Stranded UP students, boarders struggling to cope with limited food, loneliness

By: Mariejo S. Ramos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 30,2020 - 09:20 AM

MANILA, Philippines — As the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, extends help to jeepney drivers, vendors and other workers displaced by the Luzon-wide lockdown, it has also been grappling with the needs of around 300 dormers, as well as the still unnumbered boarders, inside and outside the campus.

Albert Stalin Garrido, a fresh graduate of UP’s geography program, is part of a community of student and alumni boarders in Krus na Ligas struggling to cope with the enhanced community quarantine.

On a normal day, he said, around 15 to 20 establishments offering cooked food would be open.

“We heavily depend on them, as we boarders usually don’t have our own kitchen or fridge and we can only store ready-to-eat goods,” Garrido added.

Two weeks since the Luzon-wide lockdown was imposed, loneliness has started to creep in for boarders like him.

“I rent a room alone and for me, it can be quite lonely and emotionally challenging especially as I can’t have much face-to-face interaction with my family, friends, and colleagues,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in my room this long before.”

Andres Cruz, a fifth-year Malikhaing Pagsulat major who also lives in Krus na Ligas, decided to stay in his dorm despite wanting to return home to Davao City, especially when his mom died on March 19 due to multiple organ failure.

“I recently became an orphan. I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t go back home as flights were restricted,” Cruz said.

His siblings live in Project 6, but he has no way to get to them.

Stuck in his dorm with two roommates, they have pooled their resources for their daily needs.

According to the UP Diliman Information Office, the University Food Service continues to prepare meals for dorm residents on campus and is accepting donations for ingredients.

The UP Diliman University Student Council also launched the “Isko:Ops COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease) donation drive” for affected students, vendors and jeepney drivers.

Garrido, Cruz and their neighbors have found solidarity with each other during this difficult period.

“A community of stranded boarders has also been formed lately, and those who spearhead it have been receiving donations from concerned citizens and using their free time to prepare food for all of us. I’ve been provided with rations for at least three meals, so far,” Garrido said.

The UP Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA) also launched this week its “Oplan Hatid” program to help students go home to their respective families, especially those living in the provinces.

But as of Saturday, OVCSA is still gathering information on student boarders stuck in Metro Manila before coordinating with relevant offices to arrange their trips back home.

Cruz said he was aware of OVCSA’s initiative, but he would rather stay in Manila to avoid contracting COVID-19.

He is also afraid that he might be an asymptomatic carrier who can possibly spread the virus to his loved ones.

While Garrido sees the Oplan Hatid project as a good initiative especially for students outside Metro Manila, he said providing interventions for mental and emotional problems, such as anxiety, that have become “an unfortunate trend for most UP students,” could also help. INQ

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TAGS: borders, COVID-19, dormers, Luzon-wide lockdown, UP Diliman

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