Stranded students in Puerto Princesa have sought for help to sustain themselves through the remaining days of the month-long enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
The students, enrolled at Palawan State University (PSU), were not able to go home either because they did not have fare money that allowed them to leave before the lockdown or because they were caught by the ban on inter-municipal travel.
One of them is Rachelle Kaye Insal, a 4th-year student who was not able to join the trip of buses to Sofronio Española on the last day where rides were still allowed.
“Kasi hindi ba nag-o-OJT kami tapos yong last day na pinapayagan pa yong mga bus at van na pang-transpo, iyon ang last day namin sa OJT. Bago lang din kami pina-pull out, pumunta pa kaming terminal kaso di na kami pinapasok kasi nga daw wala na rin daw magbibiyahe,” Insal said.
Insal said she tried to avail the free trips organized by the local government units to fetch the stranded residents in the city. She said she went to the terminal at the New Public Market and had their names listed but there was no vehicle that arrived that day.
She is currently staying at their boarding house in Abad Santos Extension with her baby and her boyfriend. Due to the absence of transportation, she said they cannot pass through checkpoints deployed to ask for help from her mother staying at the Wescom area in Barangay San Miguel.
“Dito na lang kami sa boarding house, tapos nagpapadala na lang yong mother ng tatay ng anak ko ng groceries kapag may truck na bibiyahe papunta dito, kasi meron silang mga kilala na yung sa mga delivery truck ba yong sa panel,” she said.
She said her relatives in Sofronio Española find it difficult to send money through the pawnshop due to its distance from their barangay.
As she also takes care of her son, she is worried that they might run out of supplies anytime soon.
“Hirap sila makapadala ng pera kasi sa pawnshop, wala kasing pawnshop sa barangay nila mismo. Nasa kabilang bayan pa ulit kaya hindi sila makapasok doon parang ganoon,” she said.
“Hirap kasi nga limited yong hawak namin na pera tapos hindi namin alam kung kelan masundan yong padala,” she said.
She said that they also want to avail of any trip that will allow them to go home in Sofronio Española, but their urgent concern is their lack of supplies and vitamins.
Not all students who were stranded in the city are residents of any towns in Palawan. Jubaira Indal, a first-year student of the same university failed to go back to Mapun, Tawi-Tawi due to lack of money.
“Pagka-lockdown dito, nag-lockdown na rin sa municipality namin tapos bigla na rin nag-home quarantine, bawal na rin bumiyahe ng barko galing doon papunta dito at yong manggaling dito papunta doon,” she said.
Jubaira is one of the seven boarders who are currently stranded in one of the boarding houses in barangay Tiniguiban. Those seven boarders she is living with are all resident of Tawi-Tawi.
“Dahil sa mahirap makauwi, nagsabi na lang yong landlady namin na manatili na lang kami dito kesa magpumilit kami umuwi. At saka wala na rin kaming pamasahe kaya nag-standby na lang kami dito,” she said.
“Sa ngayon ay nakakalungkot lang kasi hindi na rin sila pwede lumabas ng bahay, hindi na rin sila makapagtrabaho, hindi na rin sila makakapagpadala sa amin, kami dito ay gipit na rin. Yong nakuha namin nakaraan sa PSU ay paubos na rin, pinaghahatian namin dito,” she added.
She said that they are just trying to save all their limited stocks left so they could have still something to eat until next days.
Jubaira said that they are all uncertain about what might happen to them on the next days before the lifting of ECQ.
“Pero paubos na rin kasi parang last week pa ata sila nagbigay ng goods. Hindi na rin nakakapadala sila mama sa Tawi-Tawi kasi wala na rin sila mapapadalahan at wala na rin silang pera na maipapadala sa amin,” she said.
Her mother has no work while her father is a barangay tanod who is earning P500 for the whole month.
After their landlady learned that they could not go home in Tawi-Tawi due to ECQ and the situation they are currently facing, their payment of rent was temporarily waived.
“Medyo malungkot kasi ganito yong sitwasyon at malayo pa, minsan lang namin makita yong mga pamilya namin. Kahit anong gusto namin mangyari ay wala na rin kami magagawa na malayo sila sa amin,” she said.
