Glenda Victorio is not easily daunted by challenges.
A native of Morong, Rizal, her father died when she was young, and her mother left her in the care of her grandmother.
At 12, she worked as a virtual assistant for a company, but was later fired because she was underage.
At 17, she got pregnant.
On the day of her debut, she got married in the morning and attended her debut party in the evening.
At 19, she founded her own skin-care company, Brilliant Skin Essentials.
Now 23 years old, Glenda, who started as an online seller, is the lady boss of more than 600 employess, 46 franchisees, and 705 distributors.
Just when she thought life couldn't be better, a big challenge struck her family.
Glenda found herself battling COVID-19.
Her husband Mac Victorio, five-year-old son Chris McGleinn, and two-year-old son Chris McBrille also tested positive.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) spoke to Glenda on August 10, the last day of her quarantine period.
She said, “Ngayon pa lang ako nakaka-recover from all the heartbreaks na pinagdaanan ko sa COVID-19 na ito.”
On July 19, she had her swab test done at St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City, and it cost PHP21,000.
According to her, the swab test for someone who is symptomatic is more expensive than for someone who is asymptomatic.
In her family, Glenda was the only one who displayed any symptoms. Her husband and two children are all asymptomatic.
GLENDA'S COVID-19 STORY
Glenda went into detail about her COVID-19 experience.
She narrated, “Ang una kong naramdaman, gumising po ako na hindi masakit ang lalamunan, pero tuyong-tuyo siya na parang masikip. Iyong na-experience ko, sobrang tuyo lang siya.
“Nang maramdaman ko iyon, inunahan ko na siyang inuman ng megadose Vitamin C at saka lemon."
She also sought the advice of Dra. Farrah Agustin-Bunch, her business partner and an herbal doctor.
Glenda continued, "Uminom ako ng Vitamin C with lemon. After two days, nawala na iyong pananakit ng lalamunan ko. So akala ko, okay na ako.
"Pero, habang dumadaan ang araw, napapansin ko, nanghihina ako. Iyong likod ko, may muscle pain ako at lambot na lambot ako.”
Thinking that she was just experiencing muscle pain, Glenda decided to get a massage.
“Noong magpamasahe ako, doon ko na nalaman na wala na pala akong pang-amoy. Kasi iyong Katinko, kahit na anong tapang niya, kahit na anong dami niya, hindi ko na siya naaamoy. So iyon talaga, iyong pang-amoy. Kasi iyong panlasa, hindi naman siya gaanong nawala.”
She added, “Grabe akong addict sa Katinko. At sabi ko, bakit hindi ko siya naaamoy, iyong aroma niya? Gusto ko iyong aroma ng Katinko. Kahit ilagay ko sa ilong ko, hindi ko naaamoy.”
It was on the fourth day that she started to run a fever that went on and off.
“Kapag uminom ako ng paracetamol, nawawala siya. Hindi rin ako iyong ubo nang ubo. Inuubo ako, pero may plema. Pero iyong madalas akong umubo, hindi naman.
“Kaso, naramdaman ko na hirap na akong huminga. Kahit mag-inhale, exhale ako, hindi ko na maramdaman. At iyon iyong nasabi ko na kailangan ko ng oxygen dahil hirap na akong huminga.”
This was when she decided to get a rapid test, but the results came back negative. (More doctors and institutions are now saying that rapid testing is ineffective.—Ed.) Nevertheless, she went on self-quarantine and did not report to work.
“Hindi ko siya iniisip na COVID, pero protocol po kasi sa company namin na kapag meron kang ganun, hindi ka puwedeng pumasok.”
Glenda could not pinpoint where she contracted COVID-19, especially since her company has strict protocols in the workplace.
She said, “Actually, sa production namin, sobrang higpit ng protocol. Bawal talagang pumasok kung may anything. Naka-full gear kami, face mask, face shield, naka-PPE.
"Kaya sa production namin, walang nagka-COVID dahil ingat na ingat kami. Kaya ibig sabihin, tama po ang ginagawa namin sa production.”
However, she admitted that the team office was more lax about following safety protocols.
"Aminado ako na ako mismo, nagkulang ako sa social distancing, especially sa office namin.
"Sa Admin, medyo naging maluwag. And since magtatag-ulan, iisipin mo na baka sipon lang... pero ngayon, hindi mo pala dapat binabalewala. Mag-stick ka dapat sa protocol mo.”
