Not a joking matter

Wenilyn Sabalo
·3 min read

COVID-19 really kills.

For Karla Shane Patega, whose 66-year-old, immunocompromised mother-in-law from Zamboanga City contracted the disease and died, Covid-19 is “no joke.”

While there are people who still do not believe that the coronavirus is real and instead dwell on Covid-19 conspiracy theories, Karla said the disease is what robbed her two young daughters of what could have been a longer precious time with their grandmother.

Karla’s mother-in-law, Jacinta, died last Jan. 15, five days after she was admitted to the Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) of the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC.)

Karla said although it isn’t clear yet where Jacinta caught the virus, she had a history of pneumonia and attended a series of private gatherings and parties weeks before her death.

Karla said the gatherings were attended by Jacinta’s colleagues and friends including a “balikbayan” from the U.S. who arrived in Zamboanga City from Manila last December.

Karla said Jacinta’s balikbayan friend reportedly yielded a negative RT PCR test result upon arrival in Manila. But, it was not clear if the returning overseas Filipino underwent a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in Zamboanga City.

Karla said the events included a party in the house of one of the members of a civic organization Jacinta and her sister belonged to and a Christmas party disguised as a year-end organizational meeting held in a hotel in Zamboanga on Dec. 29, 2020.

The series of gatherings occurred on Dec. 16, 19 and 29, Karla said.

“Nagtawag pa ko sa iyaha nga ‘Ma, nganong ma-allow man mo nga bawal man ang parties?’ Ang ingon pa niya ‘giingnan namo ang hotel nga meeting ra’ (I even called her to ask why they were allowed to party when it’s prohibited. She said they told the hotel that it was just a meeting), ” recalled Karla.

Karla said Jacinta’s balikbayan friend was supposed to spend the New Year in the house of Jacinta’s sister but the balikbayan was reportedly not feeling well.


Described as “super-friendly,” Jacinta was asked by her family to temporarily stay with her sister as a precaution against Covid,” Karla said.

But Jacinta was able to go out from time to time to visit her house and run some errands when Zamboanga City’s community quarantine status eased between July and August last year.

She said it was last Dec. 31 when Jacinta told them that she was not feeling well. On Jan. 2, Jacinta contracted fever.

Eight of those who attended the Dec. 29 gathering reportedly also fell ill but only two were hospitalized including Jacinta who was brought to the ZCMC on Jan. 10.

“She self-extubated and pulled out the tubes in the ICU. The term the doctors gave us was ‘combative’ or restless,” Karla said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Aside from Jacinta, her sister, her sister’s son and grandson who were her close contacts also tested positive for Covid-19.

Karla said while Jacinta’s sister and grandson who were both asymptomatic have recovered, her nephew remains in the hospital.

Karla said if only Jacinta had been warned earlier that one of those who attended the Dec. 29 gathering tested positive for Covid-19 and was admitted, “basin nakaiwas (perhaps she was able to avoid it).”

Karla believes the Covid-19 pandemic is beatable for as long as there is cooperation among people.

“Covid really kills. I will not be afraid to tell our story if it can save a life, if our story can save one grandmother,” she added.