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Photo Essay: No time to grieve during coronavirus pandemic

Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2020 09:54 PM | Updated as of May 07 2020 12:50 AM

Photo Essay: No time to grieve during coronavirus pandemic 1
The family of Rodolfo Santos is accorded just a few seconds to grieve at the doorstep of Baesa Crematorium in Novaliches on May 5, 2020. The facility is where bodies of Covid-related deaths in Quezon City are cremated and follows strict physical distancing rules, even for deaths that are not Covid-related. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

After 39 years of marriage, Miriam Santos had one last chance to see the body of her husband, Rodolfo. She and her children were given just a few seconds, with the body in a closed cadaver bag.

Despite desperate pleas that they be allowed to say goodbye even for just a few minutes, as is customary in Philippine religious tradition, the staff at the crematorium could only give them a brief moment before the body is carried to the furnace. 

Rodolfo Santos, 62, died on May 2 of complications related to a fourth stroke he suffered on March 14, 2020. Before this, Rodolfo suffered a third stroke in 2018 that prevented him from going back to work as a barangay tanod (village watchman). Miriam then had to make ends meet as a laundrywoman with help from some of her children who had jobs on and off.

All this ended when COVID-19 hit the country hard in February and a lockdown was imposed starting mid-March. Only one child working for a grocery chain was able to continue working. 

Then the stroke happened and Rodolfo was immediately brought to Quezon City General Hospital. But he never made it out alive.

Based on the hospital's records, Rodolfo died of pneumonia but he was never declared a person-under-investigation or PUI for Covid-19 during his confinement. Department of Health regulations mandate that all Covid-related deaths have to be cremated right away and taken care of by the local government unit. 

This is why the Baesa Crematorium was activated last March 24 by the Quezon City government. Since then, the crematorium has had to handle an average of eight bodies a day, even those not considered PUI. 

This was also the last place Miriam saw Rodolfo again, after last seeing him in the Intensive Care Unit on February 28. The family was eventually accorded a few seconds with Rodolfo, albeit in a body bag.

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Miriam Santos, center, walks away from the funeral services vehicle carrying the body of her husband Rodolfo Santos.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Miriam and her children arrive at the Baesa Crematorium in Novaliches where Rodolfo will be cremated.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The family has to wait in a tent outside and cannot approach Rodolfo's body before it is cremated.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Rose Anne Santos, the fourth of six children, pleads with Baesa Crematorium manager Paolo Hipolito to allow the family a few moments with the deceased Rodolfo.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The family of Rodolfo and Miriam Santos wait outside the crematorium as Rodolfo's body is prepared for transfer to the furnace inside. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Rodolfo's body in a cadaver bag is laid outside the doorsteps of the crematoium.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The family is allowed to view it for a few seconds before it is brought inside.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The family was not allowed to see or touch the body, which was sealed inside the cadaver bag.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

After just a few seconds, Rodolfo's body is brought inside the crematorium and straight to the furnace. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Miriam's children prevent her from going near the body of Rodolfo. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Miriam and her children can only grieve for a few seconds from a distance as Rodolfo's body is taken away for cremation right away.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Miriam Santos remains inconsolable, both for the death of her husband of 39 years and for not being able to see him one last time before he is cremated.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Miriam Santos can only shed tears from afar as her children try to console her.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Miriam Santos can only shed tears from afar as her children try to console her.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

After a few moments, the family is escorted away to a place outside the crematorium. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The family has to wait for the cremation to end under a tent outside the crematorium.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The cremation will take approximately two hours. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Kevin, the youngest male in the family, views his father's ashes after the cremation. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

The remains, with a few remaining bones, will be grinded into ash. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Kevin receives the remains of his father which they will bring home.Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News