They are frontliners, too

Fernando Sepe, Jonathan Cellona, Mark Demayo, and George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2020 11:22 AM | Updated as of Apr 01 2020 11:42 AM

They are among the unsung heroes in the battle against COVID-9. They are not in the healthcare industry, but these people, along with many more, keep some of the basic services of a city or town running so everyone else can stay safe at home.

Despite the lockdown, many roads in Metro Manila are still kept clean, garbage is still being collected, groceries and wet markets are open, and a number of fastfood enterprises are delivering food at consumers' doorsteps.

They may not be saving lives the way healthcare workers do, but their services are essential for people under community quarantine.

Their work puts these men and women, many of them breadwinners, at risk due to the community transmission of the novel coronavirus 2019.

The virus is out there and they can get infected. But they still work because they must provide for their families in the face of a health emergency.

They are frontliners too.


Meet Josie Tegistegis, a streetsweeper with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) “Oyster” or Out-of-School Youth Serving Towards Economic Recovery.

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Josie leaves at 6 a.m. from her house in Pasig using a bicycle. The one-and-a-half hour ride gets her to the office where she has to time in, and then it's off to her assigned work area on EDSA and Ortigas Avenue just before 9 a.m. where she immediately goes to work. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Work is keeping the area around the corner of EDSA and Ortigas Avenue clean, including the three-level partial stack interchange and the streets below at the boundary of Mandaluyong City and Quezon City. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Aside from keeping the streets clean, Josie and her team take care of the plants along the stretch of the Ortigas flyover. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The job is physically demanding, even for a young one, since the work is done mostly under the sun and there are only a few shaded areas. But 45-year-old Josie tries to keep pace as she needs the job badly. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Josie and her team push a large water container on a trolley up from the Ortigas side of the flyover so they can water plants. They try to finish the work above the flyover before noon to escape the scorching heat of the sun. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

“Anak ko po tatlo, nag-iisa po ako naghahanap buhay,” Josie says when asked why she has to keep her physically demanding job despite the threat of the new coronavirus. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Josie and her team take their lunch below the flyover, pooling together what everyone brought. This way, everyone gets to taste a bit of everything as they scrimp on their lunch budget. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Josie goes home at the end of the day for another one-and-a-half-hour ride and a walk to her house in Mandaluyong. “Tipid talaga sir, ako nga nagba-bike na lang po ako.” Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Home is a one-room house where she cares for the youngest of her three children and a grandson from her older child. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

“Una sa lahat, ang aking apo ang priority dahil maliit pa. Hindi naman natin hawak ang buhay nila,” Josie says. She practices hygiene since she doesn’t want to bring home any disease. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Josie keeps a collection of medicines ready for her household to help keep them healthy and in case someone gets sick. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

When all else fails, she throws her fate to divine intervention. “Just trust in God,” she says. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News


At a shawarma restaurant in Kapitolyo, Pasig City, two delivery boys chat as they each wait for their single order. Peggy Ann Cuyos, donning a white jacket and pink face-mask, arrives and greets the two guys ahead of her. She asks how many orders for the day they already have. Peggy was picking up two orders, a “double run.

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Now on her 21st order for the day, she remains full of energy, greeting her peers who were picking up their 15th order. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

At 36 years old, Peggy is respected by her peers in a service dominated by men. “Isa sa pinaka malakas yan makarami ng order. Kaibigan din n’ya karamihan ng Food Panda,” says one of her fellow delivery workers who asked to remain anonymous. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Peggy is known by many co-workers. Others who pass by the restaurant beep their horns as they see Peggy by the curb. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Food delivery service is one of the few businesses allowed by the government under the enhanced community quarantine in the whole island of Luzon. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Peggy and her companions share a meal on the road. Their job gives many others the option to have their food delivered so they can stay safe at home. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Peggy has taken on different jobs in her life: a security guard, an English tutor in Dubai, and a carinderia cook. Food delivery is just another job to help bring food on their table, Peggy says. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Peggy lives in a house in Pasig City with her two children from an estranged husband, her current partner, her current partner’s sister, a younger brother, and a cousin George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Among the working adults in this household, Peggy is the only one able to work due to the strict rules of the lockdown on transport and commerce. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

“Basta kung sino meron, eh ‘di sya muna. Pero sa ngayon, ‘di sila makalabas dahil sa lockdown, e ‘di ako na muna. Ganoon lang naman yun e,” Peggy says, casually dismissing her current role as sole provider for the whole household. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

“Simula noong mag-umpisa yung virus, ang hirap na pumasok sa trabaho. Yung sahod, parang wala, parang ‘di na namin nararamdaman,” her partner says, resigned to their current condition. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The situation only keeps Peggy’s resolve to do even better in her work. The lockdown is a hindrance to many, but for Peggy, it only means somebody has to pick up the slack. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

For Peggy, the lockdown is an opportunity to increase the number of her orders. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News


Most 23-year-olds with a job would probably be thinking about a new cellphone when they get their salaries. Not Kisses Abalos. Her parents died in 2019, just a few years after her elder sister also died, leaving behind two young children. With her two young nieces, plus an ailing 82-year-old grandmother, Kisses cannot afford to stop working. Not before the time of COVID-19, certainly not during COVID-19.

