Art By Cyryna Molit And Ronalyn Lourdes Olivares; Layout By Angela Asiño
Art By Cyryna Molit And Ronalyn Lourdes Olivares; Layout By Angela Asiño.

Marked #Survivor: Testimonies of recovery, stories of hope

Now fully recovered, let’s listen to how these individuals survived the battle against the common enemy—the COVID-19 virus.

By Jella Gonzaga, and Marinel Peroy | Monday, 27 September 2021

With over a million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines up to date, many Filipinos experienced various treatments for their specific conditions—from isolation to medication for at least 14 days. In a series of interviews with The Benildean, step into the shoes of different stories and experiences of COVID-19 survivors, each with different levels of severity, yet with similar struggles nevertheless.

ELLE, Benildean Student, 21

“I was symptomatic. I needed an oxygen tank near my room in case of emergencies because I had low oxygen levels. I coughed a lot, lacked appetite, lost my sense of taste and smell, and had night fevers, so it was definitely hard.”

Sharing the whole experience as indescribable, Elle explained how she struggled to be a COVID-19 patient while juggling academic responsibilities as a Consular and Diplomatic Affairs student. On March 5, during the Benilde Model United Nations (BenildeMUN) virtual conference, she already had the symptoms but she dismissed them due to her hectic schedule. 

“My asymptomatic mom tested positive and this meant all 11 of us in the household had to get tested as well. Fortunately, only three of us [my brother and I] tested positive,” Elle explained.

To isolate themselves properly and for safety purposes, the rest of the family members who tested negative temporarily moved to their other house.

By shrugging off her sickness for academic and personal responsibilities, her sleepless nights got worse as she also experienced fevers, coughs, and colds. Though she took her time to rest, she forced herself to meet deadlines. At times when she failed to attend classes or comply with the deadlines, she mentioned that she’s grateful for considerate professors.

Seeing news and hearing stories of many people dying due to the virus itself, Elle was terrified of the possibility that might happen. “Everyone had to adjust and had to worry because of this, and it was just a chaotic environment during the initial period of my [COVID-19] experience,” she shared.

While going through the experience of being sick alone, Elle realized that, “the feeling of not breathing properly was also quite eye-opening on how I should take care of myself more, both mentally and physically.” With this, she ate healthy food, did breathing exercises, and stayed hydrated. A proper amount of rest was a priority and not an option. 

The insurmountable support and love from family and friends helped Elle to not be easily trifled with the COVID-19 virus. Considering herself lucky and grateful for the people around her, she mentioned that constant communication with them eased the anxiety that she was going through because of online classes and the pandemic itself. 

Elle is a living testament to how students sacrifice their overall well-being for the sake of online classes, whilst conquering the virus. As a COVID-19 survivor, she hopes that students like her shall not be slaves of their bestowed obligations—to take time to rest—and prioritize themselves.

DIANA, Nursing Student, 22

Wala na akong ibang naging choice kung ‘di lumaban sa sakit. For me, I wake up like every day is a blessing, kahit na naka-stuck pa rin tayo dito sa online class and sa bahay.

(“I had no choice but to fight the illness. For me, I wake up like every day is a blessing, even though we are still stuck in our homes and online classes.”)

Together with five family members, Diana, a 3rd year student at the Chinese General Hospital Colleges, was diagnosed with COVID-19. She suspected that she became infected after she and her family bought groceries at Landers last March 21. 

Then the last week of March came. She shared that it was then when she initially felt the symptoms. “Sobrang hingal ako noon na parang magfe-faint [ako]. Eh usually hindi naman ganoon [tuwing] nag jo-jogging ako.”

By March 29, she realized her lost sense of smell and taste after not being able to smell her breakfast’s supposedly strong aroma. Though she knew that she possibly had the virus at the back of her head, she mentioned that she was still in denial. When April Fools Day came, the truth was revealed. She expressed, “Para akong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig sa mukha ko, like sampal siya sa akin.”

Diana found that she was symptomatic. However, she considered herself lucky as she did not feel her symptoms were critical.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family members were home quarantined. With the help of their family doctor’s treatment recommendations, she said, “Masigla pa rin ako kumain, hindi naman ako nanghihina (...) hindi rin ako ina-asthma.”

Still, conquering the virus with her family was a painstaking process for Diana since she had to witness her other family members struggle.

