DOCUSERIES 1 – RAVAGED
When the novel coronavirus disease struck Europe in early 2020, no one seemed prepared for the arduous battle. Even the world’s richest countries and their often envied health care systems that were not only seen as sophisticated and modern but were also established to be pioneering in research and technology, were caught grappling to unscramble the gargantuan health crisis. “Ravaged” tells the story of the Filipino community in the UK, with its health workers thrown in the frontline, fighting the global pandemic during the first peak. This documentation is the first and only video documentation of its kind, with a team of embedded documentarians.
At the onset of the spread of the virus, the Filipino communities across the UK were ravaged by the deadly disease.
60-year-old veteran nurse Melujean Ballesteros has reportedly become the fourth Filipino National Health Service or NHS worker to die of Covid-19. The mother-of-two fell ill with flu-like symptoms in mid-March 2020, but only went to hospital after her husband and family convinced her as her health continued to deteriorate. Her husband, Luis, gripped by deep sorrow, shared the inexplicable pain of losing his dearly beloved wife so soon.
From London, England the team travelled to Treorchy, Wales to document the miracle story of nurse -frontliner Felino Bautista.
News spread in Bautista’s hometown of Luna, Isabela, that the care home nurse died in Wales, United Kingdom due to COVID-19. But actually, Bautista was intubated at a hospital in Wales, fighting for his life. The father- of- three, isolated himself for 10 days in a back building of his house in Wales immediately after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. When his condition worsened, he called the emergency line and asked to be taken to the hospital. It was a critical time because his blood oxygen level dropped to 44. Normally, blood oxygen levels should fall between 95-100 percent.
“Sabi ng doctor there is no such thing as 44, baka baliktad ang basa n’yo,” Bautista recalled.
“Pero kahit saan finger ilagay (ang pulse oximeter) same. But noong dumating ang ambulance, tumaas nang konti naging 52. So noon wala na, any time pwede na akong ma-cardiac arrest. So, tinakbo agad ako sa ICU.”
It was at this time Bautista surrendered his fate to God.
Docuseries 1 has a cliff-hanger ending, for the full story of Bautista to be revealed on Docuseries 2.
DOCUSERIES 2 – FATE
This episode tells the story of two Filipino frontliners, who were struck by coronavirus disease– Felino Bautista and Cesar Velasco – but both made miraculous recoveries in the face of the odds.
Felino Bautista caught the virus while looking after his patients. He had been living in the UK for twenty years and working for a private residential care home in Wales. Before he fell ill, he actively took part in hiking activities with his family and friends. When he caught the virus, he self- isolated for 14 days. When his oxygen level decreased and his condition worsened, he was taken to his local hospital. The doctors suggested a trial of CPAP (or Continuous positive airway pressure therapy) on him, but this did not work. The doctors then decided to place him in an induced coma. He turned to his faith and prayed for his survival. He trusted his life to God. Though was not able to talk, Felino was able to hear what the other Filipino nurses were saying. He remembered one nurse was saying that he was admitted in ICU on 1st May 2020. His oxygen level was 44% which was very dangerously low but he fought on and trusted in the power of prayer. He recovered without any physical scarring or long term effects of the virus.
Cesar Velasco is known as a Covid survivor, surviving 51 days in ICU, and his story is one of a fight for his life and a miracle of a recovery. Cesar is an avid martial artist. He was full of energy. Full of passion. Full of life. Not the type of person who would be regarded as a high risk of getting Covid. On 6th April 2020, Cesar was admitted to High Dependency Ward and eventually moved to Intensive Treatment unit or ITU. Still, not thinking of death or saying his last farewell to his family, Cesar was sedated and a breathing tube put into his windpipe. Feeling the pain and tubes attached to him, he called out to God and prayed. Everyday, his wife Mayette visited him at the hospital. She did not lose hope that one day he would come home, despite her first hand experience as a nurse of the trauma that other patients were going through, and despite others around her preparing her for the worst. She knew the inner strength of her husband, and knew he would fight to remain with his family. Cesar’s family and friends prayed hard for his recovery. The community rallied around his family, providing much needed support. His story caught the imagination of the public, and his case was reported in the Press worldwide. Here was a hero working for the NHS who was facing the ultimate sacrifice merely for doing his job. His story is one of faith. Faith in individual human spirit and faith in the power of a community working together.
DOCUSERIES 3 – EPICENTRE
Two frontline heroes fought the pandemic in Europe’s battle against the disease. One didn’t make it but the other lived to tell the story of the frontliners in Italy’s ground zero: Bergamo. Divina Guerrero did not let her guard down when she became a Covid-19 responder in Bergamo.
“My faith helped me through,” said 54-year-old Guerrero.
