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Alba Iulia
Monday, August 10, 2020

New processes on arrival in the Philippines – here’s what overseas Filipinos need to expect

A step by step guide for overseas Filipinos coming home to the Philippines.

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While travel restrictions and quarantine rules are in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, one can expect a more difficult journey to the Philippines.

Michael Gabriel Angel came to Australia in 2019 as an international student and studied for one year at Bridge Business College in Sydney. He was unable to complete his two year Diploma as he needed to return home after experiencing financial hardship. After several flight bookings that were cancelled due to the pandemic, he successfully reserved a seat on a special flight with Philippine Airlines on 27 May.

Michael shares his detailed travel experience coming home to the Philippines. He hopes that this will help those planning to return home in the coming weeks until travel restrictions normalise.

Michael Gabriel Angel shares his journey home, and the strict processes on arrival in Manila

The Journey home

Pre-Flight – I was actually one of the passengers who flew through a special or sweeper flight from Sydney, Australia to Manila, Philippines. My Philippine Airline flight number was PR212 with a departure date of 27 May, 10:35AM AEST time.

6:00am (AEST) – I arrived at the Kingsford Smith Sydney International Airport. Seeing the airport with not many people at all made me think whether my flight was really commencing. There were officers there to assist passengers

Check-in counters opened, people fall in line with 1.5 meters apart

7:14am – Check-in counters opened. As usual, social distancing of about 1.5 meters is observed, unless you are flying together with someone or as a family.

10:53am – It’s boarding time.

Passengers just came inside the plane

11:17am – We just entered the plane at this time following some on-boarding guidelines: one-seat apart, with only two people on each row. Flight attendants are in full PPE.

Arrival Card, Health Declaration Card (Yellow) was handed in the plane after take off.

Arrival in Manila

5:09pm (Philippine time) – Touchdown at NAIA Terminal 2. On the health declaration card (yellow form), we were instructed to write down the letter “L” on the upper right corner if working Land Based.

Before disembarkation, officers wearing a white suit collected our completely filled-up yellow cards.

5:26pm – As soon as we got down from the plane, we headed towards the airport terminal building.

This is where the briefing took place inside Terminal 2.

5:34pm – All of us passengers were instructed to take our seats for briefing about what to expect, locations for quarantine and all other step-by-step procedures.

They handed us out four forms to fill out:

CIF or Case Investigation Form
IATF or Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (Declaration Form)
Affidavit of Undertaking
DASS21 Form

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officer explained the national protocol that any person coming in the Philippines from outside countries need to undergo a swab test.

After the test, we need to stay in a quarantine facility accredited by the Department of Tourism. They have a list of hotels where we can choose to stay while waiting for the result. PCG will not allow non-accredited hotels that were booked earlier, besides, public transportation or any private vehicle are not allowed to fetch you.

The government will provide shuttle services to those accredited hotels. And yes, these hotels are under our personal expense.

(Editors note: OFW’s registered with OWWA will be provided with free accomodation in a government facility, with complimentary COVID-19 swab test.)

The PCG officer reiterated that the hotel we are to stay at is not for pleasure. Instead, it will serve as a quarantine facility while waiting for the swab test results. We were not allowed to go out whenever we want to or even just use amenities like swimming pools. We need to follow protocols.

The release of swab test results is a maximum of 7 days. However, the normal waiting time is said to be about 3 to 5 days.

There are FREE quarantine facilities supported and fully covered by the government. There are three locations for you to choose if you don’t want to pay for a hotel: a) Eva Macapagal Terminal (pier), b) 2GO Vessels or c) Philippine Arena at Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Still waiting for our turn. While PCG officers were assisting passengers

7:36pm – Still waiting. It really took time due to observance of social distancing at immigration. Priority was given to senior citizens, pregnant, and people who arrived from Melbourne, since they arrived earlier.

I saw others taking pictures of the current list of accredited hotels from the DOT. See pictures below for your reference.

Swab test area

8:07pm – The swab test for our batch had started, we were called by five’s. I think it is also because of the limited number of booths for swab testing.

