January 29, 2023

Stella Maria L. de Guia
We chanced upon a team of Benguet Electric Cooperative linemen changing transformers as part of its upgrading project.
It was dizzying to watch and makes your stomach churn. Nakakalulang tignan. Lalo na kung nagta-tightrope sa itaas. They say that “The primary role of a lineman is to install, maintain and repair high-powered electrical lines and systems. Their daily responsibilities include digging trenches to install underground lines, installing meters, climbing poles to repair overhead lines or inspecting power lines and replacing and repairing transformers.”
These men work in shifts, rain or shine. This team that we saw was working from 8 .a.m. to 5 p.m. Its only when you see them up close and personal that you realize the danger, they have to surmount to deliver service, power, and electricity to us. These men risk life, limb and health just to provide us comfort and to make our days and nights better. Pandemic or no pandemic, these frontliners rush out every time there is a blackout during a storm, a fire, a broken post at any given day to troubleshoot.
When I asked one of them for comments, “Sakit ng katawan and katumbasnang maghapon trabaho. Yung iba sa amin mayroon 11 to 13 taon nang karanasan sa ganitong uri ng trabaho. Yung iba ay mas matagal pa”
Thank you Beneco linemen, you make our day. So maybe when you see them working, please offer them a cup of coffee or a snack. Your gesture will surely brighten up their day.
Each frontliner has a story to tell. In the microcosm of this pandemic battle, each narrative of blood, sweat and tears catapults each one to heroism. True appreciation is not manifested in something visual, but in the intangible meaning of what makes them a hero, sacrificing welfare of family: self, husband, wife, children, mother, father and loved ones for the good of all.
As the world shifts its notion of battle from the war zones to the frontliners in the medical field, the men-in-uniform, soldiers and policemen, volunteers and non-medical workers who deliver essential services, I would like to focus on another group of frontliners, the technicians in the medical and clinical laboratories. The people who carry out tests on clinical specimens, “to obtain information about the health of a patient to aid in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease” – these are our medical technologists.
I met two very efficient and beautiful medical technologists seven years ago, while undergoing chemotherapy.
They are Anna Liza Orpia-Ongan and Charice Ellen Ochave. Joan is at present a phlebotomist of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services at Notre Damede Chartres Hospital while Charice already moved on to another company. I would always request for Joan or Charice every time I or my husband would have our blood drawn for diagnosis. As most patients, I too am scared of the needle. Joan works for the morning shift, which is proper timing for the diagnosis before meeting our doctors in the morning. I can attest that these two beautiful ladies are the best when it comes to extracting blood. I asked Joan what the daily life of a fronliner was.
“As the pandemic was emerging, I began to be increasingly concerned about my commute to work,” says this frontliner from Virac, Itogon, Benguet.
“I was worried that I could not arrive at work on time. I had to walk from our place in Virac to Kias, where other frontliners were being ferried by private vehicles.”
Joan is married to Jan David Ongan (who manages a swarma outlet at the City Light Tower along Bonifacio Street only for takeout) and they have a 12-year-old son named Eldridge Jan Clyde. When not working, Joan helps husband Jan with their business.
“My greatest challenge, because of the distance of our home to the hospital, was having to decide whether to go home everyday or live in a makeshift house closer to my workplace, so I can keep my family and neighbors safe from the coronavirus. My. family is always worried about my health because I am more exposed to the virus.”
“I love my job,” continues Joan. She quotes M Jones, “Loving your job means loving yourself too. For your work reflects unto everything you do.”
At the end of the day, Joan puts it simply as, “The happiness and loyalty of our clients is the best measure of success, “explains this medical technologist.
“Sometimes our job becomes toxic and tiring too. Especially because we have to put extra effort with the use of the personal protective equipment, gloves, surgical mask, face shields and observe social distancing and other protocols for protection,”says Joan.
She misses the simple gestures of hugging, shaking hands and being close to loved ones because the new normal requires and states otherwise.