WHAT a journey it must have been.
For many repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), they travelled thousands of kilometers to get home to an unknown future.
But for Cebuanos and other Filipinos who don’t live in the National Capital Region or Luzon who were booked on flights to Manila, the next chapter of their ordeal was only beginning.
When they set foot on this country, there were no family members waiting outside the airport, craning their necks to see if they had arrived.
Or maybe there were, I don’t know, I am just assuming.
What I do know is they were forced to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Maybe they were billeted in hotels that had air conditioning, cable TV, internet and other modern amenities that many people now take for granted. Maybe they dined a la carte or buffet style for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or they had their favorite food delivered.
Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.
Maybe if the repatriated OFW had money, then he or she was billeted in a hotel and spent the next two weeks in relative comfort.
But for those who were not so lucky, they were probably brought to a government facility where the living wasn’t so easy.
I’ve seen pictures of one here in Cebu City.
I guess “spartan” would be the best word to describe it. It looked like a gym that had several beds that were spaced several meters apart, apparently for social distancing and for privacy. It wasn’t completed then, so maybe authorities had put finishing touches to make it more welcoming.
They had to be fed three meals a day. For free. And I’m pretty sure the food didn’t live up to the expectations of someone this country calls its modern-day heroes.
But hey, look at the bright side, they didn’t gain any weight.
Of course, the quarantined OFWs were tested for the coronavirus disease 2019 using the polymerase chain reaction test, or something that was definitive, and not the rapid diagnostic test.
The results were all negative, which was why they were issued the clearance to leave and continue on their journey.
On Saturday, May 23, 2020, around 300 Cebuano OFWs finally reached the shores of Cebu. When they stepped off the boat, there was no fanfare to herald their arrival. Instead, men wearing personal protective equipment carrying sprays disinfected the returnees and their belongings.
I thought that would be the end of that, but no. A family welfare officer of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration 7 said it usually took a day or two before the OFWs could be endorsed to their respective local government units. That’s why they were staying in three hotels in Cebu City instead of being at home.
But hey, at least they’re in Cebu, right?