Teen bikes 850 kms to seek help for family hit hard by pandemic
BORONGAN, EASTERN SAMAR—As the coronavirus pandemic has made life more difficult for his family, 19-year-old Peter Roncales decided to leave their house in San Pedro City, Laguna province, to seek help from relatives in Eastern Samar province.
But he did not have money for public transportation, so he grabbed his bike and pedaled more than 850 kilometers to reach his parents’ hometown in Oras, Eastern Samar.
The 10-day trip turned out to be a nightmare. Roncales had a flat tire seven times, got sideswiped by a motorcycle, and lost consciousness at least twice from hunger, thirst and fatigue.
Some thugs even tried to get his bike but left him after he pleaded tearfully.
Thoughts about his family’s future kept him going. When he arrived at the provincial checkpoint in Eastern Samar at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21, he was extremely exhausted and famished.
Roncales did not have the required travel documents or coordinated with the local government, but those manning the checkpoint were more concerned of his condition and immediately gave him food and water.
“He was so disoriented when we interviewed him. He was very tired when we brought him to our quarantine facility,” said Andi Ballete of the local task force overseeing the local response to COVID-19.
As part of health protocols, Roncales was taken to Oras National High School for a 14-day quarantine before he is allowed to see his 85-year-old grandmother, Marciana.
In a telephone interview this week, Roncales recalled how life had been difficult in San Pedro, especially when the pandemic struck in March.
“Since the lockdown, we hardly ate three times a day,” he said.
His father, Mariano, 62, a “taho” (soybean curd) vendor, could not go out of the house and sell due to quarantine restrictions. His mother, Liza, 60, is a laundrywoman.
The sixth in a brood of seven, Roncales said three of his siblings had families of their own and could not help them.
He said his family had planned to return to Oras for good but never had a chance.
“The imminent eviction and our family’s starvation made me decide to personally ask help from local officials in my parents’ hometown,” he said.
Without money for a bus or plane ticket, Roncales used the bike he bought for P4,500, an amount given to him by a couple for helping them when their vehicle broke down in San Pedro.
He never told his parents about his plan. On Sept. 12, he left San Pedro with only P150 in his pocket and an extra shirt. No protective gear like helmet and gloves, but only slippers for the long way home.
Roncales bought water and junk food with his money. When supplies ran out, he tried to knock on the doors of houses along the way, but many refused to help.
But there were also Good Samaritans. At least 15 strangers offered food and drinks, while a soldier helped him get a ferry ride from Matnog town, Sorsogon, to Samar Island.
“I hope those in authority will help my family go home to Eastern Samar, and I wish that they will help us land any job,” he said.
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