Day 12 into quarantine, Diana’s mother became in need of an oxygen tank as her oxygen rate dropped to 93. As her older sister works as a nurse in Australia, Diana’s nursing student skills were put into practice to take care of their mom; whereas, she even bought herself a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

However, there came a point where her mom needed to be confined whilst her dad was experiencing symptoms too. 

“Sobrang hirap kapag wala kang connection [sa paghahanap ng quarantine facility or hospital to stay]. Paano na lang kung wala kaming kilala na nagkaroon din ng COVID-19, na gumaling ‘di ba?”

Thankfully, on April 12, the barangay officials in her area helped them, providing two options: to stay in a quarantine facility in Nueva Ecija or to be confined in a hospital in Pampanga. After choosing the latter, they were able to ride the ambulance to accommodate her parents from Meycauayan, Bulacan to St. Raphael Foundation and Medical Center in Pampanga. 

Months after recovering from the virus, the family still strives to recuperate from its unforeseen situation. 

Diana reminds her fellow Filipinos to register and vote wisely for the 2022 elections. She looks forward to a future where she will be able to go out worry-free with her friends and witness how Filipino medical workers receive higher salaries.

IRA, Yearbook Coordinator,  27 

“When you get COVID-19, the focus is not on other people, the focus is on you because now your life is on the line.” 

Ira works as the Yearbook Coordinator for Ad Astra, the official student organization tasked to create the yearbook of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. Now in a work-from-home set-up, she has gone back home to Bulacan. Though no contact tracing was done, she speculated how she acquired the virus from her mom, an LGU official, as she regularly visits her office.

Contrary to others who felt sadness and anxiety during the process, Ira was alright being alone; though it seemed to be a pretty mundane routine as she usually stays in her condo. 

“Basically, I recovered because of rest. Wala akong medicine.” She adds how her recovery did not require much assistance, only the intake of multiple vitamins. Though her symptoms were mild, what really added to her situation was the stress due to her frustration with the whole process of recovering. She was in a cycle of not feeling the symptoms where she expressed how she thought she was already well, but the next day, fatigue and “weakness” would surprise her. 

“I joined a COVID-19 survivors group; parang mababasa mo rin ‘yung mga experiences ng ibang tao, kung hindi sila, ‘yung loved ones nila.” Hearing about stories of those who passed away due to the virus, she struggled with the uncertainty of what would happen.

Ira stressed the importance of rest no matter how busy one is. “Whatever your work is, you have to make time to rest.” Advised by the clinic to take a sick leave, she decided not to do any work to focus on recovering.  

Observing how the government is handling the global crisis, she expressed, “I did not expect them to handle it well, especially with the current president and administration. They don’t really have a stellar record since they were put into place.”

“Even when I was really careful,” she stressed, “I still got infected, and it’s not my fault because if the government did what they had to do, I shouldn’t have been having the same experience now as last year.”

Now, she is still recuperating through rest and taking her vitamins regularly. She also advises COVID-19 patients to make themselves their top priority instead of working too hard on their daily and work lives. “When you get COVID-19, the focus is not on other people, the focus is on you because now your life is on the line,” she emphasized.

Moreover, Ira wants Filipinos to stand up for themselves by knowing what they deserve; and to speak out. “Be a force so that everyone can be a force as well with you,” she concluded.

ADMIN, Building Administrator, 61

“We should not be attached to material things. We should cherish our family and love them more. In a snap of a finger, everything can be taken away from you.”

Admin, a 61-year-old building administrator in Makati, is an asymptomatic COVID-19 survivor. She is Elle’s mother who had also contracted the virus in their family. 

“I was in denial because I felt that I [was] doing my part in [following] the safety protocols. I did not experience the usual symptoms of COVID. [All that] I remembered was I had a severe headache and my [blood pressure] elevated.” 

Together with Elle and her adopted son, she stayed at home for the whole quarantine period while the rest of the family members who tested negative stayed at their other house in Tagaytay. However, the physical, mental, financial, and overall impact of the illness was affected by fear and anxiety. 

Explaining that her struggle was “very minimal,” Admin and her two COVID-19 positive children only had to follow the doctor’s advice on taking their medicine supplements and vitamins, doing breathing exercises, and having proper rest. 

