"I just want to go home to Manila."
This is what an Austrian vlogger tearfully said when she and her partner got stranded in the island of Siargao during the enhanced community quarantine.
Nelly and Mike, who are based in Metro Manila, had been roadtripping across the country when the government imposed the ECQ. They were in Biri Island in Samar when they got the news.
The pair had decided to spend quarantine in Siargao, but despite the beauty of the island, Nelly said, "Not every day is easy during quarantine and during this uncertain time."
Nelly couldn't help but cry when she tried to film a vlog episode, as shown in an episode of GMA Public Affairs' "Quarantours."
"I’m going to be very honest with you. I woke up today and I actually wanted to have a positive vlog. And be happy. But it is really difficult at the moment for me. There are just so many things going on that and right now, I just want to go home to Manila," she said.
But after some time in the island, and having gotten to know the locals, slowly but surely, Nelly and Mike fell in love with the Siargao and its people.
The pair were treated to the Siargao hospitality, and even the hosts of their accommodations ended up being good friends of theirs.
"They turned from our hosts to being our friends. We include them as our Filipino family," Nelly said.
"Slowly but surely our mindset changed. And we are so, so, so thankful for that. We actually changed from wanting to leave to wanting to stay because we feel very at home here in Siargao," she added.
When Siargao was eased to general community quarantine, the vloggers were able to visit Daku Island, one of Siargao's most popular islands.
Here lies a project headed by the police chief of General Luna: Hardin ng Pagbabago.
The initiative aims to help locals in Siargao start their own farms.
Since it was kicked off in January, it has produced 30 farm communities.
Once Siargao reopens its doors to the public, the locals hope to offer them volunteerism and farm tourism activities.
The visit also opened Nelly's eyes to another kind of lifestyle.
"In a very different perspective, showing us how they deal with this pandemic, how they get their food. It’s not Manila that you go to the supermarket and buy everything you need. It’s seasonal. It’s you buy what you have. Or you either go fishing or catch your own food," she said.
Despite initially being upset by the sudden changes caused by the pandemic and the quarantine, Nelly said this is a "good memory" for her.
"When I look back in like 20 years, when somebody asks me, what did you do during this pandemic? I look back and I mostly have good memories. And that’s mostly because of the people here," Nelly said. "That’s the beauty of this island."
After nearly 90 days in Siargao, Nelly and Mike were able to return to Metro Manila on June 2.
Nelly revealed that they are actually planning to stay in the Philippines for good.
"We really loved the Philippines so much that we decided to make it our forever home and now we are working on our permanent residency visas. Sorting everything out that we can stay here forever," she said. "So, we’re staying here for good."
—JCB, GMA News