I am sitting on a plastic kiddie chair in front of a kiddie table all alone inside a day care center and feeling, honestly, like a kid not fetched by her parents. This is my second day here.
But then my parents are long gone, I’m no longer a kid, and even if family members will fetch me, I am not allowed to leave this place for 14 days.
My current situation was caused by my one-day trip to Manila last Thursday. When I arrived at the airport in Laguindingan on Friday, I was told that passengers were not allowed to travel using public transport and that we have to wait for local government vehicles to fetch us.
Friday turned out to be a day of anxious waiting. First at the Laguindingan airport, then at the holding area at the USTP where I met some travelers who have been there for days waiting for their LGUs to fetch them. These people, some from overseas, slept on classroom floors covered only with rubber mats.
In Malaybalay, we waited at the gymnasium of Northern Mindanao Wellness and Reintegration Center, a drug rehab facility turned into a Covid testing center and a quarantine facility for those positive in the rapid antibody test.
There were 22 of us, nearly half of which were construction workers from Bansalan in Davao. Others were returning workers from other parts of the country and abroad. One is an American visiting his girlfriend. Then there’s me.
I understand why LGUs are stepping up on travel protocols. After all, the country has already ranked second in Southeast Asia in coronavirus cases. Total cases, as of today, reached 67,456, and nearly half of them were from Metro Manila. In Bukidnon, there were already 66 recorded cases.
Our blood samples were drawn at around 5 p.m. There were four possible results: negative, IgM-positive, IgG-positive, and IgM/IgG-positive. (Antibodies signal the presence of infection with IgM fighting the new ones and IgG indicating an infection present for some time.)
One hour had passed and then two, and then four, until one staff told us to start spreading the mattresses so we can rest. Adding to my anxiety is the worry that I’d spend the night on the floor at the open air gym. I told myself that if this day ends well, I would take things in stride.
At around 11, the results came in and all of us were declared negative. They moved us to the Garden Suites that night and I slept soundly.
The next day, we were transported to the Enhanced Screening Area (ESA) at the Freedom Park where we waited for vehicles to send us to isolation facilities in our barangays. Which led me to this place.
The day care center is about 52 square meters and has an open layout. It has a sink, two toilets, stacks of kiddie chairs and tables, and cabinets. Barangay workers used some cabinets as dividers to create a bedroom area. But as there was no bed, I placed three tables side by side and laid my foam mattress, which my sister sent yesterday. It had transformed into a small-sized cot.
I am writing this now because I could not sleep and all I could do is stare at the crayoned cutouts of birds, bees, and butterflies hanging by a yarn on the ceiling. The ceiling’s panels were painted alternately with white, blue, yellow, green and gray, as if inspired by Piet Mondrian’s paintings.
It is supposed to have a calming effect except that the ceiling above my bed is missing a panel of plywood and I could see instead the tin roof through the one meter by half-meter hole.
So much for taking things in stride.