Add to that, interaction with her employees and suppliers was unavoidable. She has two factories—in Bulacan and in Morong, Rizal.
On July 20, Glenda received the results of her swab test. They came back positive.
The tests of her husband and the "angels" accompanying her regularly also came back positive, even if they had ridden in different vehicles to get their swab tests.
GETTING MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR COVID-19
Going to St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City for her swab test proved to be an eye-opener for Glenda.
She told PEP.ph, “Nang pumunta kami ng St. Lukes, pagdating doon, ia-assess ka nila. Doon lang ako nagsimulang magkaroon ng takot. Noong ini-X-ray ako, iyong pinasukan ko, makikita mo roon, mga naka-tubo, nasa baba lang, nasa lobby lang, wala silang kuwarto.
“Sabi ko, 'Ayokong mangyari sa akin ito.'"
At that point, she had yet to receive her results, so she was sent home.
When Glenda was confirmed positive for COVID-19 the next day, she also learned that St. Luke's was at full capacity for COVID-19 patients. She proceeded to the nearby hospital, De Los Santos Medical Center.
It was then that she decided to have her children undergo a swab test.
“Alam niyo, ang hirap magkasakit ng COVID. At ang pinakamahirap, hindi kami ang kasama ng mga bata nang magpa-swab test kasi, positive na ako.
“Para sa akin, naiisip ko lang, parang hindi ko kaya na iyong ginawa sa akin, gagawin sa mga anak ko. For sure, iiyak sila nang iiyak."
Since she tested positive, she realized that the people she came in contact with also needed to get tested.
"So, bukod sa family ko, big family kami. Family ng husband ko, sa side ko at lahat yun, kailangan naming ipa-swab test. Pati ang mga staff ko.”
Even as she was hooked up to an oxygen tank in the hospital, Glenda and her staff were busy planning how everyone could get a swab test. This was until the local government of Morong, Rizal, coordinated with her for contact tracing.
While the local government helped, Glenda took it upon herself to order swab tests for all her employees, shouldering the corresponding fees. Seven of the office staff came back positive for COVID-19.
The testing of employees also had repercussions on her business operations,
“Another heartbreak, kailangang isara ang planta ng 14 days. Imagine, I’m thinking also of more than 600 employees na hindi makakapasok.
"Parang araw-araw akong umiiyak. Hindi lamang iyong may COVID ka ang iisipin mo, iisipin mo lahat ng tao mo."
Glenda was concerned about her employees, but was doubly worried about her children.
“'Tapos po, iyong araw na iyon, kausap ko ang five-year-old na anak ko, umiiyak siya. Sabi niya na COVID positive siya. Alam na niya na may COVID siya, so umiiyak siya.
"'Tapos, nakita pa niya sa video na naka-oxygen ako. Nang matanggal na ang oxygen ko, sabi niya, masaya raw siya dahil akala raw niya, mamamatay na ko.”
Although protocol states that asymptomatic patients must be isolated from one another during quarantine, they were able to get permission from the barangay health office to allow her husband to stay with their two children during their self-quarantine.
Aside from Glenda, her husband, and their two kids, 11 of their family members also tested positive for COVID-19.
Upon hearing the news, Glenda recalled, “Nalula ako! Sabi ko noon, isa lang ang mag-positive sa family, ang hirap. What more pa yung 11 kayo?
"So lahat iyon, mino-monitor ko. Siyempre, hindi sila makalalabas. Kaya lahat sila nasa loob lang.
"Meron lang akong isang staff na pinakiusapan na naghahatid ng pagkain nila sa pinto.”
Glenda also lamented the inaccuracy of the rapid test results, as she had tested negative on July 18, but her swab test results came back positive the very next day.
Based on her experience, it is important to get yourself checked if you have symptoms.
"Kasi po, nagpa-rapid test ako at negative. So, kung pinagwalang-bahala ko lang iyong symptoms ko dahil negative naman ang rapid test ko, siguradong napakarami kong nahawahan dahil lalabas ako at magtatrabaho."
She was discharged on July 20, when her swab test results came back negative.
GLENDA ON LIFE AFTER COVID-19
After her stay in the hospital, Glenda continued to self-isolate in their condo unit in Manila.
She got to see her family on August 12.
Now that she and her family have recovered from COVID-19, Glenda only wants to give thanks to everyone.
And given the feedback from clients, including the customers of her cafe—which is also a spa and an aesthetic center—her businesses do not seem to have been affected.
