COVID-19

Modern day exodus

KD Madrilejos
Modern day exodus

Thousands of Locally Stranded Individuals wait inside the baseball stadium at Rizal Memorial Stadium during the Hatid Tulong send off program on Saturday, July 25, 2020. Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

It was like a scene straight from an exodus movie. Thousands of so-called locally stranded individuals crammed inside the cavernous, ancient, concrete stadium, waiting for the free transport back to their home provinces

When the government first shipped out of Manila more than 4,000 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) last July 4, 2020 in a ceremony held at the Quirino Grandstand, Jovannie Malinao decided to enlist for the next batch of the “Hatid-Tulong” program.

Hatid Tulong is a program of the interior department to bring back to their home provinces all those from the big city who wanted to return home.

On July 24, Jovannie along with his family, left their small rented home in Marikina and went to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila with the hope of being included in the Hatid Tulong Program.

The family stayed and endured living in the street outside the RMSC along with other so-called stranded individuals hoping to get a free trip to return to their home provinces. On Saturday, Jovannie, his wife Robilyn and their children: John Lawrence (4), Rochelle (2), and two-month-old baby Zyril are huddled with their belongings in a small spot they found on a concrete bench of the stadium.

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Mas okay na ito, kesa hindi makauwi. Ang hirap na gumalaw dito sa Manila lalo’t  wala ka namang stable na trabaho. Kawawa yung mga anak ko,” said Jovannie.

LSI at Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium
JAMPACKED. Thousands of locally stranded individuals wait inside the baseball stadium at Rizal Memorial Sports Complex during the Hatid Tulong send off program on Saturday, July 25.
Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

Jovannie was as a construction worker in Paranaque before the start of enhanced community quarantine last March, but was laid off by the construction company.

Naisin na naming umuwi ng probinsya natatakot ako para sa mga anak ko.”

Jovannie and his wife decided to return to Saranggani. They hope to make a better life for their kids in the province rather than go hungry in Manila. However, he said he would go back to Manila when things return to normal.

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Ako na lang ang mag babanat ng buto dito, sir. Wag na yung pamilya ko,” he said.

Stay there for good

Unlike Jovannie, 52-year-old Tatay Rene Patual from Las Pinas has made up his mind to stay for good in Surigao Del Norte with his wife Susan and their grandson.

Tatay Rene tried to hold back his tears behind the cloth mask wrapped around his face. He recalled how tough life became since the lockdown. Tatay Rene was a construction worker in Alabang who also became jobless when his company closed shop.

He said that the only aid they received since the lockdown was 5 kilos of rice.

LSI at Rizal Memorial
LEAVING MANILA FOR GOOD. Tatay Rene Patual, 52, holds his grandson amidst the sea of LSIs filling the baseball stadium.
Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

Even though his wife Susan is included in the 4Ps program, the financial aid they were receiving was not enough for them for the past 4 months.

“Hindi na po kami binigyan ng SAP kasi nasa 4Ps na daw po kami, sir” he added.

On Friday, thousands of LSIs packed the arcane baseball stadium, waiting for the send off ceremony of the Hatid Tulong program. Come Saturday morning they all rapid testing as part of health protocol. Individuals who would test positive in the rapid tests, will immediately take swab tests.

According to the Department of Interior and Local Government, around 8,000 individuals registered and availed for the Hatid Tulong Program. –Rappler.com