MANILA – As the government ramped up efforts to assist individuals affected by the pandemic, the government on Sunday continued to transport locally stranded individuals (LSIs) to their respective provinces under the “Hatid Tulong” program.
Couple Norbeto and Rodora Sintena, both 53, expressed their happiness now that they got a chance to once again see their child after being stuck in Metro Manila due to lockdowns imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Masaya akong makikita ko na ang anak ko sa Leyte (I am happy now that I will be able to see my child),” Norberto said.
Norberto was confined at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) after experiencing a mild stroke right after he arrived from visiting relatives in Mindoro.
The bad news about his husband reached Rodora from Palo, Leyte, who rushed to the hospital in Quezon City to take care of him.
Norberto was recovering then, but the couple’s stay in the hospital was extended for a few more days when the government declared the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) to contain Covid-19.
They thought the lockdown would only last for two weeks after the declaration.
But it was extended for three months and they weren’t able to get any chance to return to the province.
Norberto was admitted at the VMMC since he is a retired Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
They stayed at the hospital during the lockdowns until the “Hatid Tulong” program was implemented.
Norberto heard about it from former colleagues, who were also assisting the transportation of the LSIs under the program.
Luckily, they were able to sign up and avail of the program.
On their way home, the couple received financial assistance and food-package from the government.
Angelo Herbon, 32, from Tacloban, was one of the many Filipinos who tried their luck to look for better opportunities in Metro Manila.
Angelo recalled that he was in the middle of finding a job in Marikina when the lockdown was imposed.
He had a companion when he came to Metro Manila for work.
“Iniwanan ako ng kasama ko. Sumama ako dito noong February 7. Maghahanap daw ng trabaho, nandun ako sa Marikina pero iniwanan niya ako hindi naman ako binalikan (My companion left me. I came along here on February 7. He said we will be looking for a job, I was there in Marikina but he left me and he never came back),” he said, adding that he was lucky that the government has helped stranded individuals like him return home.
He expressed gratitude to the government for extending efforts in assisting him to return to his hometown in Tacloban.
Angelo targets to start a small business using the cash assistance he got from the government.
With the overwhelming number of applicants for the program, some of the LSIs attempted their luck as walk-in applicants.
Eunice Priscilla, a stranded college student from Surigao del Sur, was one of those who trooped to the site for a chance to return home.
“Masaya ako sobra na may chance na akong makauwi sa amin kasi iba talaga yung nasa lugar ka talaga na kinalakihan mo (I am very happy that I will be able to get a chance to go back home because it’s really different when you’re in a place where you grew up),” she said, as she shared some misfortunes she experienced from being stranded.
Eunice was in Manila for a vacation to visit some of her relatives in Taguig City, but was stuck when the lockdown was declared.
She said the prolonged community quarantine has delayed her from going home in Tago, Surigao del Sur.
She was supposed to enroll for the next school semester.
However, being stranded made it difficult for her to move awhile since all of her school requirements were left in their province.
“Kung palarin pong makasakay, pagkatapos po mag-quarantine aasikasuhin ko po agad yung enrollment ko baka pwede pa akong makahabol (If I will be lucky to get a ride, after the quarantine period I will immediately process my enrollment, I hope I can catch up),” she said.
Eunice has yet to be called if she can avail of the free transport.
The “Hatid Tulong” program is a government initiative that provides free transport for stranded individuals who were affected by the travel restrictions imposed during the quarantine period.
The program is implemented with collaborative efforts of national government agencies and local government units.
Under the program, the government targets to assist stranded OFWs, students and tourists.
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Assistant Secretary Rodolfo Encabo said the government will provide LSIs with financial assistance amounting to PHP2,000 and food package during their trip.
He added that LSIs are required to undergo strict medical assessment and a mandatory 14-day quarantine once they reached their respective destinations.
The government earlier vowed to assist all stranded individuals amid the pandemic. (PNA)