advised to wear masks, “normal people going about their normal work” need not do so.

Meanwhile, those visiting healthcare facilities with “high concentration of people with respiratory infections,” or other crowded places like wet markets, may also opt to wear face masks.

WHO declared a global emergency on Jan. 31 in consideration of other countries with “weaker health systems that are ill-prepared” to deal with the potential spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which emerged from Wuhan City, Hubei province in China.

On Jan. 30, the DOH confirmed the first 2019-nCoV case in the country, after a 38-year-old female Chinese patient under investigation tested positive for the virus. The patient arrived in the country from Wuhan via Hong Kong on Jan. 21. She reportedly visited Cebu and Dumaguete before flying to Manila, where she was admitted to a government hospital on Jan. 25 after experiencing a mild cough.

What can the public do to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV?

In an infographic published on its official Facebook page, the DOH advised members of the public to, among others, regularly wash their hands, avoid contact with animals, and to cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing.

DOH: Health advisory on corona virus

Photo from DOH official Facebook account

More information about the 2019-nCoV can be found on the DOH website.

What are the different types of masks?



Manila City Official website, Vice Mayor: Dr. Maria Sheilah Lacuna-Pangan

Manila Public Information Office official Facebook, Paano nga ba sinusuot ang face mask? Alamin ang sagot mula kay Manila City Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan, Jan. 23, 2020

Trending Ni Andres, Live Streamed: Live Update Corona Virus Alert From Isko Moreno, Jan. 23, 2020

World Health Organization website, Wing Hong Seto

Bloomberg Facebook, Coronavirus: How To Wear A Mask, According To WHO Expert, Jan. 25, 2020

Official Gazette, The Philippine Red Cross

Philippine Red Cross Official Facebook, Paano Suotin ang Surgical Mask?, Jan. 28, 2020

Population Health Division, San Francisco Department of Public Health: Disease Prevention and Control, How to Put on and Remove a Face Mask

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Wearing Mask

Manila Bulletin Official Facebook, How to properly wear a mask, according to DOH Sec. Duque, Jan. 26, 2020

Africa Check, No, wear medical mask with white side towards face, Jan. 13, 2020

AFP Fact Check, China coronavirus: health experts refute misinformation about how to wear face masks, Jan. 29, 2020

Straits Times, Can surgical masks be worn on both sides, and which side guards against the haze? askST clears the air, Sept. 18, 2019

World Health Organization site, Advice on the use of masks the community, during

home care and in health care settings in the context of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, Jan. 29, 2020

CNN Philippines Youtube, The Source: Ronnie Ong and Janette Garin, Jan. 28, 2020

Department of Health Philippines Official Facebook, Happening Now: Press briefing on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Jan. 28, 2020

World Health Organization Official Facebook, LIVE: Press conference on the meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee on on 2019-nCoV, Jan. 30, 2020


World Health Organization website, Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report 7, Jan. 27, 2020

Department of Health Philippines Official Facebook, Health Advisory tungkol sa Coronavirus, Jan. 26, 2020

Department of Health site, FAQS ON NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (2019-NCOV)

United States Department of Labor, Respiratory Infection Control: Respirators Versus Surgical Masks

New South Wales Government, Protect yourself from bushfire smoke

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH-Approved Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators, Are Japanese Pitta Masks effective for use in China?, April 8, 2019

ABC News, Should I wear a face mask to protect myself from bushfire smoke?, Dec. 3, 2019

U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health, A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers, April 22, 2015


(Guided by the code of principles of
the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks
the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials
and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence.
Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)