8:17pm – I finished my swab test. On the booth, a medical technologist will do the testing, they will ask for your IATF declaration as well as the CIF or Case Investigation Form. After the swab test, expect that a PCR test slip (stub attached on the lower part of your IATF declaration form) will be handed over to you.

Important Tip: They told us to take a picture and not to loose the stub/PCR test slip as it is your proof that you already underwent a swab test.

Then after that, we were asked to go back to our seats and wait for some time to finish all other passengers on queue in the immigration area. Our DASS21 forms were collected afterwards.

9:16pm – Time to proceed to immigration after the long wait. 25 people are only allowed to proceed to the immigration which took another 20-30 minutes of waiting time.

Claim baggage area. Belts not in operation.

9:36pm – After immigration, I went to pick up my check-in baggage and then went to a booth where we need to list our preferred quarantine facility to stay at.

Booths for quarantine facility

10:15pm – I finished signing up for my chosen hotel to stay at. I wanted to stay at Philippine Arena, however, the place was fully booked, therefore I chose to stay at Go Hotel North Edsa branch.

According to the booth personnel, payment for the accomodation will be made at the hotel. The minimum payment would be for three nights, and extended until test results arrive.

Philippine Coast Guard page on Facebook

Booth personnel mentioned that in order for you to know your COVID test results online, there’s a Facebook page of the Philippine Coast Guard. There’s a link there of the master list of Passengers names with negative test results. Positive cases will not be shown the master list. But if you are positive, there are assigned personnel who will go to your quarantine facility to pick you up and transfer you to the treatment center.

Waiting for our shuttle service

10:40pm – At this time, we were asked to fall in line to wait for our bus service to arrive. This service will take us to our preferred quarantine facilities. One of the PCG frontliners went over to collect our Affidavit of Undertaking.

PCG officers giving food and water

11:01pm – By this time, passengers from my flight have not yet had dinner or snacks. There were no available eatery/food/restaurants past through the immigration. We were all tired and consumed. Our last food intake was at 4PM while we were onboard the plane. One of the passenger was asking the front-liner if they have some food or where to buy as we haven’t eaten yet. And surprisingly, PCG front-liners gave us some food to eat and a bottled water. I’m saying this because, I am not sure if they are really giving food for the passengers or they just gave food because someone brought up our situation. But personally, I really appreciate their efforts and the way they talked to us. They are very calm. I salute and admire them for their generosity.

PCG Shuttle bus service

12:27am – Finally, our bus service arrived. We were few and the last batch to be sent to our hotels. Most of the passengers are to stay at Go Hotel Timog Branch while I’m the only person to be sent to Go Hotel North Edsa Branch. Still, we need to wait for some time inside the shuttle as there were still other passengers to board with us.

Inside the bus

1:33am – The bus leaves and takes people to Go Hotel Timog Branch before they sent me to North EDSA. There were 4 people remaining to be sent to 2GO Vessels.

Go hotel front desk counter

2:18am – I arrived at my destination after an extremely tiring journey.

Read about the rest of my hotel quarantine stay, and when and how I found out my COVID test result: Hotel quarantine after arrival in the Philippines: expectation vs reality

Final tips

I hope this article can give you an idea of what to expect when you come home in the Philippines.

To all returning Filipinos out there, especially those who will be flying back home, expect that my experience may also happen to you, so pack yourselves up with patience. Remember, we are in a crisis right now and everyone of us are affected.

Maybe there were other people out there who experienced more struggle than I had, but surely not all of us would come to the point of what I’ve experienced. Our experiences may vary as the national protocols have been continuously changing and adapting with the new normal.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming this to be an accurate and factual basis. The events I’ve stated here are all based on my personal views and experiences. I am fully unaware of the differences and similarities of the experiences of others. If there are any protocols I missed to mention here, I leave it to the authorities to fully inform the public otherwise.

Exhausting me after a very long journey from Australia to my hotel quarantine at Go Hotel North Edsa

Thank you to the frontliners!

I want to thank the frontliners because I saw how much they’re working hard on situations like this. They even extend their time, resources and services to all of us even when their lives and health are at stake. They may not be perfect, but I saw that they’re doing their best. I felt that they’re more exhausted than us.

