Many cities across the archipelago have been under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for over a month now to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. Despite the lockdown, the country’s frontliners have not ceased in serving the Filipinos. They have been braving the streets to sustain the operations of their respective institutions.
To help ensure that banking services remain uninterrupted, BDO Unibank, Inc. keeps its branches, ATMs, cash accept machines, and digital channels available through the hard work and resilience of its employees, both at the branches and head office. Just as important are BDO’s other frontliners – the security and maintenance personnel who support employees as they find ways for clients.
Working tirelessly behind the scenes, the bank’s dedicated team of security guards and janitors keep BDO’s workplaces safe and sanitized amid the ECQ. These are their stories.
Taking a thousand steps
When the national government implemented the lockdown, public transportation was suspended. Despite this, Dan Martinez, a security guard at BDO’s Corporate Center in Makati (CCM), was determined to report to work even if it means walking to the office all the way from Tandang Sora, Quezon City.
“Sa umpisa, hindi ko napansin yung pagod dahil kasama kong naglalakad yung mga katrabaho ko. Pero pagdating sa Buendia, naramdaman ko nang sumasakit ang mga paa at binti ko. (At the start, I didn’t feel myself getting tired since I was walking with colleagues. But when we got to Buendia, my feet and legs started hurting),” Martinez described his nearly four-hour journey on foot. “Para kaming nagpepenitensya (It was like we were walking a walk of penance),”
At the office, right after changing into his uniform, Martinez called his family to tell them that he had made it there safely. He even video called to assure his seven-year-old daughter, who always reminds him to be careful, that he was okay. “Sa kanila ako humuhugot ng lakas para lumaban sa buhay. Kahit mahirap, di ko naaalintana yung pagod o kapahamakan. Iniisip ko lang kapakanan nila (I get my strength to keep fighting from my family. Life may be tough but I don’t mind the fatigue and danger. I only think about their welfare).”
Crisanto Orias, maintenance personnel, also walked for about two hours, from the room he rents in Pasay to BDO’s Corporate Center in Ortigas (CCO). Although his boss advised that attendance was optional, he still decided to work. “Pinili kong magtrabaho dahil kailangan kong gampanan ang responsibilidad ko bilang ama sa dalawa kong anak (I chose to work because I need to fulfill my duty as a father to my two sons),” Orias said.
For four days, Orias walked to and from the office. It wasn’t easy and he said that he had almost given up. But the single father mustered strength from his sons.
“Sa daan, maraming pulis at traffic enforcer na humaharang sa kin. Minsan, pagkatapos kong ipakita ang quarantine pass at ID ko, tinanong nila ako, ‘Alam mo ba kung gaano kahirap ang ginagawa mo? Binubuwis mo ang buhay mo.’ Sabi ko, ‘Kung hindi ako magtrabaho, hindi ako kikita. Kung hindi ako kikita, anong mangyayari sa pamilya ko?’ (On the way, many police and traffic enforcers stop me. Once, after showing my quarantine pass and ID, they asked me, ‘Do you know that what you’re doing is difficult? You are risking your life.’ I answered, ‘If I don’t work, I don’t earn. If I don’t earn, what will happen to my family?’)”
His fellow maintenance personnel in CCO, Rovic Amoring, has the same sentiment. He too has a family to support so he also chose to report to work even if it meant walking from Taguig to Ortigas for two hours.
Martinez, Orias, and Amoring know the importance of keeping themselves healthy. They wear protective masks and practice social distancing on their way to the office. At work, they keep their masks on, maintain a safe distance from people, and wash their hands or apply sanitizers as frequently as possible. Orias and Amoring even wear gloves, as they carry out their duties.
When Orias gets home, he puts alcohol on his hands and stays outside for 30 minutes before entering his room. His sons’ welfare is his top priority. As for Martinez, his youngest daughter welcomes him when he gets home. “Natutuwa siya pag uwi ko, gusto yumakap, pero sinasabihan ko na maliligo muna ako (She gets excited when I get home and wants a hug. But I tell that I need to shower first),” he said.
A week into the ECQ, BDO offered the option for its security and maintenance personnel to stay-in its headquarters. Martinez accepted the opportunity. So did Mamerto Ramos, a former security guard who now serves as a security driver for employees. He has been working in BDO since October 1986. Living all the way in Bulacan, he appreciated the stay-in option.
“Kailangan magtrabaho dahil sa hirap ng buhay. Kailangan ko suportahan, hindi lamang ang asawa’t tatlo kong anak, pero bilang panganay, pati rin ang pamilya ko sa San Carlos, Pangasinan. Walang trabaho ang iba kong mga kapatid sa probinsya. Ang iba naman, hindi makapagtrabaho dahil sa ECQ. Maswerte ako dahil sa pagkakataon magtrabaho sa kabila ng ECQ (I need to work because life is hard. I need to support, not only my wife and three kids, but also, as the first-born son, my family in San Carlos, Pangasinan. Some of my siblings there don’t have work or can’t work because of the lockdown. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work during this time),” said Ramos.
