Traveling woes

Published October 29, 2021, 5:17 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

Gone are the days when most of us would look forward to November 1st. Normally, this once-a-year ritual of honoring our dearly departed loved ones is an occasion we fondly anticipate because it likewise means a respite from life in the urban jungle.

It’s bonding time with the family. Spending time on the beach, seemingly no cares in the world but just the blue sky, the welcoming waves of the ocean with your loved ones. City slickers eagerly await this opportunity.   

It appears like eons ago when I would chart my travels early should my schedule allow it on such occasions. This was pre-virus.

Despite loosening-up some of the restrictions following the observation by OCTA Research that the metropolis is now considered COVID-19 “low risk,” traveling requirements cause certain stress.

This was the observation of my friend Melit Belicena. I yield my space to her musings on the travails of her New York-based sister, a medical practitioner who was coming home to tend to their sick father. This is on hopes that the inter-agency task force will be more logical in requirements imposition.

“Our father is critically ill in the hospital and my sister, Darling, was allowed by her employer to take a leave to fly to the Philippines. Hearing all sorts of harassment stories by her fellow Filipino workers in NY who vacationed recently, she was scared about what her own airport experience will be. Nevertheless, she made the trip.

Her travel travails actually started in New York with a Latina PAL check-in ground crew refusing to allow her to have a hand carry luggage, the same luggage that she has been carrying in her 15-year annual trip to the Philippines! Her blessing came by the name of Luz Marie Efondo, a kababayan also a PAL check-in ground crew, giving her the thumbs-up for the hand carry.

Entry processing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was relatively uneventful having prepared for the worst that she may be faced with. But the waiting during quarantine was the most frustrating!

Her quarantine days were extremely boring as she was locked-in in the four corners of the room. She felt like a prisoner but on an altogether different level. She survived with the same routine – breakfast, people watching, a bit of exercise, lunch, TV news, rearranging suitcase stuff, people watching, TV news, Manila Bay sunset photos. Her room has a stunning view of the famous Manila Bay sunset, which she could have enjoyed under a different circumstance.

Weary and drained, she consoled herself with the thought that on the 5th day of quarantine, she will be swabbed for her RT-PCR test then with the results out in 24 hours, she can finally escape her IATF-mandated prison cell.”


Postscript:

It is heart wrenching to hear that Milet’s father was fetched by his angels on the sixth day of her sister’s quarantine here in Manila with two precious days spent to comply with the RT-PCR test/result.  

Considering that she was cleared to ride PAL from NY, it would have been logical for her to be allowed to take a connecting flight to Iloilo, her final destination. She had all the health authorities required documentation: full vaccination and Barangay Certification on local government acceptance of her stay in Iloilo City.


If she was allowed to get the connecting flight from Manila on the same day of her arrival, she could undergo the mandatory five-day quarantine and RT-PCR test in Iloilo, less the hassle of a relatively expensive hotel quarantine in Manila. 

As the authorities continue to draw up measures to further open the economy with travel as one of the catalysts, it is my hope that the IATF reviews its guidelines to allow for more practical and logical applications that can serve the needs of critical travelers and the balikbayans wanting to spend the holiday season here. 

Talkback to me at [email protected]

 
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