Finally, I want to make it clear that my intention is to give you a clearer picture ahead and alleviate that anxiety/fear caused by lack of information. I am encouraging you to share this post especially to those Filipinos out there who will be flying back soon to the Philippines. I wrote this because like them, I did not know what to do and where to find related information. I also feared of the unknown what might happen to me as soon as I arrive.

Thank you for taking time to read and for sharing. Please keep safe!

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Hi! I noticed that GO Hotels did not indicate price for meals. How/where do you get food during the stay?

  2. I heard some passengers waited for over 10 days to get their results and some were inaccurate. How much was the hotel and was it longer than 3 nights? I plan not to travel until this system is gone…

  3. Thank you for the kind input as what to expect in returning back home to our country , Philippines . Hopeful the procedure will be more organized , precise , and fast especially for senior citizens in processing results also for those be shouldering hotel accommodation while awaiting for test results . Senior citizens like us wouldn’t be able to bear long hours waiting and queuing , and not having any food nor water in take . Thank you ,

  4. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

    It gave my 17-year old son an overview. He is coming home 2 weeks from now after a year spent in the US as a youth student exchange.

    Againe, thank you and God bless!

  5. This is very helpful. But do you know about the policies for the filipino who is not filipino nationals? Because me and my family are flying to go home to Philippines this coming july. But we don’t know what are the policies for the filipino who are foreign nationals. Thank you.

  6. Hello! Only the 3 quarantine facilities that you had mentioned were available? I thought there is another place like Eurotel is included? Thank you and stay safe!

  7. Please can you confirm if you can get the result of your swab test within 7 days or longer. Is it thru that it takes months before you getter result? Thank you.

  8. What about if you are from the province like Pangasinan. Any transportation available after quarantine.
    Also, I have a condo at shell residence by MOA. It is empty. I used it only when I go to the US as a stop before going to and coming back from my trip. Can I not used it for my quarantine?

  9. Thank you for writing this piece. I’m sorry to hear about your hardships. I wish you well and may you be successful in future endeavors. There are still many opportunities out there for someone who perseveres like you.

  10. Hi, you may refer to one of the images which has a list of hotels. There are a few others. Michael the writer stayed at Gohotel North Edsa.

  11. quarantine required ng gobyerno at ng DOH bakit ang pasahero ang magbabayad sa bahay o hotel lalo na sa mga ofw???? kalokohan yan!

  12. Here in Canada when passengers arrived from other countries they are required to isolate for 14 days in their houses or wherever they will stay without a covid test in the airport .. can authorities in the Phils just monitor if the arriving passengers are following the 14 day isolation procedure and give penalties if they don’t follow. The system of covid test in the airport and waiting and staying in hotels for days are too much of a hassle. My young son and I are supposed to go back home to Phils because we are dual citizen and wants to be with love ones soon now Im having second thought and might postpone our flight or cancel them.

  13. Here in Canada when passengers arrived from other countries they are required to isolate for 14 days in their houses or wherever they will stay without a covid test in the airport .. can authorities in the Phils just monitor if the arriving passengers are following the 14 day isolation procedure and give penalties if they don’t follow. The system of covid test in the airport and waiting and staying in hotels for days are too much of a hassle. My young son and I are supposed to go back home to Phils because we are dual citizen and wants to be with love ones soon now Im having second thought and might postpone our flight or cancel them. It is a very long flight and once we arrive we are already exhausted.

  14. I thought 14days quarantine is required even if already tested negative due that is the incubation period of the virus? So one maybe negative on day 5 but after day 10-14 may turn out positive???

  15. Im surpised you had to pay for the hotel and food. I flew back home to Australia from the Philippines did 14 days quaratine in a hotel and the government paid for the accomodation and meals. The only thing I had to pay for was snacks from the hotel. The hotels they put you in when you come back to Australia are luxury hotels.

  16. Thank you. This is very useful.i am slsp planning to go back soon as my extension of stay in the US will soon expire. I am a senior citizen. Will priority treatment be given esp on the pricessing time for the swab test?

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