The twilight looming over the agricultural town of Pagbilao cues the end of another day. While families at home are getting ready to sleep, police officer Neil Sarez prepares for a long night ahead.
Neil belongs to a team of cops manning the checkpoints of Pagbilao in the province of Quezon, Philippines. From his humble home in Lucena City, he reports daily for his 9 PM to 9 AM shift. Since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was declared by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16, aside from preserving peace and order in the community, part of his work now involves enforcing the town’s quarantine rules.
While serving his post, Neil and his team come across people from all walks of life — and inevitably, to the constant risk of exposure to Covid-19. Apart from the risk of contagion, having to deal with people attempting to circumvent quarantine rules adds to his daily struggle.
“It’s mostly the elderly people who drive without their license that I deal with at the checkpoint. There are also some who insist on going out just to earn and survive through honest means. If only I could help them.”
The declaration of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine immensely affected the normal business operations and livelihood of people. This prompted an exodus of people from the metropolis to their respective hometowns. As Neil narrated, he had encountered some who have travelled from Manila on foot. While he is fortunate that he can still go home to his family every day, it’s already been weeks since he last talked to his wife personally.
“After my 12-hour duty, I stay at the first floor of our house while my family is upstairs. My wife and I can only talk to each other through our mobile phones for safety reasons.”
The whole world is still navigating through uncertainty from a battle against an unseen enemy, but Neil’s high hopes for the future remains unfazed. When the crisis is over, he plans to reconcile with the people he inevitably had misunderstanding while he was on duty.
“When this is over, I will apologize to those whom I might have angered and offended, and I will explain to them why we are enforcing the law — it is for their protection and safety.”
He has a short reminder for his fellow front-liners:
“To my comrades, before we perform our duties, let us pray for guidance. I have hope that one day, all these will end, and we will continue serving for the good of our country and for the glory of God.”