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Why I almost gave up coming back to HK

01 October 2021

By Gina N. Ordoña

Room without a view: The author's quarantine room

Stranded, offloaded, tested false positive. These were just among the challenges the author had to hurdle in her quest to return to Hong Kong and resume her job

After more than five months of being stranded in the Philippines, I’m finally back in Hong Kong where I am now just a few days shy of ending my 21-day compulsory quarantine.

But the preparation prior to my flight was infused with so much drama I almost gave up coming back.

On Feb 24 this year, my employer, who is also a Filipino, and I went to the Philippines. We were booked to return to Hong Kong on Mar. 27, but our flight was cancelled because Cathay Pacific was suspended from flying from Manila for two weeks as part of anti-Covid restrictions.

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We tried rebooking a couple of times, but our flights kept getting canceled until we got caught in the Hong Kong government’s ban for all passenger flights coming from the Philippines imposed on Apr 20.

My employer thought of having my United States visa renewed in the US Embassy in Manila so I could travel with her to New York, and from there fly back to HK. But that was not even possible because the embassy had suspended all visa appointments and processing for tourists.

“One day at a time” my employer would often tell me, as we waited in limbo.

Pindutin para sa detalye

When the Bureau of Quarantine announced that it was issuing the International Certificate of Vaccination Prophylaxis or yellow card, I immediately applied for one, just to add to my stack of documents.

When we heard that the HK government was planning to allow travelers from the Philippines to come in starting Aug. 9, my employer reserved a hotel room for my 21-day quarantine right away and went on to book my flight for Aug. 24.

But when the advisory finally came out, I was again left disappointed because it specifically said only travelers vaccinated in Hong Kong would be allowed to enter.


By this time, my employer had already left for the US. I thought I should just go on vacation in my hometown in Mindanao but then the Philippine government imposed a third lockdown on the National Capital Region where I was, so this did not push through.

In the face of all these setbacks, there was nothing left for me to do but wait.

Gina used to travel frequently with her employer
Then came my most awaited moment, when the HK government announced on Aug. 27 that foreign domestic helpers vaccinated in the Philippines would be allowed to enter starting Aug. 30.

But there was another setback, with the government designating Silka Tsuen Wan hotel as the only quarantine place for all FDHs vaccinated in the Philippines.

That meant that I should give up my bigger, cheaper hotel where I was already booked, and race with thousands others to get one of the few rooms available in Silka. I also had to rebook my flight to a later date.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

Apart from the quarantine requirement I also had to have my yellow card ready, which should not be a problem as I already had it. However, since I got it early it did not have my passport number, which Hong Kong insisted it should have, so I had to go back to the BOQ and ask for a certificate to comply with this new requirement.

With my hotel room and air ticket secured, I began searching for a laboratory where I could have my RT-PCR test 72 hours before my scheduled flight. In my quest for a reliable laboratory, I must have called more than 10 in the accredited list of the Department of Health, before I settled for the prestigious St. Luke’s Hospital in Bonifacio Global City. 

On Sept. 7, I went to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila with all the required documents ready, including my negative Covid test result. I went there earlier than usual to give ample time for check in.

The check-in process stretched from 30-45 minutes per passenger. The counter staff would gather all the required documents from each passenger and bring all these to colleagues who are tasked to screen everything.

When my turn came I handed all my documents and patiently waited for my boarding pass. But I was told to wait on the side because they said they were waiting for advice from HK regarding my visa validity.

The staff said that since my visa was expiring on Sept.16, I would no longer have permission to remain in Hong Kong by the time I finished my quarantine period.

I explained that I was still allowed to enter HK because my visa on entry would still be valid. I also told them that my papers for the renewal of my contract were ready, and as soon as I arrived in HK they would be submitted to the Immigration Department for processing.

But the airline staff dismissed all my arguments and prevented me from boarding. There were three of us with the same case.

I went back home despondent and exhausted.

The next morning, my boss’ secretary called HK Immigration and she was referred to the HK Airport Immigration officer on duty. I was asked to e-mail all my pre-boarding documents so they could verify them, and was told I had no problem entering Hong Kong.

The letter from Immigration said: “According to the information provided, Ms ORDONA Gina Nonog is a Hong Kong resident valid until 16-09-2021 who may travel to Hong Kong within the validity of her residential status.  You may provide this email to the airlines for consideration”.

We then forwarded the email to Cathay Pacific HK for reference, to make sure I would not have any more problems.

Two days later, Sept. 10, I was relieved because one my fellow passengers who had the same case as mine was allowed to board without question.

Freedom at last! This was the flight Gina almost missed because of her false-positive result

My ticket and quarantine stay were rebooked, and I was scheduled to fly on Sept. 14. This time I was feeling more confident, thinking that I had no more hurdles to tackle.

Early morning on Sept. 12, I went back to St. Luke’s Hospital for another swab test. To my shock, my test result that was released that evening said “Viral RNA Detected,” meaning I was positive for Covid 19.

I felt so defeated, thinking I had exhausted all my options, so I told my boss that I was ready to give up going back to HK.

But my ever-supportive employer was adamant in saying that it could be a false positive result, and immediately scheduled me for another swab test early the next morning, Sept.13, with another clinic that conducts home service.

She was right. My second test result was negative.

My flight to HK the following day was smooth and uneventful. At the immigration counter, the officer noted that my visa would expire in two days, and just asked if I would be renewing my contract. I told him yes and he let me through.

I have already undergone five swab tests in Hong Kong since and thankfully, all came out negative.

Looking back, I couldn’t help but blame someone for the unnecessary hurdles and stress that I had to go through.

Should I blame the airline ground crew who thought they were just doing their job but clearly misunderstood the guidelines given them by HK authorities?

Should I blame the laboratory and its staff who erroneously tested me positive for Covid-19, causing me unnecessary grief and despair?

Or shall I blame the bureaucracy which sets down rules that are vaguely conveyed, causing untold suffering to people like me who find themselves at the receiving end of a misconceived guideline?

But despite everything, I find solace in the thought that I was given the resources to help me get through the challenges. I could only admire my fellow OFWs who do not get as much support but persevere on their own so they could keep the job they so badly need amid these trying times.



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