Two years after the peak of the pandemic, restrictions may have eased, but in the heart of a wife who is still mourning the death of the first COVID-19 patient in the city, nothing has changed.
Wenefrida Timbancaya remembered how, in 2020, COVID-19 totally shocked her family by listing her husband, Peping, as a patient in Puerto Princesa.
Her husband had been ill for nearly a year with a pulmonary disease before he started having headaches and losing his appetite. She said that the symptoms were nearly identical to those of COVID-19.
“Doon na talagang nag-umpisa ‘yong parang natulog na lang siya. Ayaw na sana namin dalhin sa bayan pa kasi alam namin na talagang–kasi siya mismo nagsasabi na ‘wag na raw siya dalhin sa doktor kasi ang laki na nga ng gastos namin,” she said.
“Nararamdaman niya rin na wala na rin siyang pag-asa. Sabi niya noon ‘naubusan na ako ng dugo sa sigeng laboratory’, pero hindi rin malaman kung anong sakit niya,” she added.
Even though they didn’t want to take her husband to the Poblacion hospital anymore, she said that the City Health Office (CHO) told them to follow health rules.
Wenefrida saw her unconscious husband for the last time on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. before being admitted to the hospital. Only a week had passed, and Peping was no longer in the room; instead, she noticed a black body bag on the floor.
On April 21, at 6:40 p.m., Peping died at the age of 63.
“Patay na nga raw pero hindi kami pwedeng lumapit, malayo talaga,” she said.
According to the doctor’s findings, Peping had pulmonary meningitis. She found out five days later that her husband had also tested positive for COVID-19.
Horror of COVID-19
The death of her husband was hard for her, but the support of her children and the barangay officials helped her get through it.
Her family also has to deal with the stress of their neighbors staying away from their home out of concern for the virus.
“Grabeng hirap, hanggang ngayon, hindi ko makalimutan ang nangyari sa amin. Kahit sa hanapbuhay ng mga anak ko, buti na lang may mga ibang tao na nakakaalala,” she said.
“Parang ang tao noon takot na takot sa pamilya namin. Nakatrapal kami palibot sa loob ng 40 days pero hindi naman kami pinabayaan ng barangay–meron ibang tao na takot na takot sa pamilya kasi baka nga mahawaan. Talagang masakit, pero tiniis namin,” she said.
Wenefrida said that her children became more careful and didn’t let her spend as much time outside their house even if it was to cook and sell kakanin like she did when her husband was alive.
She hopes to make a little money from cooking so she can help her kids and take a break from thinking about the pain caused by the pandemic.
Typhoon Odette also gave them a hard time in 2021, since Barangay Tanabag was one of the places in northern Puerto Princesa that were severely affected.
Wenefrida is aware that the restrictions have been lifted, but the pain remains as they remember her husband Peping on this Undas, the second time they have had to visit him in the cemetery since his death.
“Matagal sigurong makalimutan kasi sa hirap nga ng buhay na ito. Siguro kung wala ng balitang COVID pero kahit matagal na, ramdam pa rin talaga namin,” she said.
Due to health protocols, the pandemic has prevented mourners from having a traditional funeral. Undas is one way for affected families like Wenefrida’s to remember the souls of their departed loved ones.
COVID-19 is not dead yet
Wenefrida, who has personally experienced the unfortunate events caused by COVID-19, believes that the pandemic is not yet over. She also noticed that the treatment of patients was no longer as strict as it had been in the past.
Her entire family was immunized to protect themselves from the virus. Despite the fact that some seniors her age were wary of vaccinations, she received booster shots at the age of 66.
“Iba na ngayon. Ako naniniwala pa rin, sabi nila may COVID-19 pa rin. Sa atin na lang ‘yong pag-iingat pero hindi na pareho katulad nong nangyari sa amin,” she said.
“Ngayon napapansin ko talaga na maluwag na pero ‘wag lang magtiwala. Kailangan pa rin ng ingat talaga kasi hindi natin alam ang panahon. Sa nangyari sa amin, nagkaroon na talaga kami ng takot. Sabihin man na hindi totoo ang COVID pero nakatatak na sa amin na ang hirap nito,” she said.