By Hanah Tabios
Anticipating the declaration of a community lockdown in Metro Manila, an early exodus was observed in bus terminals and airports as residents chose to face the global health scare with their families.
President Duterte pronounced a live broadcast on Thursday night that he had approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to put 16 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila under “community quarantine.”
Though it was clear that the goal was to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country, the lack of clear guidelines upon announcement prompted eager residents to flock to bus terminals and airports to immediately leave or return to Metro Manila.
The parents of Camille Arcilla, a senior media relations manager in a corporate company, were among the thousands of passengers.
“My parents went home to Catanduanes last week and they planned to come back on Sunday, but since there were already rumors yesterday morning that NCR will be on a lockdown, they tried their best to go back earlier than scheduled. Fortunately, my parents weren’t in a panic—it was me who got anxious all of a sudden,” she said.
But for college student Zamylle Celso, 24, who was affected by the month-long class suspension in Metro Manila, panic drove them to return to the province Friday.
She said she already anticipated the surge of passengers at the central bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City, but being with her family in times of crisis is always her priority more than anything else.
“I got worried because only my brother and I are currently living here in Manila. Our family is in Bicol right now and our parents wanted us to go home immediately. Our target trip was supposedly on the last week of May but we immediately went to Araneta Bus Port to buy tickets,” she said.
The struggle of going home to the province is nothing new for her. But even online bookings were already full—something unusual since the Holy Week revelry has not yet begun.
“We were also trying to book online but almost all buses bound to our hometown were already fully booked. At around 10 a.m., Araneta Bus Port’s online booking system crashed for a couple of minutes, I guess to due the numbers of people trying to book online,” she added.
That state of panic also prompted Gloriver Arcegono,19, of the Philippine Christian University, to return to her hometown in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro on the same day.
“I immediately called my mother to send me my bus fare so I can go home. However, I was not ready that I should be traveling as soon as possible because of the lockdown threat,” he said.h
Rolando Gurrobat, a worker from a business process outsourcing (BPO) company, also waited for the President’s press conference to formally confirm the rumors that had been circulating about a possible lockdown.
His initial reaction was to rebook his flight despite having just arrived in the province on March 12 for a vacation.
“My return flight to Manila was originally scheduled on March 15 but since the lockdown will start on the 15th, my sister immediately rebooked my ticket right after the announcement. I need to cut my vacation short because I am concerned about my job,” he said.
But Aubrey Bahala’s case is heartwarming. Bahala works as a training expert at Cotabato-based think tank Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG).
Her boss personally ordered her to book a flight to Manila to deal with the crisis beside her family who lives in Makati City.
“My very kind bosses texted me right away telling me they’ll allow that I work from home. She advised me to look for flights from Cotabato City to Manila right away baka magkaubusan na kasi (because they might all be gone), which is true as I found out this morning. I booked my flight at 11pm last night and buti nalang mayroon pa (good thing there were still seats)” she said.
But on Friday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the precautionary lockdown could be lifted anytime as it is still subjected on a day-to-day review. It can also be extended if needed.