MANILA - Rodel Cañas, a construction worker, and his wife Analyn Flores did not even get the chance to hold their youngest child Roniel, who was born in Rizal Medical Center in Pasig last March 11.
On April 13, the baby boy, who was born premature passed away due to sepsis and respiratory distress syndrome.
“Paglabas ko po ng ospital, hindi ko na po siya nadalaw dahil ganito ang panahon, lockdown,” Analyn said, as she recalled that the baby had to be incubated immediately after birth.
(When we were discharged from the hospital, I wasn't able to visit him because of the lockdown.)
Rodel meanwhile lost his job because of the lockdown, which was imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). He had no money to pay the hospital bills.
They also did not know how to bring their child home--they had no vehicle, and they knew nobody would give them a ride if they were carrying a cadaver.
“Sabi namin balikan na lang bukas (ang katawan) kasi wala kaming sasakyan. Sabi po niya dalhin niyo na ngayon para 'di na bumalik bukas. Pagkatapos binigyan ako ng P500 'pag may nagpasakay po sa amin, ipamasahe po,” Rodel shared.
(We told them we will just go back the next day because we don't have a vehicle. They told us to just bring the body so we don't have to return. They gave us P500 for our fare.)
The hospital released the body and asked for certificate of indigency to help the couple settle their bill.
The bereaved couple began their journey home on what seemed like a long funeral procession, with Analyn still recovering from her caesarian operation.
From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the curfew already in effect, the couple brought their child home.
“Siyempre alam din naming matatakot sila dahil sa COVID pagkatapos may dala pa kaming kahon, tiniis na lang namin na maglakad,” she shared.
(We know they will be scared because of COVID, then we also had a box with us so we just walked.)
The couple considered burying their son in their own backyard to save money. Before that, they went to the barangay to ask for the certificate.
Thelma Ramirez, East Rembo barangay captain said she was touched as soon as she heard their story and had the child’s body cremated.
“Tinanong ko kung bakit niya kailangan ng indigency, naikwento niya sakin na malaki na ang bill niya sa ospital. Doon ako naantig sa sinabi niya na inilabas nila ng ospital at buhat buhat nyang inuwi papunta sa kanilang bahay. Alam ko ang kumukuha niyan morgue, ngayon lang ako nakarinig ng ganiyang sitwasyon,” Ramirez said.
(I asked why they need the [certificate of] indigency, they said they had to settle their hospital bill. I was moved when he told me that they went home with their son's body. This is my first time to hear that kind of story because usually the morgue would take care of the body.)
In a statement issued by Rizal Medical Center, the hospital said they allowed the couple to bring the baby home because the father said he didn’t have money to pay for the cremation.
The hospital also didn’t want to keep the bodies in the morgue long due to the COVID-19 situation.
The hospital said the couple needed to submit a certificate of indigency so they can settle the hospital bill amounting to PHP245,789.
The barangay promised to include Rodel as a recipient of the government’s amelioration program.