“Minsan tumatawag sa amin kapag may time pero siguro once a month lang, nakaraan tumawag sila pero hindi na rin sila nakaano kasi wala na rin pera na mapadala tapos sila ron ay gipit na rin kasi isang isla lang yon. Kapag nag-lockdown walang maasahan don na bigas,” Jubaira said.
She is also uncertain about how her family in Tawi-Tawi will also survive with their current situation.
She said that entry of vessels in their town is also prohibited as told by her mother. Their port area is at Brooke’s Point going straight to their town in Mapun, Tawi-Tawi.
“Sa amin ngayon kung pupwede sana ay pera (ang maitulong), bigas na rin at makain. Hindi naman sa inaasahan pero baka may time na kung mag-extend pa itong quarantine na ito, hindi namin alam pero baka sa amin ay meron magkasakit o may emergency na di namin alam na mangyayari,” she said.
She said that they have received four packs of goods from the barangay that they are saving to last for the next days.
There are about 526 students of PSU stranded in the city. Western Philippines University (WPU) has 231 stranded students in Puerto Princesa and its main campus in Aborlan has around 80 students.
One of them is Francisco Fuentes Bitoon, a first-year student of WPU- Puerto Princesa who decided to stay in thinking that the ECQ will only last for two weeks but after he learned that it will be going for a month, no transportation services are available going to barangay New Guinlo, Taytay.
“Nong March 21 na nakasakay na ako, bigla na lang hindi pumayag yong nagbibigay ng permit sa capitol kaso saktong araw din non na may nag-positive na may COVID dito. Kaya di na nakauwi talaga at sa ngayon stranded ako,” he said.
He was renting a room in a boarding house but he decided to temporarily live with his friend’s family to lessen his expense in paying electricity and water bills.
Francisco said that it is also a struggle on his part as he is far away from her mother who is a solo parent supporting his studies.
“Sa ngayon wala trabaho mama ko kaya wala rin maipadala at kung may maipadala man malayo na rin sa lugar namin mga padadalhan don,” he said.
He is grateful that the university has given them necessary supplies so he has something to contribute to his friend’s house.
“Mahirap na naka-stay lang ako dito sa ibang bahay wala pa ako maiambag, kaya laking tulong yong binibigay nila sa amin na food packs kaya kahit papano may naitutulong ako dito sa bahay ng kaibigan ko,” he said.
“Meron syempre, malungkot lalo minsan lang makatawag mama ko, nakakaiyak rin lalo sa ganitong sitwasyon wala akong magulang na sana kasama ko ngayon,” he said.
He is looking forward to any help that could be given to him even food supplies. He also wants to have something he could spend to buy personal hygiene supplies and to contribute for the needs of his friend where he is temporarily residing.
Like Francisco, Maria Criselda Pimentel also a 2nd year student of WPU was also stranded with her siblings. She needs land and sea transportation to be able to go home to Barangay Mangsee, Balabac.
“Nong nag-post ang WPU na hanggang March 21 yong suspended ang klase di na ako umuwi kasi masyado malayo sa amin. Naiisip ko kasi ang pamasahe pauwi at pabalik,” she said.
Although they have supplies in their boarding house, they are just saving ito to last for the remaining days of ECQ.
“Sa ngayon hindi na kami napapadalhan kasi di raw nakalaot ang bangka namin kaya wala maipadala. Konting tiis na lang, matatapos din itong crisis, pray lang,” she said.
If there will be a free trip to be provided, she is also want to avail it to immediately go back to their town as she also misses her child.
“Gusto ko sana ay help na lang nila kami ng sasakyan pauwi sa amin. Kung sakali man i-extend pa itong lockdown, gusto ko na rin makasama ang anak ko, single mother kasi ako,” she said.
Different university administrations have extended support through the needs of their stranded students in Puerto Princesa.
Since the start of ECQ implemented on March 16, the stranded students have stuck in the city for more than two weeks and most of them are asking for help to survive before the original date of lifting ECQ on April 14.