Jeric Alberina, maintenance personnel, also opted to stay-in another BDO office. On the day of the lockdown, he trudged the streets for four hours, from his house in Barangay Bahay Toro, Quezon City to the office. When he and his colleagues were offered to stay-in that same day, he didn’t think twice.
Besides accommodation, Alberina said that the bank also provides them with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He and his colleagues, he added, are grateful to BDO. “Hindi kami pinilit magtrabaho, pero pinili ko magtrabaho. Ang tatay ko na taxi driver ay di makapagtrabaho dahil sa ECQ. Ako lang at ang kapatid ko ang nakakapagtrabaho at inaasahan ng pamilya para tugunan ang aming mga gastusin, kaya’t malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa pagkakataong kumita (We weren’t forced to work, but I chose to. My dad, a taxi driver, can’t work because of the ECG. Only my brother and I are working, so our family depends on us to pay for the expenses. I am so thankful for the opportunity to earn),” said Alberina.
Orias and Amoring, on the other hand, decided not to stay-in CCO and instead, avail of the bank’s shuttle service. For about a week, the two shared the same shuttle and were fetched from nearby pick-up points. But, when the government mandated a limited number of passengers per vehicle as part of social distancing and its stricter ECQ guidelines, the bank had to cancel its shuttle service.
Because he couldn’t afford to lose his daily wage, Amoring was ready to resume walking. “Hindi ako pwedeng tumigil sa pagtra-trabaho. Kapapanganak lang ng asawa ko sa pangalawa kong anak sa Leyte noong April 8. Kailangan kong patuloy sustentuhan ang pamilya ko (I cannot stop working. My wife had just given birth to my second child in Leyte on April 8. I need to keep supporting my family),” said Amoring.
Orias and Amoring’s supervisor advised them to find bicycles as walking endangered their lives. Orias was able to borrow his neighbor’s mountain bike, shortening his travel from a two-hour walk to a 45-minute ride. As for Amoring, he was finally able to rent a bicycle after losing three days of work to looking for one.
While he appreciated the option to stay-in, security guard Jayson Martirez decided to brave the streets daily, wearing his facial mask and driving his motorbike from Payatas, Quezon City to CCM. He added that he appreciated the bank’s kindness in providing those who stay-out with free lunch.
“Mahirap makipagsapalaran ngayon dahil hindi natin nakikita ang kalaban natin. Ganun pa man, mas mahirap ang walang pinagkakakitaan. Nagpapasalamat pa rin ako, dahil hangga’t bukas ang BDO, may sahod ako para sa pamilya, hindi apektado ang aming pangkabuhayan (It’s difficult to fight an enemy you can’t see. Despite this, it’s more difficult not to have a job. I’m thankful to BDO for my livelihood, for enabling me to earn and continuously provide for my family),” said Martirez.
A message to fellow frontliners
The ECQ was due to end on April 30, but was further extended to May 15 in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas. For BDO’s security and maintenance frontliners, this only means that their mission continues.
Alberina and Martirez are optimistic that this too will pass. “Pagsubok lang to. Malalampasan din natin to. Lagi tayong magdasal para sa kapakanan ng iba, lalo na ng mga healthcare professionals at mga mahal natin sa buhay (We will get through this challenge. Let’s keep praying for the welfare of others, especially healthcare professionals and our loved ones),” said Alberina.
“Tuloy pa rin ang buhay kahit ganito ang panahon. Ginabayan tayo ng Panginoon habang tayo ay nagtra-trabaho (Life goes on despite our situation. God is guiding us as we work),” Martirez added.
Martinez and Ramos remind their fellow frontliners to be patient and strong. “Kailangan ng pasensya sa panahong ito. Anumang pagsubok, kailangan mong lumaban (You need patience during this time. Whatever challenge comes your way, you need to fight),” Ramos said.
“Tibayan mo ang loob mo. Isipin mong malakas ka at kaya mo ang anumang hamon ng buhay. Alagaan mo rin ang kalusugan mo at laging magtiwala sa panginoon (Have courage. Keep in mind that you are strong and you can surpass life’s challenges. Take care of your health and trust in God),” Martinez said.
To those who are staying home, Orias and Amoring have a message. “Kung di importante ang pupuntahan mo, wag ka na lumabas. Mahirap ang ginagawa namin, pero patuloy kaming nakikipagsapalaran dahil may umaasa sa amin (If it’s not important, stay home. Working during this time is difficult but we continue to fight because our families depend on us),” Orias said. “Kung may option kayo to stay home, stay home. Pakinggan natin ang mag eksperto. Mag social distancing tayo, mag sanitizers, at maligo lagi. Gawin natin ang lahat para talunin ang virus at ma-normalize na muli ang ating mga buhay. Protektahan natin ang isa’t isa laban sa kalabang di natin nakikita. Suportahan natin ang mga frontliners na patuloy nagtra-trabaho para sa pamilya nila at para rin sa atin. (If you have the option to stay home, stay home. Listen to the experts. Observe social distancing, apply sanitizers, and shower regularly. Let’s do everything to beat the virus and normalize our lives again. Let’s protect each other against this invisible enemy. Let’s support our BDO frontliners who continue to work, not only for their families but also for us),” concluded Amoring.