How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed our Lives in Cavite

After more than a year of being away from home, I was able to finally make a short visit back to our hometown and be with my family in Silang, Cavite. If it were not for the Covid-19 pandemic, I would have been home five times in a year. But that became impossible because of all the travel restrictions that has been put in place by many countries around the world, including the Philippines (where I live) and Singapore (where I work). 

Life for many overseas Filipinos like myself is now changed (some say permanently) because of this pandemic. The things we used to take for granted, such as being able to head back home frequently, is now difficult, not to mention expensive, to undertake. Freedom of movement is the main casualty because in order to stop the spread of the virus, every precaution possible is being taken and those rules hamper people’s mobility. This new reality is hitting many OFW’s quite hard. 

Lucky for me, my job is safe even with the pandemic raging. I have always thought joining the semiconductor industry was the wrong choice for work. Cycles of boom and bust are quite frequent and compensation is not lucrative given the amount of work and dedication required compared to other industries. This pandemic has shown that there are some advantages not entirely obvious after all. Semiconductors is an essential business. At least the Singapore government thinks so. 

After several delays to my Philippine Airlines flight to Manila, it finally happened middle of March. Nothing was unexpected during the flight. I already knew that I needed to wear face shields on top of a face mask. It’s one of those things unique to the Philippines. I’m not certain if the government prides itself of having implemented something different even one that does not really make sense. Requiring face shields is just one of those things. No other country requires face shields during flight or when you are outside your home. Apparently, some “experts” think it’s a good idea. 

After deplaning, I and other passengers were led and guided by government personnel (specifically Coast Guard people) on the protocols to go thru for quarantine and isolation. OFW’s, like myself, are provided quarantine hotels free of charge. We are said to be “modern day heroes” of the country because of our contributions to the Philippine economy with our significant collective remittances. Free hotel accommodation during quarantine and free swab tests when we return for home visits are ways of appreciating our contribution. Another way of saying “thank you”.

I got my swab test result on the 8th day of my quarantine period. With result being negative of Covid-19, I was able to go home with some conditions. The official quarantine duration was still fourteen days. But after getting the negative swab test results a week later, I was allowed to continue the rest of my quarantine at home. This gave my wife the green light to come and fetch me from the hotel. Although we needed to report to the village nurse who was tasked to monitor and ensure that I follow the guidelines. 

By the time I got out of the hotel, the number of Covid-19 infections was steadily rising. And so, we can sense an imminent lock down was around the corner. The nation’s capital, Manila, and four nearby provinces which include Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal, were all placed under a strict quarantine rule a few days later. I expected then that my 3 weeks vacation will be mostly spent inside the house. 

The spike in Covid-19 cases that went from a daily average of less than 2,000 in February to over 10,000 by the end of March was a big blow to the country as a whole. To do nothing would have caused significant strain on hospitals as they fill to the brim with severe cases. Health care workers who have already faced serious challenges with the current case load needed to brace themselves for a surge worse than before. To avoid the worst-case scenario, temporary lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus was necessary. It meant having to implement strict restrictions that will also slow down the economy and devastate people’s livelihood. 

Cavite was second only to Manila in number of Covid-19 infections. Hospitals were near full capacity and many could not admit additional patients. Some patients had to stay in tents that serve as temporary wards while waiting for hospital beds to free up. A few resorted to using their cars to wait just outside the hospital with patients hooked to oxygen tanks. It was a bad situation getting worse by the day. 

The only time I went out was to get a Covid-19 swab test. Singapore required a negative result 72 hours prior flight so I scheduled it 2 days before. When I drove myself to the hospital in General Trias, I noticed how the road was not as busy. Because of the lock down, not a lot of people can be seen outside. And those who were outside tend follow the guidelines of wearing face masks and face shields. 

Needing some cash, I came by a mall to withdraw money from an ATM right outside it. There was a short queue and most people follow the physical distancing rules. Many business outlets inside the mall were closed. Since there were restrictions, not many customers were available to keep all the businesses earning. Essential ones such as grocery stores and a few restaurants got signs reminding customers to follow the rules on physical distancing. 

I heard stories of long queues to get swab tests on some hospitals so I expected as much when I went for my scheduled test. However, there were only two other persons getting tested that time which surprised and relieved me. That being my second time for a Covid-19 swab, I already knew what was about to happen. Swabs were used to collect samples through my nose and throat. Very quick and quite simple. Much simpler and quicker than the forms that I had to fill up to get it. I paid 6,000 pesos to expedite the result within 24 hours. Otherwise, 4,000 pesos would have taken 48 hours which was too long a wait for me.

My third swab test happened when I arrived at Changi airport after flying back from Manila. For 160 SG$ paid in advance, I got a quick specimen collection procedure which was done efficiently enough. On the second day of my 14-day hotel quarantine, I got the result through email which was still negative, to my relief. On my 12th day, I’m supposed to get another swab test done for the last time. With another negative result, I will be free at last to return to my place at Sembawang eager to resume my work refreshed and ready for what comes next!

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