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Kisses has been working for three years in the food service industry, the last seven months for a popular convenience store chain located on Kalayaan Avenue in Makati City. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Due to the lockdown, Kisses works for 12 hours a day (with a an hour break) or four hours more than her regular 8-hour shift since some colleagues who live far from the store are unable to travel to and from the store. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Kisses would rather take the long journey from the border of Barangay San Jose and Plainview in Mandaluyong City to Barangay Pinagkaisahan in Makati City every day, even though there's a rented house provided by the store, because of the family she has to take care of. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Before the quarantine, her commute took less than 30 minutes. She would hitch a motorbike ride with her cousin and then take a bus ride. Now, walking to and from work usually takes an hour-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours, depending on the route she takes. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

That route usually includes passing by the market to buy food she will have to prepare for her family waiting at home. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Kisses now takes care of her two nieces, Kheyk, 11, and Cheese, 9, and her grandmother, Puring Hernaez Larman. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Lola Puring suffers from vertigo which has affected her ability to walk. Hence, she is unable to take care of Kheyk and Cheese while Kisses is at work. Via Facebook, Kisses asks a cousin who lives nearby to check up on them from time to time just to make sure they are alright. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Since there are two young girls and a senior in the household, Kisses is not comfortable leaving them alone for too long and entrusting their care to someone else. Hence, her decision to go home every day despite her employer's offer to stay in a rented house near the convenience store while the enhanced community quarantine is in effect. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

She does get exhausted, Kisses admits, but she has no choice but to continue working because it’s the only thing keeping them afloat. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

"Suwerte pa rin ako kasi may trabaho pa ako, may oras pa ako para mag-ipon kung mangyari pa ang total lockdown," she says, referring to rumors that government might declare a total lockdown and shut down all commerce. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

For now, Kisses is thankful her employers understand her and her co-employees' situation. "Yung mga amo namin, mababait. Hindi naman kami pinabayaan kahit papaano.” Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

“(Ito ang) patuloy naming serbisyo sa mga tao," Kisses says, as she starts another shift in the store, unmindful of the threats she faces under the enhanced community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News


While most people take every effort to stay clean and healthy due to the threat of COVID-19, garbage collectors like Richard Misolas, rue the reduced trash to collect and consequently the lower take-home pay that they get.

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Garbage collectors like Richard are paid a minimum wage (P537) for an 8-hour shift consisting of several trips from assigned areas to the dumpsite. During normal times, they can be assigned extra shifts, which means additional pay above the basic. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

With businesses closed, that means less garbage to collect. Richard is not at all happy that there’s less time for work and less trash to handle. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Richard doesn’t mind the filth. Richard and other garbage collectors earn extra when they sift thru the waste to separate recyclables, like plastic and metals, so they can sell them at the junk shop. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Richard is aware about the risks involved as he exposes himself not only to the germs in garbage, but the new coronavirus that can be transmitted thru objects and surfaces touched by an infected person. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

“Pero kailangan talaga kasi nagbabasura kami. Kailangan lagi kang malakas,” he says. Besides, they say, what would happen if they stopped collecting other people’s garbage? Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Since the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila began, Richard and other garbage collectors have had to console themselves with goods people appreciative of their work give to them as they stop by houses. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

“Minsan binibigyan kami ng may ari ng bahay,” Richard says. Today, he will be able to take home a couple more sardines in cans and a pack of noodles. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Home to Richard and his family is in Payatas Phase 3 in Quezon City, ironically on what used to be part of a large dumpsite that has since been converted into a residential area. Richard and his wife Jhane are proud to own the house they got thru Gawad Kalinga. He laments though that without the extra income, they will not be able to do improvements on it that they have planned. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

“Ginagawa namin ito para magkaroon kami ng pambili,” Richard says on why he has to earn extra money for home improvements. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

These days, Jhane constantly reminds Richard on precautions to take. “Sinasabi ko sa kanya, pagkagaling sa pinag-rutahan nila, sa garahe pa lang maghugas na ng kamay.” Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

To which Richard replies, “Puro naman basura ang hinahawakan ko kaya hindi na siguro ako tatablan ng virus, immune na ako dyan.” They both react with laughter. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

After the smile is gone, Richard ponders on a thought that bothers him intermittently as he goes thru his work every day. “Opo, natatakot po. Kasi baka makahawa din ako sa kanila kaya minsan hindi na ako pumapasok.” Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News