JUST like other families during the pandemic, the Cuezon household was unavoidably stuck at home during the lockdown.
"For seven months, my husband Carl who works as a legal administrator in a multi-national company did most of the errand and supply runs. We got most of our supplies, groceries, and essentials delivered at our Manila condo doorstep twice a month," shares Marianne, a doctor who specializes in Rehabilitation Medicine.
To combat cabin fever, twice or thrice a week, the couple and their eight-year-old daughter Malaika would exercise or jog at the rooftop condo to feel the "outside" world.
Carl, originally from Kalinga Province, and Marianne, born in Davao City, have been living in Manila since they started their careers there in 2009.
The big move
Although they have been successful in their respective fields in the big city, moving back home to Davao permanently, where Marianne's parents are based, has always been the family's ultimate desire.
"What made us finally decide to go for our big move was the flexibility to travel and relocate without compromising Malaika's schooling as we started to homeschool her this year. Also, my husband has now transitioned to work from home," relates Marianne.
"In returning home, we were determined to lessen our Covid-19 exposure. So, we opted to take the land trip from Manila to Davao since it would just be the three of us in the car. We knew that it would actually cost us more than air travel," Marianne explains.
Pandemic road trip
Planning their Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao pandemic road trip entailed extensive preparations and requirements.
Carl had to meticulously study the routes, gas stations, stopovers and hotels, travel time, and ferry travel schedules. He likewise brought their car to the shop for a general checkup, repairs, conditioning, and the installation of travel accessories.
Two weeks before the trip, the family packed most of their things in boxes and gradually shipped them to Davao, only bringing two-weeks' worth of clothes, essentials, and homeschool books in the car.
Complying with government requirements, they dutifully processed their medical certificates from the barangay health center and PNP travel authority pass and underwent RT-PCR swab tests at St. Luke's Hospital prior to their departure.
A stormy start
At dawn, the Cuezons left Manila with Sorsogon in Luzon as their final stop on the first day. By 11:00 a.m., they enjoyed a lovely lunch by the seaside in Atimonan, Quezon Province but was greeted head-on by a fierce Bagyong Ofel hours later in Camarines Norte which caused zero visibility and heavy flood.
Despite this setback, they bravely continued their scenic journey to the Port of Matnog on their second day where they eagerly boarded the barge going to Allen Port in Northern Samar, Visayas. By nighttime, they cruised along the iconic San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines, before arriving in Tacloban City.
On the third day, the family passed by another famous landmark, the Agas-Agas Bridge in Southern Leyte, considered the country's tallest bridge. They took the barge from Liloan Port, Leyte to Surigao Port in Mindanao, arriving in Butuan City by 8 p.m.
Finally, during the last leg of their sojourn, they traveled four hours before arriving at the Davao City checkpoint where they were escorted by the PNP Traffic Management Group for isolation and processing of their repeat swab tests. Fortunately, the results came out negative.
Traveling by land and sea from Luzon to Visayas and then to Mindanao for approximately a total of 1,500 kilometers during the pandemic was quite an adventure for little Malaika.
"Before our trip, Malaika was so ecstatic that she started studying the Philippine Atlas to learn about the different regions and cultures. She also applied her math lessons by personally counting the bills and coins for our travel fund, and even created her own travel journal," says the proud mom.
Throughout their trip, the Cuezons had to mindfully practice strict sanitation measures and brief Malaika on the proper wearing of masks and face shields.
"We had to practice social distancing, avoid crowded and enclosed places, take our meals inside the car, and wash or sanitize our hands and personal things," she adds.
"Malaika also learned to become more patient. Considering she was used to her rigid routine at home, we have seen her adapt, enjoy, and embrace the unpredictable. We had our memorable conversations, priceless laughter, endless singing, on-the-go homeschool activities, and family morning devotions done in the car," Marianne fondly reminisces.
Aside from their cherished bonding moments, the best part of the Cuezons' epic journey home was the opportunity to teach Malaika important life lessons, an invaluable chance to nurture their precocious homeschooler's character.
Watch Malaika's video on YouTube: Manila to Davao 2020: A Homeschooler's Road Trip.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://momabouttowndavao.blogspot.com/.