During the initial coronavirus wave in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) was also the epicentre of the fight against the virus. Over 70 Filipino healthcare workers perished from this unknown disease. Of these, one of the first to die was a senior nurse, Amor Gatinao, who left a husband and 3 children behind. She had worked in the UK for 18 years but this did not prepare her and the NHS, which employed her at all for the sudden arrival of the pandemic. It was a time of confusion and fear, with healthcare workers including nurses and doctors battling an unknown virus without even the right protective personal equipment to prevent them from being infected. At the time, thousands of people died alone in their beds, with no families to kiss or hug them, as the hospitals struggled to cope. Just like Gatinao, the remains of those who died from Covid-19 were cremated, waiting for the time when they could be brought back home and laid to rest in the Philippines.
DOCUSERIES 4 – COVID WARRIOR
In this episode, the team documented the life and death of Filipino keyworkers in care homes. Care homes in the UK provide accommodation and personal care for aged and vulnerable people. During the peak of the pandemic, some thirteen thousand residents died in UK care homes.
Gil Catalla was a veteran nurse in the UK from 2004. Gil looked after his relatives back in the Philippines, remitting financial support to his nephews and nieces. He sponsored his niece Melissa to come over to the UK and stood as a surrogate parent to her while she built her life in the UK. They were very close. Gil was passionate about his work. He was the manager at one of the units of the care home and stood in as a nurse when there was a staff shortage. Gil fell ill and was hospitalised when his oxygen level went dangerously low. He contracted covid-19 and after one week in hospital, and on 12 April 2020 he died. Gil had underlying conditions, so he refused to be resuscitated and intubated.
Melissa was not able to visit her uncle due to the lockdown. Melissa was told his last words by the nurse who looked after him. He said that he had a good life. Very short. Very brief. Those words meant everything to her. Melissa and Gil’s family in the Philippines were able to communicate online to arrange the homecoming of Gil’s ashes.
Arlene Elano is a Filipino nurse and her story was about her efforts, along with an army of Filipino front liners, to wage war against the invisible enemy.
Arlene was appointed manager at Bodlondeb Care homes in Wales. The residents in Arlene’s care are from different age groups including people from 50 to 80s. Some are living with dementia, frailty or underlying health conditions. These make them especially vulnerable to coronavirus. If they catch the virus, they may become very seriously ill.
Arlene herself is a person at a high risk having been classed as a clinically vulnerable suffering from asthma, diabetes and hypertension. One of her children is also at a high risk of contracting the virus due to asthma. But she opted to continue to work.
Arlene believed there was a reason for her coming to the UK; that God had a reason for her. It was always her passion to care for people and look after the people she works with.
Against all odds, there were no recorded deaths at the care home. This speaks more than any other as to the achievement of this team of carers, and the miracle they brought to the residents due to their dedication to their chosen profession.
So many workers and residents of the care homes lost their lives to the pandemic. But in the middle of this challenging time, there is also a story of hope and courage.
DOCUSERIES 5 – BAYANIHAN
In times of severe stress or danger such as the coronavirus pandemic, the Filipino communities in Europe have repeatedly been tested and shown that they thrive best by helping each other. In Spain, three Filipino groups have become the lifeline of our kababayans by providing assistance during the peak of the pandemic (to this day).
Meantime, in a small English town near the border with Wales, there are three care homes owned by a Filipino entrepreneur, with mainly Filipinos among 40 staff. As the only person to be hit with Covid-19, he spent 4 days in hospital then experienced first hand how his staff looked after him for another 10 days until he recovered. This Filipino trait of helping out has also helped their elderly clients and families to have confidence and trust that they will be looked after properly 24/7 in the Filipino-run care homes. This meant that the care homes are expanding even during the pandemic, therefore providing more opportunities for employment by the community.
DOCUSERIES 6 – HOMECOMING
Luis Ballesteros finally managed to reunite with his two children in Calauag, Quezon. For the first time, they were celebrating Christmas sans Melujean, the light of their home. But the widower had to accept the permanent loss and the unforeseen changes in their lives. In a neighbouring town in Quezon, the Catallas were also mounting another Christmas celebration. But like the Ballesteros, the Yuletide season will never be the same again for the grieving close-knit family.
Christmas was normally a great time for Gil “Gaily” Catalla’s family in the Philippines as they prepared for the annual celebration. This was because their beloved family member in the UK would come home bearing gifts and happiness not just to relatives, but to friends and even their neighbours. Such was his generosity and reputation that everyone looked forward to this annual homecoming. Catalla, having lived for decades in the UK, was in fact already preparing for his retirement back home, and had even had his bachelor’s pad prepared for this. Sadly, Catalla, a veteran nurse, contracted the dreaded coronavirus disease and died within a week. His family now awaits the return of his ashes when the pandemic lockdown is eventually lifted.
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