Raffy Salazar, an overseas Filipino worker, arrived home in Ormoc City, Leyte to a 4 x 8 feet tarpaulin congratulating him for his negative Covid-19 test result.
A photo he posted on his Facebook wall has circulated on the internet, as citizens tag their family and friends who are also scheduled to come home to the Philippines and their respective provinces—and who, unfortunately, are expecting to feel discriminated against.
“It was my family’s idea,” Raffy, a hospitality industry employee who has worked in the UAE, tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “They said they put it up for two reasons: One, to cheer me up because the pandemic took its toll on OFWs who lost their jobs in the middle of a crisis to send out good vibes, and two—discrimination has been sort of an epidemic itself, especially here in our city where our LGU and the community sacrificed a lot to keep Ormoc Covid free for months until the Hatid Probinsya program began.”
The Hatid Probinsya initiative is a short-term humanitarian effort to assist residents stranded due to travel restrictions in the quarantine period, with the government providing for the sea transport, land transport, as well as the air transport to get affected people to get back home to their provinces.
“Of course, the local residents were naturally alarmed, some even enraged. I do not blame them at all. That is why my goofy sisters thought: What better way to declare that I am not a threat than a 4×8-foot assurance?” Raffy laughs.
Raffy has been laid off from his job in Abu Dhabi and sent home by his employers. It took him more than two weeks since his arrival from Manila to get home. “I had my first swab test when we landed at NAIA last June 20 and after the swab test we were immediately transferred to a quarantine facility somewhere in Makati,” he says. “We stayed there for four days because I had to wait for the results, which turned out negative. I was then transferred to Ormoc City on June 24. Again, they conducted a rapid test, which thankfully resulted as non-reactive and we were housed in Ormoc City Ligtas Covid Center—a facility prepared by Mayor Richard Gomez for returnees. After seven days, I got my second covid test that again. It was thankfully negative, but we had to stay there for another seven days to complete my fourteen-day quarantine. I would like to thank DOH Bureau of Quarantine, Philippine Coast Guard, OWWA, and LGU Ormoc for bringing me home safe and sound!”
Ormoc first reported a case on June 5, which then increased in the following weeks due to testing of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from Metro Manila and Cebu, as well as overseas Filipino workers (OFW). As of June 22, there have been 446 returnees isolated in its designated quarantine facilities, of which 420 are LSIs and 26 are OFWs, according to the Ormoc City Ligtas Covid Isolation Team monitoring report.
A few days ago, Ormoc City has reported zero active cases.
How did his neighbors react to his now viral tarpaulin? Raffy, who says he has decided to stay in Ormoc for good and open a business, says, “My neighbors who are equally silly thankfully found it funny. Tarpaulins are usually paraded on our gates when one graduates but who would’ve thought we’ve come to this?”