AN OFW’S QUARANTINE JOURNEY

The long, long wait for OWWA to decide where to bring us!

I am an OFW in Kuwait and I had to go home since I was out of work and there was no way to transfer to another company in light of the present Covid19 pandemic when everything grinded to a halt so I decided to just go home instead. I already had a flight ticket since March but got caught in the lockdown and couldn’t leave so when they opened a window of opportunity for airlines to fly to Manila, I was ready and immediately packed my bags.

Checking in at Kuwait Airport
Checking in at Kuwait Airport

While waiting, things back home were also changing and they had now started quarantining arriving OFWs for two weeks in several places around the country. It was a bit with trepidation that I left to take my flight not knowing exactly what would happen to me upon arrival…..

DEPARTURE

I checked-in 4 hours before my flight at 3:30 PM via Qatar Air. Except for the passengers, the airport was empty with all the stores and food court closed. We left on time and landed in Doha an hour later. Just like in Kuwait, the Hamad International Airport there was also deserted though some fastfood joints were open with a limited choice of orders. I had my first meal of the day there since I only had a cup of coffee for breakfast before I left my house.

Our plane to Manila. Note the dirty airport windows.
Our plane to Manila. Note the dirty airport windows.

My waiting time for the next 9-hour leg to Manila was 10 hours so it would still be a long ordeal till I got home. The saving grace was that the airport lounge was open so I could stay there and rest and take a shower since I wasn’t sure when I could do that again!

Less than half-full plane to Doha, our stopover.
Less than half-full plane to Doha, our stopover.
Arrival scene in Doha Airport.
Arrival scene in Doha Airport.
Observing social distancing onboard the plane.
Observing social distancing onboard the plane.
The empty airport lounge at the Hamad International Airport in Doha.
The empty airport lounge at the Hamad International Airport in Doha.

Unlike the plane from Kuwait to Doha which was just half-full so we could observe social distancing by seating apart from each other, the plane to Manila had more passengers onboard so I had no choice but to sit beside another person. There were so many things running through my restless mind as I tried to calm myself and accept whatever discomfort would come.

The sunrise from my window told me that whatever bad things were happening, the world is still a beautiful place.
The sunrise from my window told me that whatever bad things were happening, the world is still a beautiful place.

ARRIVAL

The flight was uneventful but I dunno what it is with us Pinoys because when we finally landed, everyone started jostling each other as though afraid to be left behind! I mean, we were all headed to the same Arrival area anyway. I had to remind those around me to keep their distance!

It felt great to be back home!
It felt great to be back home!
We kept our distance from each other from the Arrival Gate to Immigration.
We kept our distance from each other from the Arrival Gate to Immigration.

Touchdown was at 3:45 PM and we all proceeded from the Arrival Gate to Immigration where we were gathered by the Coastguard personnel and given a briefing, filled out forms, and gave out our personal data. Then we went through a rapid Covid19 testing – it was all done rather quickly and in a professional manner. Then we were told to wait…….

We filled up personal data forms and submitted them here.
We filled up personal data forms and submitted them here.

Before leaving Kuwait, I coordinated with our Barangay officials whom I will always be grateful to, and they told me that they would meet me and take me home. Come they did but the Coastguard people refused to let me go due to their protocol to hold everyone since we would all be brought to the quarantine facility. Since I was carrying quite a lot of luggage, I asked them if I could at least release them to those who were about to fetch me. Again the answer was no, and due to their protocols, I just had to be resigned to the fact that wherever I went, my beloved suitcases would always be with me. So be it. One for all, all for one!

Waiting for our fellow passengers inside Gate 1.
Waiting for our fellow passengers inside Gate 1.
Having the Rapid Covid19 test done here quickly.
Having the Rapid Covid19 test done here quickly.

Four hours into the waiting game, I complained to the OWWA people that we were all hungry! Our last meal on the plane was still before lunch and now it was 8:00 PM. I suggested that one of us in the group be allowed to go to Jollibee to buy food. We were quite a sizeable group coming from Kuwait and Qatar and all were famished especially the pregnant women. Again, no was the answer. Later though, someone brought food from Jollibee so tempers simmered down a bit.

The long, long wait for OWWA to decide where to bring us!
The long, long wait for OWWA to decide where to bring us!

But then what about our accommodation? We were told that OWWA was still looking for places for us to stay. That got my blood pressure shooting up again! What kind of BS was this? It’s as if we just materialized from the airport tarmac out of nowhere and caught them unaware. They knew we were all coming so why the snafu? Luckily for the seafarers, their agencies took care of that so they didn’t have to tarry long unlike us land-based OFWs who were at the mercy of the infamous OWWA redtape!

Nothing to do but wait….. and wait some more. It was quite ironic that my house in Baclaran was just 10 minutes away from the airport gate. So near and yet so far. Sigh!

Finally aboard the bus taking us to our quarantine facility which, in my case, was a motel somewhere in Manila.
Finally aboard the bus taking us to our quarantine facility which, in my case, was a motel somewhere in Manila.

QUARANTINE…..FINALLY!

Here’s what I posted in Messenger for want of something better to do and couldn’t sleep after they finally checked us in:

Hello everyone! I received a lot of messages and comments on FB after I posted live vids earlier. I’m so sorry that I’m not able to answer all your messages yet. Connecting to the internet is a struggle.
Just so you don’t worry too much about us, and to give an update too, here’s what happened after my last post.

1. We were given another set of packed meals from Mini-Stop (we were served 2 sets of meals within the 9 hours waiting time at the airport).

2. Around 12:30 AM (26th April 2020), we were asked to go out of the airport and load our luggage in the bus designated for each one of us….finally!

3. We left NAIA past 1:00 AM until then everyone was still confused as to where we were going to be quarantined though we managed to sort things out during the trip. There were 18 of us OFWs in the bus (no one was seated next to each other) and were designated to 3 different hotels – 2 in Manila and one in QC.

4. I was among the last 7 to be dropped off only to find out later that we belonged to the first group and so they had to drop us back again at the first hotel. Talk about a road trip at this time when we were all tired and sleepy!

5. We were assisted by an OWWA officer and escorted by the Philippine Coastguard on the way to our hotels/quarantine sites.

6. I’m staying in Manila but for security reasons, I won’t disclose the hotel’s name (actually motel siya. LOL!). You know how people discriminate us OFWs. Thank God we were brought to Manila since it was easier for me to go home after the 14-day quarantine period.

7. We were briefed of the dos and don’ts when we arrived at the hotel. The manager and the staff were very accommodating. I can’t thank them enough. The rooms though small are clean which, for me, is the most important. We were also provided one room per person.

8. Accommodation plus 3 meals will be covered by OWWA. So it’s a free staycation for us for the next 14 days. We can also ask the hotel staff to buy for us things if ever we need something with limited timings (10:00 AM till 12 Noon). No direct contact, so we just have to leave the list in the designated place in the hallway.

Again, I didn’t mean to spread hate and negativity. I just feel that things could have been handled better. Thank you for all the love and concern. And thanks to those people who tried to help. It means a lot!

So, moving forward…..I’ll just try to enjoy my 14 days staycation but first, I’ll try to get some rest now.

Ciao!

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