Stuck Behind Walls
July 29, 2021
No Place Like Home
August 12, 2021
Show all

A Stick Up My Nose

By David Haldane

August 5, 2021


The masked swabbers came for me today. They brought both good news and bad.

The good news was that I finally got to step out of the Cebu hotel room that’s imprisoned me for the past seven days. Even got to spend a moment luxuriating in the afternoon sun. The bad news was that they jammed a stick so far up my nose that it felt like it was tickling my brain.

Ah, but that’s the price of admission these days to the Philippines I love; 10 days of quarantine in a government-certified hotel.

Next comes the much-anticipated moment of truth wherein they tell you whether you’re COVID free and therefore fit to rejoin humanity. If you qualify, you get to finish out your term at the hotel before proceeding home for another seven days of enforced isolation. All of which earns you the privilege—if you’re an oldster like me—of staying inside your house indefinitely in conformance with an unending lockdown.

I don’t even want to know what happens to the poor devils who don’t qualify for those grand prizes. Honestly, the Inhabitants of Southern California—whence I recently journeyed—ought to stop complaining and realize how lucky they are.

But let me tell you a bit more about that legendary and infernal stick. It’s flexible with a cotton swab at the end, true, but boy can it plumb the depths. By that I mean the depths of your upper sinus where, doctors tell us, dwells the innocent-looking mucus housing those deadly pathogens that have killed so many and confined me to this hotel. The stick’s little sister does a fair job too of scraping the same mucus, or perhaps its first cousin, from the deepest regions of your throat by practically reaching into your stomach.

The result: an ostensibly accurate reading of one’s COVID status.

For me, though, the worst is over, at least that’s my hope. A few days from now I expect to receive an email informing me I’m A-OK. Then, immediately upon release following the mandatory 10 days, I’ll catch the overnight ferry home to Surigao to serve out the rest of my sentence.

Long-term incarceration is always better with an ocean view.


Sing up here to receive “Expat Eye” free by email weekly.



David Haldane’s latest book is a shorty-story collection called “Jenny on the Street.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning American journalist, author and broadcaster dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.




  1. Keith says:

    Have you had the jab as well? Is that mandatory to enter Filly?

    • David Haldane says:

      Hi Keith,
      I have had the jab, but it is irrelevant to entering the Philippines, at least right now. Nobody even asked if I was vaccinated.

  2. Simon Gibson says:

    You should be able to apply for a Special Pass from your Barangay Hall that will allow you greater freedom to leave your home, access Shopping Malls etc.

  3. W. A. Miller says:

    Good to hear you haven’t lost your sense of humor. That is bad they don’t let you insert the swab like they did me here at a drugstore. Much better. I always liked Duterte for his drug policing but now he seems to be falling for all this B.S. about another lockdown. It will ruin me if he keeps it up. Also ruin the entire country. Glad to hear you will soon be home. I enjoyed your books: keep it up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *