June 17, 2020

Elizabeth Borromeo


“Despite the stinking smell of garbage, I must do my job.” — Michael Gonzales, front-line garbage collector


When Luzon was put in lockdown on March 16, most businesses and establishments in the National Capital Region ceased normal operations: offices, restaurants, factories, schools, malls were closed down to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

While movement of people had been restricted since then, the delivery of essential services like health care, markets and grocery stores, delivery, garbage collection, continued. People who belong in these groups have been tagged as front-liners — the modern-day heroes who unselfishly perform their work despite the risk posed by Covid-19.

One of these front-liners is Michael Gonzales, a garbage collector and sanitation worker of five years, who has been rounding up trash from homes in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines.

“I still go to work every day. Despite the stinking smell of garbage that I have to endure, I must do my job. It’s my source of livelihood.”


Cabanatuan City is the most populous area in Nueva Ecija and the fifth in Central Luzon. If Michael and his fellows in the sanitary services will stop in the performance of their duties, the sidestreets of the city will overflow with garbage, the city will reek, and consequently, the health of the residents will be put at greater risk.

Thank God, they haven’t stopped.

Every day, Michael gets up very early for his 5 AM shift, as his routine is, unmindful of the life-threatening virus infecting hundreds of Filipinos by the hour.

“Even if there’s a virus spreading, I must be brave and depend on the mercy of the Lord.”

He said that a couple of times since the lockdown, he and his fellow collectors have received relief goods from the people in their neighborhood — a small gesture of gratitude for their continuing their service amidst the pandemic.

The community quarantine is still in effect in many areas of Luzon. Everything still remains uncertain and public health and safety are still at risk. 


But just the same, Michael will still collect garbage and clean up the streets of Cabanatuan even after the quarantine. Despite the risk, as a Christian, he finds comfort in the words of the Almighty written in the Bible.

“Let’s stay inside our homes. Let’s sacrifice so that Covid-19 will no longer spread.”

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