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For OFWs, quarantine adds pain to loss of family members

30 May 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

A quarantine facility in Bicol region, where returning OFWs are made to undergo 14 more days of isolation

No fewer than a dozen Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong have lost family members in recent months but have decided against going home due to fear of being stuck in back-to-back quarantines in the Philippines.

Since the Covid-19 contagion crept into the country, many OFWs have heard about someone in the family dying – a parent, a sibling, a child – but all they could do was weep helplessly as they knew the health protocols at home would be difficult to hurdle. 

Some of the bereaved workers poured out their grief on Facebook in reaction to a report in The SUN on two sisters who went home on May 1 to be with their dying mother but ended up stuck in a quarantine facility in Metro Manila.

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As of May 28, the day their story was published, they were still waiting for their swab test results.

The sisters, who are both helpers in Hong Kong, never got to see their mother until she was buried. If they persist in going home to their province, they will have to undergo a second 14-day quarantine imposed by local officials.

Another Hong Kong-based migrant worker who recently lost a loved one is Vicky R. Munar, an active community organizer of financial literacy seminars for her fellow OFWs.
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Munar could only grieve from afar after her brother died in a vehicular collision on Mar 6, as she would have encountered difficulties if she chose to fly home due to the Covid-19 crisis protocols there and in Hong Kong.

She and her mother work for the same employer in Repulse Bay, but the boss gave her mother the priority to go home for her son’s funeral.
Munar could only grieve from afar after her brother died in March
“Masakit ang loob ko at umiyak din ako pero wala akong magagawa. Umuwi ang mother ko at hanggang ngayon ay nandoon pa siya. Gusto ro rin sana kahit makipaglibing lang pero kung ginawa ko pala iyon ay baka hindi pa ako nakababalik,” Munar said.

She said that would have left her employers without a helper.

Two of those who commented on The SUN’s post about the two sisters, C. Aquino and S. Fang, said they both lost their husbands in recent months but could not go home because of the present situation.

“Masakit talaga mawalan ng minamahal sa buhay. Ako, asawa ko ang namatay last month lang dahil sa Covid 19. Alam ko magiging risky kung uuwi ako kaya ipinagpaliban ko na lang ang pag-uwi ng Pinas,” Aquino said.

Anyway, that was her husband’s advice before he died, she said. He reportedly said he would understand if Aquino couldn’t go home due to the situation. Hopefully, when the coronavirus crisis is over, she could go home and visit his grave, she said.

Fang also said her husband died recently but she decided not to go home to bury him.

“Alam ko masakit ng mawalan ng asawa pero sa kalagayan ngayon wala tayong magagawa, kaya maiintindihan na tayo ng mga asawa natin,” Fang said.
About 24,000 OFWs were finally allowed to go home after spending up to two months in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila
Many of the grieving OFWs lost an ageing parent. Among them was Nena Caalim Cube who commented that when her father died on May 1, she chose not to go home as she wouldn’t have seen him anyway because of the quarantine regulations.

She also worried about whether she would be able to return to Hong Kong. “Kaya para makita ko siya, pina-video ko na lang hanggang sa paglibing sa kanya,” she said.

One helper said losing a loved one at this time is the most painful experience for OFWs. Even if they go home, quarantine rules won’t allow them to be with their deceased family member one last time.

Evelyn Templo wrote that her father suffered a stroke and was taken to the district hospital for treatment. His health deteriorated after a patient in the hospital tested positive for Covid-19.

She said the hospital eventually ordered all patients pulled out as the emergency room had been exposed to the virus.

The family decided to take Templo’s father home to continue his medication there, but he died shortly later.

“Napakasakit bilang anak na di na makita ang ama kahit sa huling pagkakataon man lang...ganito kalupit si Covid-19...sana matapos na eto,” she said.

Lilia Pascasio and Erlinda Palacio said they each lost a brother, but they decided not to fly home because of the quarantine.

“Huwag padalus-dalos sa pagdesisyon na umuwi... Iba ang panahon ngayon. Timbangin ang bawat sitwasyon bago magdesisyon,” Palacio advised her fellow OFWs.

L. Aureada said her mother died last Sunday in hospital with only the frontline staff attending to the elderly woman because her two siblings were not allowed to be by her bedside. She said her mother was cremated as part of protocol.

Most of the workers who commented on the story asked why it takes a month or more before the quarantined OFWs could get the results of their swab test as well as their Covid-free certificates.

They compared the situation in Hong Kong where the quarantine period is 14 days.

“Nakakasama ng loob. Tapos tayo pag nagpatupad sila ng batas para gatasan ang OFW na pagkakakitaan nila, mabilis pa sa kidlat pagproseso nila. Pero kahit pagbigay man lang ng kaluwagan sa mga OFW napakadamot nila, sobrang kupad. Wala silang pakialam sa nararamdaman nating OFW,” commented Yzza P. Torres.

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