File photo courtesy of Palawan Provincial Information Office FB page

Some of the returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who have arrived and are presently quarantined in a holding facility in the city as part of health protocols said they are feeling the stigma associated with the dreaded coronavirus disease on how several locals are reacting to their coming home.

The lone ROF who tested positive during the mandatory rapid diagnostic test (RDT) upon their arrival, in an exclusive interview with Palawan News, reacted to some of the negative comments of netizens pertaining to their case.

“Hindi naman tama na pandirihan kami,” the ROF said. She said she was swabbed today (Tuesday) and will be awaiting the result of her confirmatory laboratory test.

Earlier, health officials clarified that any result of the RDT is not conclusive, and that confirmatory tests have to be done by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) facility to determine a patient’s condition.

She appealed to Palaweño netizens to be more compassionate and understanding of what they are going through citing months in isolation since the onset of the lockdown abroad.

“Pagdating pa lang namin sa Manila, almost two months na kaming naka-quarantine. Hindi nila alam ‘yong hirap na pinagdaanan namin makapiling lang ang aming pamilya,” she added.

The third batch of ROF boarded an AirAsia flight on the evening of May 31, which hopped off to three other destinations including Cebu, Tagbilaran, and Bacolod. They said that although properly coordinated, the airline management had apprehensions on opening flights to Palawan because of the low number of passengers.

“Maayos naman sana kaso ayaw ng ibang airline magbigay ng flight kasi kaunti lang kami. Ang ginawa, pinagsama-sama kami sa flight tapos last route ang Palawan,” the ROF said.

ROFs’ Plight

The stigma surrounding the continuous increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Manila has been a concern as more and more local government units (LGU) eased travel restrictions and its probable implication on the spread of the virus.

“Walang may gustong magkasakit. Nakakadagdag pa ng stress magbasa ng mga comment na sobrang sakit, lalo pa kapag nadadamay ‘yong pamilya namin kasi alam sa barangay na OFW kami,” another ROF pointed out.

Kevin Dellosa, a 27-year-old seafarer who arrived on May 28, in a separate interview, said that they have been careful to limit their exposure since day one, pointing out that they themselves do not want to acquire the deadly infectious disease.

“Ako, personally, may confirmatory test result ako na negative. Kaya ba nilang sabihin na safe sila?” Dellosa said.

The ROFs have unanimously expressed gratitude to the local governments for arranging quarantine facilities, and providing free accommodation and meals.

However, certain ROFs have raised concerns over the “negative attitude” of some frontliners as they were in constant communication with them.

“All in all, okay naman. Meron lang ibang nurse mismo na nahahalata naming iba ‘yong attitude towards sa amin, pero baka paranoid lang sila,” said another ROF who also sought anonymity.

No Media Interview

The 14-day quarantine house rules set by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) prohibited the persons under quarantine from talking to the media and posting on social media.

“The cellphones of those who violate will be confiscated and will be returned after the quarantine period,” directive number six said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in a statement to the Department of Health (DOH), asked to verify the veracity of the document.

“Are you preventing media access to the quarantined OFWs?” the NUJP statement asked.

The health department has yet to issue a statement about the concern.