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2020 Yearender: Workers’ worst struggles, moments of survival

Tarra Quismundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2020 09:15 AM

MANILA— In this unprecedented year of a pandemic that has spurred an economic recession, the struggle has been never more real for the working class.

From jeepney drivers forced to beg on the streets as they were kept off the road to a commuter dying— quite literally— to find a ride home, 2020 was filled with stories of both heartbreak and inspiration as Filipino workers found ways to survive and cope with a world changed by a pandemic.

Here are some of the stories that tugged on the heartstrings of ABS-CBN News readers this past year:

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Bayan Patroller Princess Collaiyne

Construction workers walk from Manila to Pangasinan

At the height of the strict lockdown in March, 8 construction workers had to walk all the way from Manila to their hometown in Pangasinan after their work was put on pause and public transport was suspended. Throughout the journey, they would take short breaks to eat and rest, and then march home again, said Jerry Estacio, one of the workers.

Jeepney drivers beg for spare change as they call on authorities to let them resume operations.Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

Jeepney drivers beg on streets

For months, many jeepney drivers in Metro Manila had to resort to begging on the streets, some even rummaging for scrap in garbage bins, to eke out a living as they were barred from plying roads during the strict lockdown in Metro Manila.

Nurses Ester Quisol and Cheryl Ravelo walk from their 12-hour duty at East Avenue Medical Center to Quisol’s home around the Kamuning area in Quezon City Tuesday amid the enhanced community quarantine, March 24, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Health care workers walk to and from work

In the early days of the enhanced community quarantine, the strictest lockdown level enforced during the pandemic, many medical front liners were left with no choice but to walk to their respective workplaces as public transport was suspended.

Shortly after, government agencies and organizations started offering free shuttle services for health workers, while some used bicycles for their daily work commute.

Messenger Alex Bodoso did not know how to bike but had to learn so he could go to work while public transport is suspended amid the COVID-19 lockdown. Mayrose Reducto

Man pedals to work on bike with training wheels

In June, a messenger went viral online after a netizen captured a photo of him on his way to work pedaling on a bike with training wheels. Messenger Alex Bodoso said he did not know how to bike but had no choice but to learn—and needed training wheels—so he could go to work.

Michelle Silvertino died of a lingering illness after waiting for days for a bus ride home on a footbridge in Pasay City. Nathanael Aviso and Jimboh Mojica

Woman dies while waiting for bus ride home

One story that drew uproar among ABS-CBN News readers this year was that of Michelle Silvertino, who died while waiting for a bus ride home amid transport restrictions because of the COVID-19 quarantine.

Silvertino, who was working as a house helper in Antipolo, wanted to go home to Bicol in the last week of May, when a strict lockdown was still in place. Her employers dropped her off at a bus terminal, but she ended up waiting for 5 days on a footbridge in Pasay City, with no trips leaving for her hometown.

On June 5, Silvertino, who had a lingering respiratory illness, was found unconscious and was later pronounced dead in a hospital. She was declared a probable COVID-19 case.

On the upside, here are stories that showed the best of how Filipinos coped through the limiting times of the pandemic:

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A man from Puerto Princesa, Palawan thought of bringing his grooming services to the streets as barbershops were restricted from operating under quarantine restrictions. Screenshot from video by Judith Bayron

Rolling barbershop in Puerto Princesa

As operations of salons and barbershops were restricted because of the coronavirus quarantine, one barber in Puerto Princesa, Palawan thought of taking his services to the streets. The so-called rolling barbershop, the brainchild of “Kuya Bem,” came complete with photos of hairstyle options, a mirror, and a seat for the client on his motorbike’s sidecar.

Narvacan National Central High School Facebook Page

Teacher climbs mountain for good internet signal to enrol students

In June, teacher Efren Cabotage from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur was hailed a hero for climbing a mountain to get good internet signal to enroll his students, as many had no means to sign up for the school year online. This came as classes shifted to remote learning because of restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delivery rider Francis Ax Valerio was snapped having an online class while parked on the side of a road in Parañaque City. Christian Lorenz Nuñez

Delivery rider pauses on the road to take online classes

In a story that showed the value of diligence, Francis Ax Valerio, a delivery rider, went viral after a photo of him taking a break from work to attend an online class was uploaded online. The third year communications student at Adamson University said he needed to work while still in school to help support his family.

Vendor gives free taho to frontliners

In August, a taho vendor went viral online for giving away free cups of the soya drink to frontliners at the Sta. Ana hospital in Manila and to police officers manning quarantine checkpoints. Rolando Urbina, a long-time taho vendor, said he thought of doing it as an expression of gratitude to frontliners in the pandemic fight.