MANILA, Philippines – An elderly couple from Angono, Rizal kept their promise to be together “in sickness and in health,” but in the end, their vow was finally broken when the husband died soon after recovering from COVID-19.
Ely and Domeng Nueva, ages 82 and 86, have been married for over 54 years and were blessed with three children.
According to their youngest child, Aileen Nueva Enconado, both her parents tested positive for the virus in March. Her dad first tested positive and was admitted to the hospital on March 7, then her mom on March 12.
“When my tatay found out na nasa kabilang room lang pala niya ang nanay ko, he did not stop [asking us hanggang sa makita niya ito]. For several days, gusto ni tatay na lagi silang magkita, so their doctor and nurses decided to put them in one room na lang,” Enconado told INQUIRER.net in an exclusive interview.
(When my dad found out that my mom is in the other room, he did not stop asking us until he sees her. For several days, dad insisted that they see each other regularly, so their doctor and nurses decided to put them in one room.)
The couple returned home on March 21 from the hospital together, and their family made sure their beds were in one room so they could sleep together at night.
“Dad passed away in his sleep while holding hands with my mom. Until today, laging ikinukwento ng nanay [namin] na magka-holding hands silang natulog that night [bago pumanaw si tatay] (our mom keeps on telling us that they slept while holding each other’s hands that night before dad passed away). True to his promise, to love my mom until his last breath,” Enconado went on to say.
“My dad passed away on my birthday last Mar. 24 and it made his death more memorable,” she added.
On Tuesday, May 4, the couple’s love story captured the hearts of netizens when it was shared on Be An INQUIRER, the INQUIRER.net’s official citizen journalism online community, generating more than 4,700 reactions, 107 comments, and 647 shares as of writing.
‘TILL COVID DO US PART’LOOK: After over 54 years of marriage, this elderly couple from Angono, Rizal who battled…ADVERTISEMENT
Posted by Be An INQUIRER on Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Even though it is heartbreaking, Enconado said she wanted to share how her parents loved each other, “for better or for worse, till death do us part.”
Their lives before the pandemic
Domeng Nueva was a retired policeman, while his wife Ely ran her own business back then.
“Only when my mom semi-retired, mas nagkaroon siya ng time [sa amin] pero mas sa mga apo na niya (mom had more time with us but mostly with her grandchildren),” Enconado said, remembering how her parents used to be during the pre-pandemic times.
“Mas madaling kausap ang tatay ko at palangiti lang pero mainipin. Since naging pulis siya, lagi siyang maaga lalo na kapag may lakad kami. Bawal ang late (It was easier to talk to my dad and he often smiles but is impatient. Since he became a policeman, he was always early especially when we have to go somewhere. Late is not allowed),” she recalled.
“Ang nanay [namin], makulit [lalo] kapag sa pagkain. Maya’t maya ka niya tatanungin at papakainin kahit busog ka pa (Our mother is a bit mischievous when it comes to food. Sometimes she’ll ask you to eat more even if you’re already full),” Enconado went on to say.
Struggling with COVID-19
“Our covid struggle was very hard. It started with my brother [who tested positive] on Mar. 2. He was a severe case confined in an ICU isolation room for almost three weeks. Then, my parents followed,” Enconado further told INQUIRER.net.
All of Enconado’s family and relatives in Angono were quarantined, but she and her nephew were spared. Enconado lives in Antipolo, while her nephew lives in Pasig.
“My sister is in the US, so my nephews and I are the only ones who take care of everything. It was really hard because everything was done online,” Enconado said as she recounted their family’s struggles amid the pandemic.
“Bawal lumabas para personal na mag-asikaso [ng mga kailangan namin] (It is not allowed to go out to attend to our needs personally). I also needed to isolate and undergo a swab test that time since they visited us here in Antipolo a week before my brother showed symptoms of the virus.”
Enconado had to arrange an ambulance online to pick up his dad from Angono and get him to the hospital at that moment: “All hospital coordination was done through text and via Messenger.”
“It was heartbreaking when my dad arrived in the hospital. Inabangan ko lang ang ambulance sa parking area (I just waited for the ambulance in the parking area) since I can’t come near him because I also need to protect myself dahil ako na lang ang natitirang nagde-decide para sa lahat (because I am the only one left deciding for everyone),” Enconado said.
“My sister can’t do so much since she’s in the US. I needed to raise my face shield and put down my mask so my father would recognize me and know that he is not alone as he enters the hospital. But I can’t come near him so I just showed my face and waved at him,” she added.
As their father was sent to the hospital, Enconado acknowledged her mother for being a brave soul: “She was calm even if she was left at home when my dad was admitted to the hospital. She was just [handed with] food that is placed near her bed because everybody in Angono was quarantined.”
They monitored Ely until she also began showing symptoms later on and the ambulance picked her up.
Dealing with uncertainty
Though it’s a tough time for Enconado’s family, she said that their deep faith in God gave them strength in their battle against COVID-19.
“Every day, we had video calls to check on each other. We sent them homecooked and fast-food meals. My nephews were assigned to do online grocery for all the needed supplies both at home and at the hospital,” Enconado said.
“We made our video call conversations light and casual. We did not talk in front of our confined family members that we were already on the brink of ‘collapsing’ financially and emotionally,” she added.
As their family would most likely worry, Enconado managed to discuss with their “stronger” family members the daily procurement of Remdesivir for their three virus-stricken patients, other prescription medications they would need, and hospital bills.
“We shamelessly asked for donations from our relatives and friends, and we even set up a GoFundMe account [for our financial needs]. I have also tried asking for financial assistance from different LGUs,” Enconado revealed.
Caring for loved ones amid a pandemic
Having lived through the pandemic crisis firsthand and its impact, Enconado offers this simple reminder on how everyone could cope both practically and emotionally during these trying times: “For all the families living with their parents or with senior citizens, let us always be mindful and cautious in protecting ourselves so that we can protect our aging citizen parents.
Enconado, for her part, said she has to put up with not seeing her parents very often just so she could protect them.
“If you really want to visit them, follow the health protocols. Wear a face mask, use rubbing alcohol or sanitizer, and wash your hands. If you love them, protect yourself to protect them,” she said.
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