Coming Home on a Covid Christmas

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Heeding the calls of the overseas Filipinos and their families, Senator Christopher Laurence “Bong” Go has recently authored Senate Bill No. 1949, also known as the “Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2020”, which seeks to create a department that will ensure efficient and more responsive delivery of government services to around ten million Filipinos abroad and their families here in the country.

In a statement issued last December 17, Go appealed to his fellow Senators saying, “Huwag natin pong hayaan na kahit saan lang sila naghihingi ng tulong, manawagan sa radio, sa Facebook, at sa TV para lang po maparating sa gobyerno ang kanilang mga hinaing”. Go also thanked President Duterte for certifying the measure as urgent.

The following narrative is a testimony of Jemmy Liz Pohino Indolos, a graduate of the University of the Philippines, a Metallurgical Engineer working at the Strategic and Precious Metals Processing in Oman.

Coming home to Davao City for Christmas while Coronavirus stays around the corner is an inspiring account which the narrator hopes to share to bring light amid some bleak images in the yuletide season.

“It has been more than a year since our last visit to the Philippines. If you ask us if we still long to go home even though we moved to a different country as a family.

Well, living in a different place with a totally different set of cultures like Oman, a country in the middle east, the yearnings are the same.

Aside from being homesick, the image of lechon flooding into your newsfeed just makes it worse.

Due to the situation, my husband and I decided not to push through with our plans to go home this Christmas. We thought we have an eight-year-old daughter who will be traveling with us.

Considering as well the risks as we deal with three international airports (Muscat, Manila, Davao), the anticipated time-consuming procedure, long quarantine time, and only a month of vacation- I initially thought it is not worth it.

But when my immediate manager informed me I can go for almost 2 months leave, that was it. This will be my chance. After almost 11 years of working, this would be my first time to take more than a month’s leave. Plus, it’s Christmas!

The family of Jemmy Liz Pohino Indolos heading home for Christmas 2020.-Contributed photo

So last Saturday, December 12, 2020, we boarded a direct flight bound for Manila. All of my colleagues who went home just ahead of us had a piece of common advice- “magbaon ng pasensya” and ballpen. And indeed this was true. But none of them had mentioned the better side of it- the convenience and comfort which we experienced as a family during our 3-day long trip.

We were subjected to a swab test and checked in at Citadines Makati Salcedo- a 4 star serviced apartment/hotel. In less than 24 hours, we received the result and our clearance certificates. I may say, at this stage, it is well organized and the welfare of each OFW is being considered regardless of whatever job you hold abroad.

The turnover from one area to another was smooth, instructions were clear, and protocols were very stringent. I felt a great sense of relief. We felt safe.

Then we were advised to prepare ourselves the next day for our flight to Davao. On December 14, 2020, We had another bus ride going to NAIA Terminal 2. We lined up again and on the side were more buses dropping off OFW’s from their respective quarantine facilities. We registered and waited for the next instruction. A little bit of chaos was there, not because it was not well organized but more of, the registration area was literally full of returning OFW’s.

The family appreciates the very organized travel arrangement by OWWA.-Contributed photo

This scene gives me a realization that this whole thing is not easy to organize and yet, our government is able to pull it off. 

While in the priority lane, I met a fellow OFW from Saudi. She just underwent a heart surgery 2 months ago and will be heading home to her province in Cagayan.

She didn’t have any cash with her, no sim card, and just borrowed my phone to get in touch with her family.

 She was that confident not to bring any cash at all, even a peso, as she was also convinced by her family that she does not need it.  Overconfidence though as she needs to have at least a sim card and a load.

But thinking about it, she is partially right. For returning OFW’s, you just need to bring yourself, a bit of pocket money for a sim card and load., and that’s it.

in this time of the pandemic, OWWA’s program for returning OFW’s is convenient, and on top of that – FREE. At this point, We felt valued and grateful.

We boarded later in the evening on one of the sweeper flights of Philippine Airlines. We arrived in Davao at exactly 8:30 PM, the same day, and the same thing with Manila, we were always guided even at the exit area where I saw the big wave and smile of my father and mother.

At last, we are home.

I cannot hang out yet with my neighbors and friends as we are still under 14-day home quarantine. Activities we can do are limited, but this is voided by the fact that nothing beats HOME, especially on Christmas.”

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