Two years shy of a decade of working overseas, a Filipino medical frontliner narrates how the escalated cases of Covid-19 reveals two contrasting images in a first world country and how its government is doing what seems to be the best solution in this crisis.

“Three months ago, I was assigned to be the Transport Officer for Covid-19 patients. Ang role ko ay mag-prepare ng sasakyan, sunduin yung patient, i-assess sila if safe i-travel then i-isolate sila at ihatid sa respective hospitals na magtetest sa kanila. Every day, mga 4-10 persons yun nasusundo ko – suspected and/or confirmed. Bukod sa isa akong essential worker dito, I’m thankful that somehow I was given an opportunity to see and appreciate things differently at this difficult time.

Noong una, puro local citizens ang sinusundo namin. Wala pang 50 cases nun, normal pa ang lahat, bukas pa ang mga public establishments, facilities and schools. Then came the second wave, infected na yung mga foreigners na nandito in transit at yung mga local citizens na umuwi from other countries. During this time, nagsara ang mga malls, pubs, churches and other non-essential stores. Dito rin napagdesisyunan na isara muna ang bansa for tourists and transits. However, tuloy pa rin ang work at school. Sa tinagal ko dito sa lugar na ito, may mga lugar na first time ko lang napuntahan – mga magagandang bahay, apartment, condos at ultimo mga nakatagong mga mansion.

Akala ng government everything is under control. Akala namin tapos na. Then came the worse – na-infect ang mga dormitories ng mga foreign workers. Mula sa landed houses at mansionettes, we found ourselves fetching patients sa mga mala-sardinas na dormitories. Kung ang mga mayayaman, aalog alog sa mga naglalakihang bahay, sa dormitories, kadalasan 8 to 12 na tao sa isang room na may isang bintana. Isang ceiling fan lang para sa lahat at wala man lang cabinet para mapaglagyan ng gamit. Bilang kitchen, meron lang silang isang mess hall na may magkakatabing gas stoves at estante na walang takip, kaya madalas pinupuntahan ng mga ipis, daga o langaw ang mga stocked foods nila. It is impossible to isolate probable Covid cases here.

May mga pagkakaton na susunduin naming ang isang patient and we can’t find him in his room. Ayun, nasa mess hall sya kasama ang dabarkads nya at nakikipagkwentuhan. There is also an instance where we came to fetch someone from an isolation room, it turned out that there are around 15 to 20 people na suspected or confirmed na sa same room.

Pinakamalala kong narinig ay tungkol sa isang worker na isang linggo ng nakakaramdam ng sintomas na hindi nabigyan ng atensyon ng dorm manager nila. Nung unstable at restless na sya, doon palang sya pinadala sa hospital. Unsurprisingly, he was Covid-19 positive and the catch was, he was around his 30 roommates the entire time without knowing he has the virus already.

We were all caught off-guard. Schools were suspended and work-from-home scheme were implemented. While the government was able to give ample support to the local citizens, it seemed to have overlooked the foreign workers. Sila na mga nagtaguyod, naglinis at bumuo sa bansa ang nangailangan naman ng tulong.”
Instead of turning a blind eye, the government decided to care for the foreign workers like their own. It deployed mobile clinics to all dormitories for early screening and housing assistance for those who need to be quarantined or isolated. Fancy hotels were used as quarantine facilities too. For those who tested positive for the virus, they were immediately sent to hospitals free of charge including their food and medicines.

“It is truly a difficult time for the country. Cases are still on all-time high. The fight is far from over. Dahil sa Covid-19, nakita natin yung malaking gap sa pagitan ng mga katayuan sa lipunan. Pero nakita rin natin na walang pinipili ang virus na ito, mapa-mayaman o mahirap, banyaga o lokal man, bata o matanda. Isang araw, pwedeng nakaupo ka lang sa malawak mong hacienda, and the next thing you know, nasa hospital room ka na kasama pa ang ibang tao na di mo kapareho ng estado sa buhay. Both of you fighting for your lives.

What made this country’s fight against the virus more colorful is the unity of its people that left no room for any division despite the differences in race, color and religion. We all have one common goal and once common enemy. The government champions on good leadership with selfless, organized and well-informed people in position. I think this is what most of the nations need, unity and good leadership.

It now makes me think, could this be the “vaccine” that my home country, the Philippines needs today?”

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