Jave Philip Velizario could not be in a better place than in Macau, China, when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began its onslaught across the world.
The overseas Filipino worker told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) that Macau has been proving itself stronger than COVID-19 because the people follow orders.
The 26-year-old OFW said they all have one goal in mind: the common good.
"Well-disciplined kahit nung wala pang coronavirus. Sumusunod na po talaga iyong karamihan ng mga residente at turista sa mga rules ng gobyerno.
"Ngayon, paglabas ko ng bahay, totally wala talagang tao. Saka pag-uwi ko ko hanggang umaga, mga 9 a.m., wala talaga.
"Samantalang dati, punong-puno ng tao sa Macau," he said In his interview with PEP.ph on March 11 via Instagram direct message.
The government's prompt response and efficient implementation of the preventive measures also helped. Macau's Chief Executive Ho lat Seng shut down the city as early as February,
The virus was just then beginning to spread outside Wuhan, China, where it was discovered in December 2019
On February 4, 2020, the ban on outgoing and incoming travel to Macau took effect.
Jave said his family in Bulacan province was worried about him, particularly his father.
He related, "Syempre noong una, nag-wo-worry sila, knowing na nasa China ako. Binalita ko rin agad ang tungkol sa lockdown.
"Gusto na nila ako pauwiin na lang sa Pinas. Pero sabi ko, 'Kaya pa naman namin ang sitwasyon dito. Na-co-control naman nila.'"
The COVID-19 cases in Macau started slow. According to Jave, "Dati kasi pa-isa-isa lang talaga ang kaso, one case per day. Umabot kami hanggang sampu."
On March 6, almost a month after the city's lockdown, the city's 10th coronavirus patient was discharged from the public health center.
With all 10 cases fully recovered, health officials declared the gambling city virus-free.
For good measure, Macau has kept its strict anti-COVID-19 ordinances in place.
Ten days later, on March16, Macau confirmed the resurgence of the virus.
It reportedly happened after a 26-year-old South Korean female who traveled to Portugal entered Macau through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
This was followed by more confirmed cases, which increased to five as of March 19.
The latest case reportedly is an OFW who visited his relatives in the Philippines on January 27, and headed back to Macau through a flight to Hong Kong on March 16.
According to Jave, "Iyong mga bagong case, nasa quarantine area pa lang, nalaman nang may sakit sila.
"Kaya hindi na sila nakakagala muna para makahawa ng sakit."
Meanwhile, Jave's posts since March 11 about his situation in Macau and about the city's brutal measures to ward off the virus have earned over 44,000 shares and 37,000 reactions at press time.
BRUTAL MEASURES IN MACAU
The news of the lockdown shocked both Jave and his boyfriend Jerwin.
This is Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub.
Jave recalled, "Noong una, medyo naninibago po kaming lahat dahil nasanay kami na laging busy mga tao dito.
"Iyong boyfriend ko, since sa casino siya nagtatrabaho as waiter, 15 days silang naka-leave with pay.
"Ngayon halos wala na masyadong upuan ng customers sa casino.
"Kailangan, one seat apart sila maupo. Ganoon dapat ang mga nagsusugal doon, one seat apart na sila."
Jave, on the other hand, works as a service crew of a global fast-food chain that used to be packed with customers.
"Ako po, sa McDonald's po ako nag-wo-work. Hindi po kami nagsara. Halos kami nga lang iyong open 24 hours.
"Pero bawal po ang dine-in sa lahat ng Mcdo. Puro take-out lang para maiwasan kumalat ang virus."
Like in any city on quarantine, mass gatherings are also prohibited in the then crowded Macau.
"Kung dati sa bawat sulok ng mga park madaming nag-iinuman, ngayon bawal na po,"Jave said.
With all the commercial establishments closed, Jave and his friends have been passing out the time in the room shared by Jave and his boyfriend.
He continued, "Mabuti na lamang po at medyo may kalakihan iyong room namin.
"Nakakapag-invite kami ng friends para makapag-bonding kahit sa loob ng bahay."
Jave has been an OFW since he started working in Saudi Arabia in 2016.
He recalled, "Mahirap kasi ako makahanap ng stable na trabaho sa Pilipinas dahil undergraduate po ako..
"Nag-Saudi ako from 2016 to 2018 as a waiter, then noong nalaman kong mas malaki iyong sahod dito sa Macau, e, nag-decide na akong pumunta dito."
LESS BUS RIDES, FACE MASKS FOR ALL
Jave shared that Macau has affordable and efficient bus services for the people's daily routines.
"Bus talaga lagi naming sinasakyan dito. Mura po kasi, three Macanese pataca (MOP)—equivalent to PHP18—kahit saan ka na makakarating dito sa Macau."
And when the lockdown was implemented, bus operators were quick to make the necessary adjustments
According to Jave, "Pwede pa ring mag-bus, kaso limitado na iyong byahe.
"Iyong dating hanggang 12 midnight na last trip, naging hanggang 10:30 p.m. na lang.
"May iilan pa rin namang bus na bumabyahe sa madaling araw, pero after 30 minutess na po ang alis."
Aside from limiting bus rides, Macau also has a strict policy on wearing face masks where violators are immediately sanctioned.
Jave described, "Bawal din pong sumakay ng bus kapag wala face mask.
"May mga case din na mga Pinoy nahuli sila kasi wala silang suot na mask.
"Nahuli siya sa loob ng bus, tinekitan sila ng mga pulis. May multa, MOP600 [PHP3,819].
"Ganoon din sa labas, kapag wala kang mask, papagalitan ka ng pulis.
"Sila mismo sasama sayo para bumili ng mask."
If purchase of alcohol in the Philippines is limited to only two bottles per person, in Macau purchase of face masks is limited to only 10 pieces per person.
In his Facebook post, Jave stated how it is being implemented: "10 pieces [of face mask] per person. After 10 days, you can buy another 10 pieces."
Stores who sell face masks higher than the price cap of MOP8 (equivalent to PHP48) per 10 pieces will be penalized.
"Bawal dagdag presyo, kundi ipapasara nila iyong botika," Jave remarked.
BODY TEMPERATURE IS CHECKED ON EVERY STREET, IN EVERY ESTABLISHMENT
Similar to Philippines' preventive measures against COVID-19, Macau checks the body temperature of its citizens to ensure that they do not have fever, which is one of the signs of COVID-19.
They are implementing a stricter policy in casinos and hotels, where visitors' IDs are required.
Jave detailed, "Bawat establishment dito, saka kahit papasok ka sa palengke, bangko, ichecheck nila ang temperature mo.
"Sa mga casino, sa mga hotel, chine-check pa iyon ID para kung galing kang Wuhan, hindi ka papapasukin."
Jave also was once ordered to sign an official memo declaring zero travel history to countries stricken by COVID-19.
"One time nga po, pumasok ako sa casino, then may pinirmahan akong declaration form kung meron akong history of travel kung saang bansa.
"May ganoon pa sila."
Jave added that right now, his father wants him to stay put in Macau because of the continued rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.
"'Di naman na po ako pinapauwi ni Papa kasi mas malala na po ngayong sitwasyon sa Pilipinas.
"Lagi lang kami nag-vi-video call para magkamustahan," he said.
Jave reminded, "Personal hygiene lang, mga bes, para maiwasan ang virus.
"Mas mabuting lagi tayong may dalang sanitizer at laging magsuot ng facemask.
"'Wag na isisi sa gobyerno ang nangyayari dahil pare-pareho lang tayong walang mapapala.
"Magtulungan na lang tayo para labanan ang virus," Jave concluded.