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Ashes of Covid-19 fatality arrive home on birthday

GUINOBATAN, Albay --- The ashes of Romeo Valdez, the oldest coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patient and latest casualty in the Bicol region, arrived home in this town on Friday, Apr. 24, exactly on his birthday.

Valdez, a former soldier, died at 4:00 PM on Thursday, just a day before he turned 79.

Jerey, the youngest of Valdez’s six children, told Bicol Mail that their father was transferred to the recovery room because of his stable condition just hours before he died.

For his father’s birthday, Jerey gifted him an electronic tablet while he was confined at the hospital since Apr. 18.

The ashes of Romeo Valdez, Bicol region's latest casualty due to Covid-19, arrived home on his birthday. (Contributed photo)

A message saying, “Advance happy birthday, papa. Pakusog ka po diyan ta hintay ka po sa okasyon ni Baby RC. Payaba ka po namun papa,” was written on the plastic cover of the tablet.

(Advanced happy birthday, papa. Please stay healthy because we will wait for you for Baby RC’s occasion. We love you, papa.)

Information gathered by Bicol Mail said that Valdez died with the tablet in his arms.

“I think he had an attack because of his excitement to be able to call us through video call and for his birthday,” Jerey told Bicol Mail.

Valdez’s ashes arrived home and the urn was put in an altar in their house in Lower Bonigsacan village in this town.

“As a son, it breaks my heart that we cannot have a wake and proper burial for our father because of the coronavirus,” he said.

Jerey, who is also a nurse, said that his father had asthma and high blood pressure as comorbidities.

He said that they have not received updates on hospital bills, but that Guinobatan Mayor Ann Ongjoco would pay for the bills while Albay town is still under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

“He was strict and he disciplined all his six children, but he was a loving father and grandfather,” Jerey said of his father.

He said that they are still clueless on how their father acquired SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. He and his father's close contacts were swabbed but the results turned out negative on Friday.

He said that he has been on the receiving end of discrimination due to his relation to a Covid-19 patient and because of his work as a medical frontliner.

“Our family has been discriminated and I have been discriminated as a frontliner. It is heart-breaking, especially since my father died,” he told Bicol Mail.

Prior to the interview, Dr. Joana Limos, Guinobatan’s health officer, called on residents to stop discrimination against health workers.

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