Free swab and cremation continues in Manila

Published May 3, 2021, 12:19 AM

by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno


Manila Mayor Isko Moreno

As we in the city of Manila continuously try our very best to embrace more people who need free swab testing, the Manila Emergency Operation Center (MEOC) under the Manila Health Department (MHD) has come up with an updated RT-PCR swab testing hotlines.This is for the drive-thru swab testing at the Quirino Grandstand which can be availed of strictly by appointment only.

Based on a report from MEOC chief Dr. Ed Santos, our drive-thru swab center serves at least 100 individuals per day, on a first-come, first-served basis and based on their scheduled appointments.

We have been offering swab testing for free from the day the center was set up and it continues to be given by the MEOC under the stewardship of MHD chief Dr. Arnold Pangan, even for non-residents of Manila. Those interested to undergo free swab testing may contact the following hotlines: 09555875981; 09983226367; 09555875976; 09052423327; 09636023177 and 09615869957. Additional numbers were put in place in an effort to accommodate more people needing free swab tests.

There is a need to call first, in order to give way to an interview and encoding in the system, after which you will be given your schedule on when you can be swabbed at the drive-thru center..In Manila, the free swab tests may be availed of not only by those who were exposed to a COVID positive individual but also for purposes of job requirement or mere peace of mind.

Once the result comes out, the system at the Sta. Ana Hospital under Dr. Grace Padilla will send it to the person who got swabbed via email. If the one who got tested has no email, the MEOC will give him a call. So far, a total of 198,698 individuals have already availed of the free swab testing being continuously given by the city government, not only via drive-thru but also through the six city-run hospitals.

Alongside this, another service that continues to be freely given in the city of Manila is the cremation services at the Manila North Cemetery for COVID-related deaths. Sadly, the load is getting heavier in recent days.  Sometimes, the number of cadavers cremated reaches up to 22 to 26 per day. We have been offering the said free cremation services since the height of the pandemic last year and while it is free, this is the kind of service I don’t enjoy giving. Learning of deaths taking place in the city never fails to dampen my mood.

The free cremation comes at a time when rules state that the remains of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases must be cremated or buried within 12 hours after death. We came up with the idea of providing free cremation for the sake of the poor residents who cannot shoulder the high costs of cremation. Imagine losing a loved one and yet having to produce money for cremation, which usually costs anywhere between P18,000 and P40,000.  It is such an added burden for the grieving families. All that the affected families have to do is coordinate with the office of MNC Director Roselle ‘Yayay’ Castaneda for the completion of requirements and subsequent scheduling of the cremation.

Aside from the submission of necessary application, the MNC also requires the family member or relative to bring his or her own identification card and that of the deceased, an urn and the temporary death certificate duly signed by the doctor concerned. Once these are complied with, the family member may get a schedule from the MNC. Each cremation takes about two hours plus 30 minutes cooling time.

The MNC sometimes start as early as 5 a.m. and end as late as 1 a.m., just to be able to accommodate as many requests as possible. The families are duly advised that opening the cadaver bag at any point is prohibited and that once the body arrives,  it will have to be immediately cremated, based on regulations set by the national government. I hope and pray that no one would ever need to avail of these kinds of services.

For me, one death is one too many. This is why I never get tired of appealing to Manilans and even the public in general to always practice the minimum health protocols and this also goes even to those who have been fully vaccinated.


Gaya ng paulit-ulit  kong sinasabi, kailangan ko ang tulong ninyong lahat. Walang magmamalasakit sa Maynila kundi tayo ding mga Batang Maynila. Manila, God first!

For updates on latest developments in the city of Manila, please visit my Facebook account— ‘Isko Moreno Domagoso.’