IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Frontliners on their fears, hopes during the pandemic

Mara Cepeda
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Frontliners on their fears, hopes during the pandemic
Rappler speaks to several Filipinos in the front lines of the battle against COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s first line of defense against the novel coronavirus consists of fearless men and women who brave the pandemic to protect Filipinos against the deadly, fast-spreading disease. 

Many of them have had to deal with the severe shortage of personal protective equipment and face masks, with some resorting to making their own improvised gear and kicking off donation drives just to keep their hospitals afloat. Some go to the COVID-19 front lines without even seeing their family for weeks. (READ: How poor is the Philippine health system? Many hospitals not qualified to test for coronavirus)

They battle fear, homesickness, and heartbreak in this pandemic that has claimed thousands of Filipino lives. Despite their struggles in the field, these modern day heroes still show up to work every day.

Rappler spoke to some of the country’s frontliners against COVID-19. These are their stories, told in their own words: 

Dr Leonell Quitos, Iligan’s sole infectious disease specialist: Less than a year since Quitos’ first son was born, he found himself leading the charge to protect’s Iligan residents against COVID-19. It’s an “elaborate nightmare” for this young doctor, who had to undergo isolation after developing symptoms. 

Dr Cherry Abu, an infectious disease specialist from Cavite: The pandemic brought unimaginable darkness to Abu’s family. She acquired the disease, and days later, she lost her mother-in-law to COVID-19. Her community even discriminated against them for testing positive. Yet Abu is determined to continue treating COVID-19 patients. 

Dr Jeprel del Prado, hospitalist at the Hospital of the Holy Infant Jesus Medical Center: When the pandemic broke out, Del Prado was tempted to go back home in Pangasinan. But the young doctor decided to stay in Manila and help the hospital fight COVID-19.

Dr Kirstie de Luna, chief resident of East Avenue Medical Center’s Emergency Department: De Luna knew what she was getting herself into when she became a doctor in the ER. But nothing prepared her for the grief and heartbreak caused by losing patients to COVID-19. 

Victor Lero, volunteer shuttle driver for health workers: Lero is scared of COVID-19, but he decides to volunteer as a shuttle driver for medical professionals so he could help his countrymen. He said there is no time to think about risks when he has a family of 5 to feed. 

Alquin Flores, garbage collector in the second district of Quezon City: Flores is proud to be a garbage collector. He says it is his duty to help keep homes safe from disease. They are frontliners against COVID-19, too, he says, and he hopes more people would appreciate the work that they do. 


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.