Frontliner Story #22: Paulo Dela Rama
The New Normal of Commuting
By Benidict Prodon and Audrey Garin
Since the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was enforced, a huge number of people were displaced from their jobs. However, government staff like Paulo Dela Rama continued to work under the threat of being infected with COVID-19.
Paulo Dela Rama is a tourism staff member in the City of Meycauayan, Bulacan.
He works under the City History Arts Culture and Tourism Council (CHACTC), which is responsible for conserving historical places and promoting its rich history for people to learn.
However, tourism went dark as ECQ was placed. It restricted leisure and any outside activities. Despite this, Dela Rama hasn’t stopped coming to work.
The pandemic caused the lack of public transportation due to ECQ. It made commuters like Paulo struggle just to get to work.
Aside from this, he also faces danger of being infected while commuting as many commuters scramble just to get a ride to work on a daily basis.
During our interview with him, he said: “Ang sinasakyan ko, bus talaga pero simula nung may nakita ako sa balita na nagkaroon daw ng COVID-19 case sa isang bus, jeep na lang ang pinili kong sakyan para at least my ventilation — nag-circulate yung hangin hindi kulob.” (I really choose to ride the bus but since I heard in the news that someone tested positive for COVID-19 in a bus, I opted for jeepneys instead — wind circulates and it’s not enclosed.)
After a few days of experiencing the “New Normal of Commuting,” Dela Rama decided to stay in his office five days a week and go home only during weekends.
He did so to avoid being exposed too much and cut his expenses. He said: “Madaming gastos ngayon tulad ng alcohol, pamasahe for commute at gamot, kaya naisipan ko na magstay na lang sa office para mabawasan ang gastos at exposure sa daan.” (There’s so many expenses right now, like alcohol, commuting fares and medicines, so I decided to stay in the office so I can minimize my expenses and exposure while commuting.)
Truly, this pandemic did not only expose the public health to danger, but also the long-aching problems of the society that has been neglected for too long, such as lack of public transportation.
Support for different workers especially for those who have been displaced was also shunned.
Dela Rama continues: “Gusto ko nga tanungin yung mga government officials namin ng deretshan kung may plano ba sila o wala, kasi ang pahirapan na pagpasok pa lang sa trabaho.”
When the COVID-19 cases in Meycauayan City further increased, their local government unit decided to implement a work from home scheme to help its skeletal staff from catching the virus itself.
As of now, Dela Rama is doing his work assignment at home only to struggle with internet connection.
He has a message to his fellow frontliners: “Tibayan lang natin ang loob at magdasal para maipagpatuloy natin ang trabaho natin.”
Edited by Dana Eunise Cruz and Coleen Danielle Natividad
Frontliner sourcing by Jell Reyes