OWWA takes action, after OFWs endure nightmare quarantine at Rizal apartelle

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2021 11:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 14 2021 12:01 AM

OWWA takes action, after OFWs endure nightmare quarantine at Rizal apartelle 1
Photos courtesy of Rachelle Cabrera.

MANILA—The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Saturday relocated balikbayans assigned to quarantine at an apartelle in Cainta town, Rizal, after airing their frustration over substandard living conditions.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, OWWA administrator Hans Cacdac said the agency moved the Filipinos to other facilities, with Faustino Sabarez III, the agency's deputy administrator, responding to the scene to hear the balikbayans' plight and to check on their apartelle. 

Cacdac said Sabarez was accompanied by 3 nurses in case some returnees needed medical attention. 

"We're adjusting . . . These days, both OFWs and non-OFWs need to spend at least 7 days in a hotel quarantine facility. That used to be just 2 to 3 days. So we are pressed to come up with hotel rooms," the official said, explaining why the passengers were brought there. 

Rachelle Cabrera, a nurse returning from Saudi Arabia, confirmed they were transferred to a "better" hotel in Pasay. 

Cabrera on Friday alleged that she and some 60 others were made to stay in shabby rooms, dusty beds, and stained toilets upon their arrival at Eslove Apartelle. 

"Nightmare po talaga. 'Til now, di pa din ako makagalaw. 'Di ko alam paano 'ko mag-stay ng 6 or more days pa here," Cabrera told ABS-CBN News in a message Friday, a day before moving out.

(It was a nightmare, I can't move until now. I don't know how I could stay for 6 more days here.) 

" 'Yung mga kasama ko nga . . . Wala ang nangyari lahat kami nasa aisle. Bakit ganoon ang dumi? Pagkakita ko [sa room], Oh, my God. 'Yung bedsheet ng kama may stain pa siya. Kasi nga po apartelle tayo, tapos 'yung amoy ng kuwarto hindi siya ganoon ka-OK," she said in an interview. 

OWWA takes action, after OFWs endure nightmare quarantine at Rizal apartelle 2
OWWA takes action, after OFWs endure nightmare quarantine at Rizal apartelle 3
OWWA takes action, after OFWs endure nightmare quarantine at Rizal apartelle 4
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Photos courtesy of Rachelle Cabrera.

Photos courtesy of Rachelle Cabrera.

Photos courtesy of Rachelle Cabrera.

Photos courtesy of Rachelle Cabrera.

Photos courtesy of Rachelle Cabrera.

Photos sent to ABS-CBN News revealed a grimy comfort room, dilapidated door, and apparently used slippers for the apartelle space they were supposed to use to quarantine for a week. 

Cabrera also alleged that the apartelle employees said they were only informed about their arrival on that day.

Another balikbayan, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation, said bed sheets were changed upon request.

" 'Yung CR daw malilinis daw mamaya. Ewan ko kung malilinis pa 'to kasi tingin ko parang siguro linisin . . . Ganoon na nga siguro 'yung hitsura niya. 'Yung gripo mahina, tapos yung TV hindi mahinaan at mailipat yung channel," said the Filipino who arrived from Saudi Arabia. 

(They said the CR will be cleaned, but I don't know if they can do that. It's just how it looks. Water was barely coming out of the faucet. I couldn't change the TV channels, and I couldn't adjust the volume.) 

The OFW said balikbayans wished they were placed at a decent hotel, describing their situation as "unfair." 

" 'Yung iba nasa medyo maayos na maayos sila na hotel naka-stay. Parang ang unfair naman sa part namin na bakit ganu'n 'yun?," he said. 

ABS-CBN News reported on a similar situation late last year in Batangas, when returning Filipinos and foreigners arrived to a dilapidated hotel with no internet connection and running water. 

The Cainta apartelle's representative, who refused to be identified, explained to ABS-CBN News that the returning Filipinos were accommodated but acknowledged that management, too, did not expect the number of Filipinos that needed to be quarantined. 

The apartelle has yet to release a statement as of this story's posting despite repeated requests. — With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News