“What gave me strength that time [was my] faith in God and the love of my family.”

On the other hand, regularly attending the Sunday mass and family gatherings were some of the pre-COVID-19 experiences she misses the most. She added how every moment was precious yet it seemed that each moment was taken for granted; now it remains as a treasured memory.

Throughout the process of combatting the virus, Admin shared that, “there are things I thought I can’t live without. But after COVID-19, the only thing important is you’re alive. Trust in the Lord,” believing that everything happens for a reason, and the experience itself, has given her lots of realizations.

As a survivor herself, she advised that other COVID-19 survivors must help in educating others. She also shared that the government administration must “be consistent and realistic in implementing their rules in controlling this pandemic.” 

For faster progress of the country against the pandemic, Admin hopes that Filipino citizens continue to follow safety protocols. Other than that, she wishes that bonding with family members and friends could be like how it used to be once again—free and without the wary feeling of catching the virus.

AHRVIE, SAP Financial and Controlling Consultant, 29

“Be strong kasi talagang gagawin ka nitong mahina, kasi feeling ko marami rin effect ‘yung nababalita sa TV na ganitong number namatay… mga kakilala mo na ganon pala nangyari, mga mababasa mo sa social media... talagang maaapektuhan ka.”

(“Be strong because the virus will really make you weak; I feel that there’s a big effect of the news on TV showing the number of people dying, stories of people you know who suffered tragic experiences, and those you read on social mediayou will really get affected.”)

No one is completely safe from the virus, especially in a high-risk environment. Ironically enough for Ms. Ahrvie, it was not in her previous risky office job as an accountant where they were physically required to attend with minimal precautions that she contracted the virus, but it was only when she shifted to another company as a consultant while working from home. 

Pero nakakatawa ‘di ‘ba? Kung kelan work from home, doon nagkaroon,” she remarked. The virus was silent and unpredictable when she tested positive. Looking back, she speculated that she was asymptomatic, only that she was unaware.

She admits how that was not her first contact, reminiscing back to her overnight stay at a condo with her four other friends, all of whom tested positive. Two months later, she tested positive along with her father and cousin.

Thinking it was just her allergic rhinitis acting up, her symptoms got worse as she experienced sneezing, uncontrollable coughing, body pains, and fever.

In Ms. Ahrvie’s case, it was not only her physical well-being that regressed, but also her mental health, with the recurring thought of what might happen to them.

Kung makikita mo sa social media, ang daming nanghihingi ng tulong kasi ganito na ‘yung bill nila.” Not only was quarantine isolating for her, but it also affected her work, “‘Di ako makapagpakitang-gilas kasi change career ‘yon dahil sa pagod.” 

But what concerned her the most was the people she infected. This pushed her to constantly message them to check their temperature and oxygen rate, even when she was also sick. 

She held on to her family as support, forgetting about the treatment expenses. Dismayed by the lack of support from her barangay, she turned to consult Vice President Leni Robredo’s Bayanihan E-Konsulta program where they received a care kit with all the necessary medicine for any symptom you may get from the virus, as well as disinfectants.

For other COVID-19 survivors, recovery extends longer than 14 days where they may still experience weakness and other physical symptoms. For Ms. Ahrvie, she has tests to do after, as she still continues to cough despite being recovered. Her doctor explained to her how there are cases where not everything could be seen in x-rays, even when it shows to be normal. “May bakas ng COVID ‘yung lungs and respiratory organs, kaya magpapa-CT scan pa ako para malaman kung bakit.”

As she knows the struggles very well, she asks for current patients to surrender to the Lord all of their worries. She hopes the government will move double-time for a pandemic-free country and encourage everyone to take the vaccine.

Over a year into the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus is still affecting countless many lives, and we are still forced to adjust to the situation at hand. While vaccines may already be accessible, the progress is slow and similar stories of Filipinos being infected with the virus are still being told.

May these testimonies from COVID-19 survivors provide the same strength to other patients for their recovery, and other Filipinos as well to speak out for better assistance in handling the pandemic. 

To fully recover as a nation, it is necessary to inform ourselves regarding the vaccines so we can be on the same path towards immunity, and no loved ones will be infected again.

Disclaimer: In order to protect their identities, aliases are used instead of the interviewees’ real names.

These profiles are also published in The Benildean Volume 7 Issue No. 2: Restored.