“Ang masasabi ko lang, pasasalamat. Kasi, hindi ko po naranasan na katakutan ako or iyong produkto namin."
When Glenda got COVID-19, she learned about the many stories of discrimination against COVID-19-positive patients. Unfortunately, her staff encountered this firsthand.
“Meron po kasing kuwento ang isang staff ko na hindi raw sila binentahan ng bigas nang lumabas na iyong dalawang anak ko, nag-positive.
"Sabi ko po kasi, kung ako lang, kaya kong i-take ang judgment, discrimination. Pero iyong pamilya ko, parang hindi ko kaya na sila ang makakaramdam ng ganun."
This led Glenda to appeal on social media to stop discriminating against people who are positive for COVID-19.
“Actually, nag-live po ako, umiiyak ako. Nakikiusap ako na huwag naman kaming i-discriminate. Kasi po, di ba ako, ang market ko sa social media, may mga nagpa-follow sa akin.
“Nakiusap ako sa social media na huwag kaming i-discriminate, ang kailangan talaga, prayer."
Glenda is thankful that, as a COVID-19 patient herself, she did not suffer any discrimination.
The ordeal made her realize many things.
First was that discrimination can happen even when you don't realize it.
"Imagine, kapag nagkasipon lang o ubo ang isang empleyado, hindi na siya puwedeng pumasok muna. Parang naisip ko, ‘di ba, discrimination din iyon?" she pointed out.
She also learned the importance of keeping the faith and staying positive, especially as you find yourself in isolation.
“Kasi, kung pagdadaanan po itong pinagdaanan ko ng ibang tao, iyong magkaroon ka ng ganun karami sa pamilya mo na mag-positive, asikasuhin mo iyong big numbers ng empleyado mo. Ang dami pang sumasagi sa isipan mo, mag-isa ka.
“So, kung panghihinaan ka ng loob, wala... ang tatalo sa iyo, hindi COVID. Ang tatalo sa iyo, iyong sarili mo.
"At kailangan mong matutong mag-isa. Kasi that time, awang-awa ako sa sarili ko.
“Kailangan mong matutong mag-attend sa sarili mo kasi, hindi all the time, nandiyan ang mga nurses. Kailangan mong matutong mag-BP sa sarili mo. Kasi, kapag kaya naman, inaano nila na kumilos ka sa sarili mo."
As a businesswoman, she also realized the importance of being financially prepared for emergencies and reexamining your lifestyle.
She said, “Siguro nga po ako, may pera, masuwerte ako. Pero palagi ko pong sinasabi iyan sa mga staff ko, kailangan may emergency funds. Hindi lang sa mga staff ko, sa mga tao rin.
"Kailangan may emergency funds para sa ganoong pagkakataon, and paano kung naka-risk na ang buhay ng mga anak mo?
“At hindi talaga mahalaga ang mga bagay. Kagaya ngayon sa COVID, hindi mo magagamit ang magagarang gamit mo."
She underlined: "Mag-ipon.”
After all, as this pandemic has shown, anyone can get COVID-19.
“Mayaman ka, mahirap ka. Kahit ako po na may pera na, nahirapan pa akong humanap ng kuwarto. Lahat po ng koneksiyon ko, tinawagan ko na, humingi ako ng tulong.
“Iyong una ko pong kuwarto, sobrang liit niya na kapag ini-ECG ako, inilalabas iyong mga gamit ko dahil hindi na magkakasya. Ganun po siya kahirap.”
Lastly, Glenda said her COVID-19 experience was the Lord's way of showing her what she was giving up as she immersed herself in her business.
"Iyong time sa family," she said. "Siguro po, ginising ako ni Lord, na parang, 'Ay trabaho ka nang trabaho, magpahinga ka.' Ang daming nagsabi sa akin na, 'Pinagpapahinga ka lang, Ma’am.'
“Kasi, trabaho ako nang trabaho, nawalan ako ng time sa family ko. Kaya iyon ang time na na-realize ko na, 'Lord, mawala lang ang COVID ko, family ko muna. Mga bata muna bago 'ko magbalik sa trabaho.'
“Family first kasi, hindi mo mababawi ang panahon. Sabi nga ng mga doctors na tumingin sa akin, 'Ma’am, sarili mo naman. Kailangang gumaling ka.' At lahat po yata ng mga nurses doon, naiyakan ko na.
“Ang realization ko po at ang madalas na sinasabi ko, the Lord will fight for you. You only need to be still."