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.
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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.