MANILA, Philippines – After mass transport was suspended due to the “enhanced” community quarantine imposed on Luzon, a leukemia patient from Antipolo City had to walk for hours to get his oral chemotherapy medication in Metro Manila.
A person diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, 32-year-old Henry dela Cruz Jr had to make his way to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in Quezon City to claim a Guarantee Letter, a document he awaited for two months in order to obtain his medications.
But because of the lockdown implemented by the government to battle the spread of the coronavirus, his trip took a hard turn on Tuesday, March 17: he had no choice, but to walk for hours from Masinag in Antipolo City to Santolan, more than 5 kilometers away.
“Ang hirap para sa amin kasi we are caught in crossfire. As much as we are afraid na mahawa ng virus, wala din kaming choice (It’s hard for us because we are caught in the crossfire. As much as we are afraid to contract the virus, we have no choice),” he said, referring to the lockdown’s effects to sick individuals like him.
Anticipating the long journey ahead of him, Dela Cruz prepared a piece of paper with the words “Papuntang QC para sa aking chemo medicines. Makisakay po! (Going to Quezon City for my chemo medicines. Hoping to hitch a ride!)”
Dela Cruz took a photo of the paper on Monday evening, March 16, taking to social media to ask for people who could help him get to his destination. As of writing, the post has 1,500 reactions and 727 shares.
“Mahirap, lalo na para sa akin. Pero tiis lang talaga. Walang mangyayari sa akin kung ‘di ko susubukan. Wala akong iinumin, dahil maaaring magsara ang PCSO at [‘yung] pagkukuhanan ko ng gamot kapag nagpatuloy ang ECQ (enhanced community quarantine),” Dela Cruz added
(It’s hard, especially for me, but I need to endure this. Nothing will happen if I will not give it a try. I will have no medicine to take because PCSO and the place where I am obtaining my medications may possibly close if the ECQ will continue.)
Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said data they have gathered showed that the most vulnerable to the coronavirus disease are the elderly, and those with preexisting medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, and immunosuppression.
While he was offered a ride to Santolan by a certain “Jhay” to bring him to his destination, Dela Cruz said making his way to Quezon City would have been easier only if the government had laid down clear guidelines and measures for the lockdown.
“Ang nangyayari kasi, parang hindi pinag-isipan at walang safety net para sa mga ganitong sitwasyon. Kahit pa sabihin nilang malayang makakapunta ang mga kagaya kong may medical na pangangailangan sa Metro Manila, ang kawalan naman ng transportasyon ay malaking balakid sa amin, na hindi naman kataasan ang antas sa buhay,” he added.
(It seems that their measures are not well-thought out and there is no safety net for this kind of situation. Even if they’re saying that we can freely go, the lack of transportation is a big hurdle for those like me who need medical attention but are not that privileged in life.)
Dela Cruz said he embarked on a jeep from his home in Barangay Mambugan at around 6 am, but eventually decided to walk even when there were concerned individuals who offered him a ride because of the traffic build-up near the checkpoint areas. He reached Santolan past 9 am.
“No choice. Lakad talaga. Kaya ginawa ko din ‘yung placard. Inasahan ko na ang magulong sistema at mapipilitan akong maglakad talaga (No choice. I had to walk. That’s why I also made the placard. I expected the chaotic system. I was forced to walk in the end),” Dela Cruz lamented.
Aside from the trip to the PCSO for his guarantee letter, Dela Cruz once again had to walk to Globo Asiatico in Maginhawa, where he could finally get his oral chemotherapy medication.
While Dela Cruz was able to get his meds in the end, he said the government’s “confusing and unclear” guidelines on the community quarantine further aggravated the plight of Filipinos. (READ: [OPINION] The out-of-touch, elitist gaps in our lockdown)
“Nangangamba na ako dahil ‘yung unang community quarantine sa Metro Manila ay hindi maayos at walang maayos na guidelines (I was fearful because the first community quarantine in Metro Manila had confusing guidelines),” he said.
Dela Cruz said some government agencies providing social services were affected by the lockdown, especially workers who struggled to go to their offices due to problems encountered at checkpoints. (READ: LIST: How to help healthcare workers, frontliners during coronavirus pandemic)
Outpouring of help
Wanting to show his journey amid the Luzon quarantine, he narrated in his Facebook posts how long it took before he finally obtained the document he was requesting and the oral drugs needed for his medication.
He said he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support, especially those coming from strangers. (READ: Staying compassionate in a time of coronavirus)
“Masaya [ako] dahil marami ang handang tumulong at nakikisimpatiya sa kalagayan ng mga maralita at gaya kong may medikal na pangangailangan… Nagulat ako na habang naglalakad ako ay madami na ang nag-aalok ng tulong,” Dela Cruz added.
(I’m happy because there are lot of people who are willing to help and sympathize with the plight of the poor and those with medical needs like me…I was shocked while walking as a lot of people offered me a ride.)
Through his experience, Dela Cruz hopes that the government will put measures in place that will consider the situation of marginalized sectors, especially in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak.
“[Sa gobyerno,] sana ‘wag nilang kalimutan ang mga gaya namin. Wala kaming angal sa pagpapatupad ng ECQ as long as may malinaw na polisiya at guidelines para sa lahat, kasama ang mga nasa laylayan at may mga pangangailangang medikal,” he added.
(To the government, I hope that they will not neglect us. We are not against the quarantine as long as there are clear policy and guidelines for all, including those in the margins of our society and people having medical needs.)
Several local government units have stepped up to provide transport options amid the Luzon lockdown, offering rides to stranded commuters, workers, and frontliners. The Department of Transportation, meanwhile, will be offering free bus service to healthcare workers starting 7 am on March 18, a day after the implementation of the Luzon lockdown. – Rappler.com