Peachland residents living in lockdown in central Philippines

Kevin and Gracelyn Bennett have been in the Philippines since December

Peachland residents Kevin and Gracelyn Bennett are adjusting to life in lockdown in the central Philippines.

The Bennetts spend their winters in Dumaguete, Philippines, then come back to the Okanagan in time for summer.

But right now, life is a little different for the couple as they live in lockdown among other residents of Dumaguete. The city was placed under a ‘state of calamity’ on March 17, which meant a complete lockdown in the area, after a city councillor and his sister died due to COVID-19. Manila, the country’s capital, was placed under lockdown on March 14.

Kevin, who operates Peachland zipline company ZipZone, said they’re not allowed of the compound they live in, except with a pass that allows them to make essential trips, such as going to the markets for food. His wife is listed as an essential service worker, so she isn’t as restricted as he is.

He said the city has three supermarkets that serve up to 400,000 people on a normal day. But with the lockdown and restrictions on big crowds, the city limited access to the markets to 50 people at a time.

“So they are limited to serving just 1,200 people a day. The lineups are three hours long just to get into the store. At a time when people need access to food, they are being prevented from getting it,” he said.

“Everything the government is doing to increase social distancing is having the opposite effect, as it’s funnelling people into tight masses and packing them together for hours at a time.”

“If we didn’t have a (coronavirus) transmission problem before, we sure have it now.”

Kevin said he and his wife are currently involved with helping low-income families get access to food and other essential supplies by delivering the items to them or to centres where families can pick them up.

“My wife is well-connected in our community, so she is using those connections to make sure these gifts get to where they are supposed to… for my part, I get to lift heavy things for her while she deals with armed guards and the military.”

He added she established a manufacturing facility and hired out-of-work seamstresses to help sew PPE for local medical teams, making the best out of the items they have and sterilizing them the best they can.

Kevin said he’s not sure when they will be coming back to Canada.

“My flight is booked for May 3, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that flight will happen and I’m expecting it to be pushed back. I’m frustrated because I want to get back to ZipZone and spend time with my one-year-old grandson.”

ZipZone’s opening day has been pushed to April 18. Bennett said they’ll have a skeleton staff, which will mean limited spaces for guests.

READ MORE: ZipZone Peachland still opening to spread positivity

READ MORE: Peachland photographer selling postcards, proceeds to go to local hospitals


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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