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‘My sisters banished me from the house’: how one Filipino family is staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak

By Catherine Albino
03/26/20 8:21 AM

You wouldn’t want to visit my parents’ house during this COVID-19 pandemic. Well, you couldn’t, even if you wanted to.

In our house live my parents, my youngest brother, our two dogs and my two wicked sisters. My wicked sisters, the youngest in a brood of six, banished me and our two other brothers from the house. Then they put our parents under house arrest.

My two brothers and I all have our own places but we regularly visit our parents’ house which we also consider our home.

Banned

On March 12, Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine. The rules and regulations of the community quarantine were still vague back then, but not in our house. Quarantine protocols were already in place and strictly implemented by my sisters.

My two brothers and I were banned from visiting our home, until further notice. Our parents weren’t allowed to go out of the house. They are the main concern because of their age.

On March 14, upon hearing news that a curfew will be imposed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., I decided to do a grocery run. I checked with my sisters to see if they needed anything at home so I could buy it for them. They sent me a list (with photos, to be sure). I shopped, making sure I got everything on their list, and then headed to my parents’ house to deliver the goods—coffee, bread, chicken, eggs, rice, oatmeal and more.

I rang the doorbell and my sister (I’m not sure which one anymore. They seem to operate as one.) half-opened the gate and stuck her hand out to take the groceries.

Disinfected

We stood there for a few seconds, both puzzled. Then, from behind her mask, she asked, “Oh, papasok ka pa ba?”

“Duh, alangan naman yung groceries lang!” I replied to this witch.

I was asked to wait outside while she got alcohol and a can of Lysol from inside the house. She disinfected me in our garage, spraying my entire body with alcohol and then with Lysol. Then asked me to go straight to the bathroom and take a bath, and not to open my mouth on the way to the bathroom. At the same time, she sent our parents to their room so they wouldn’t be exposed to me as I walked by. I don’t know what other sorcery she did while I was in the bathroom.

On March 24, my sisters decided stocks at home needed replenishing and so they asked if I can do it. The whole of Luzon was already under enhanced community quarantine then. Admittedly, I am the best option for errands. Only the plants in my place are at risk of being exposed to any virus I might harbor from going outside.

They sent me a list again. This time, there was also a list “from” the dogs. It took me about two hours to buy everything—from groceries and toiletries to dog medicine and human medicine. I told a friend I was going home. Knowing the strict quarantine protocols there, she asked, “Papapasukin ka ba sa bahay nyo?”

I confidently replied, “Yeah, prepared ako!”

Good plan

By this I meant that despite the heat, I had worn two layers of clothing so I can take off the outer layer and leave it in the garage when I go inside the house. Good plan, right?

I arrived at our house around 4 p.m., unaware that our quarantine protocols had been enhanced. I was unloading the boxes of groceries when my sister asked me to stop and wait. She put out a laundry basket and asked that I put the groceries there. I told her I was going inside. She asked me to wait again as she conferred with the other sister. They decided I can only enter up to the garage. They handed me a small stool for me to sit on. They then proceeded to disinfect each item I bought, dousing them with alcohol and Lysol one by one.

I stayed in the garage, resting and downloading Netflix shows. My sisters kept reminding me of the curfew. What would have they done if I got stuck there? Send out an airbed for me in the garage, probably. My parents said hi through the window. My father asked why I wasn’t coming in. My mother asked if I wanted to eat adobo. Of course, I did! So my sister lovingly packed it, gave it to me and sent me away.

These are my sisters. One just came home from work and was being disinfected in our garage.
You can find disinfectant scattered all over our house. These are in the balcony of my sisters’ room. At one point, one of them asked our dad, “Bakit yung alcohol mo hindi nababawasan?”
Boxes with groceries that had to be disinfected before entering the gate.
Next step is to disinfect each item inside the boxes.
It’s a long process. The sun had already set and she still was not done.
My mom and dog saying hi to me from a safe distance.
Me, in the comfort of our garage.
The adobo my mom offered, packed to-go by my sister.

How are you and your family staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak? Tell us about it and send photos to [email protected]