Because of the pandemic, the authorities have imposed restrictions on public transport, and Santiago’s 15-mile (24-kilometer) commute to work in the center of the capital Manila is a time-consuming ordeal. She wants to rent a room closer to her workplace, to cut down on the exhausting traveling, and to avoid the risk of bringing COVID-19 home to her family, but she can’t afford to. So, for the past eight months, she has been sleeping in a utility room at the hospital, just steps away from the plush, private medical suites where high-paying patients recline in relative comfort.
There, on a thin mattress spread between rolls of black garbage bags and boxes of toilet disinfectant, an exhausted Santiago crams for the professional exams that could be her ticket to the United States. She also has video calls with her eight-year-old son, whom she rarely sees in person. And she seethes with fury at the needlessness of the suffering that COVID-19 has brought to the Philippines. “I felt rage during the second surge,” Miranda says, convinced that it could have been prevented.