Stranded construction workers in UP battle hunger, worry for families

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 21 2020 05:45 AM | Updated as of Apr 21 2020 06:26 AM

Hundreds of construction workers have been stranded at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus since the lockdown was imposed in the entire Luzon island to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Thirty-one of them are staying in their barracks just behind where the razed Faculty Center used to stand.

Because of class cancellations and the disruption of the semester, there were barely any students inside the buildings, some of which were even converted to be COVID-19 quarantine facilities.

But the helpless workers are still inside the campus, waiting for relief for their daily sustenance.

On Monday night, three of the workers recounted the ordeal they had to go through, including battling pangs of hunger and intense worries for their families back home.

The workers felt abandoned when their boss from the construction company they work for left them with just three sacks of rice.

The rice barely lasted a week because at that time, there were 47 of them inside the site.

"Pinabayaan kami ng boss talaga namin. Kasi subcontractor lang kami dito. Yung boss namin, tinawagan namin. Nagalit pa. Sabi niya, sardinas na lang din kinakain niya, wala na raw siya magagawa para sa amin," said Restopher Quiachon, one of the laborers.

They had to endure a week of hunger, only having enough to eat once a day. To fill their stomachs, some just picked fruits from trees around the area.

"Isang saingan na lang sa isang araw. Isang kain na lang. Eh marami kami. 47 kami. Nabubuhay kami sa bigay. Kung walang nagbigay, matagal na kami namatay," said Alvin Arpon, another worker.

"Kumakain kami ng mangga, manunungkit lang kami ng mangga diyan. May puno diyan. Ulam namin. Yun na lang inuulam namin." said Sonny Gumanas.

Those living in Metro Manila eventually found their way home, but many had no choice but to stay behind, with no compensation or food.

Like many construction workers, they were also in a "No Work, No Pay" employment scheme.

For them, this was the biggest burden. It meant not being able to send money to their families back home.

"Sa pamilya namin, sana maintindihan nyo na wala kaming ano, wala kaming trabaho, wala sahod," said Restopher, a native of Bohol.

They are asking their boss if he can apply for cash aid from Department of Labor and Employment for them.
 
"Kung may maawa sa aming tumulong, yung makaka-ano sa pamilya namin. May anak ako maliit. Pagkain at padala kung pwede. Perang kaunti," one worker said.

Several groups from UP have extended help so the workers can have enough food to eat.

The workers said their living condition is better now, thanks to help from UP groups such as the All UP Workers Union.

"Malaki pasalamat ko na sa mga taga UP na sinuportahan kami sa pagkain. Hindi kami pinabayaan dito nung time na yun." said Sonny Gumanas.

But the workers say they won't be at ease until things become a little bit more certain.