Ricky Vasquez 'moved heaven and earth' to be by his mother's side before she passed. Now, he says he's at the mercy of the Australian government to return home.
"My wife is in Melbourne. She's the one holding down the fort. I've lost my job because of my mum's situation," Filipino-Australian Ricky Vasquez shares.
"We're trying to keep our heads up and solve one problem at a time. Right now, that first problem is how to get back home."
- Ricky Vasquez did everything in his power to get to his mum's bedside in the Philippines before she passed.
- He shares that he has had "zero" help from both the Philippine and Australian governments to get back home to Melbourne.
- The earliest sweeper flight to Melbourne could be at the end of October, but there is no assurance that it won't get cancelled.
Mum's final days
Ricky, who had been living in Melbourne since 2008, planned to fly to the Philippines to take care of his ailing mother at the end of March.
"I already had a ticket, but events overtook me. The pandemic exploded and lockdowns happened.
"In the meantime, my mum's condition took a turn for the worse."
His mother's worsening condition pushed Ricky to do everything in his power to get to the Philippines.
"Sweeper flights were organised to repatriate Australian citizens in the Philippines back to Australia; and on the return leg, Filipino citizens in Australia back to the Philippines. This was on April 19."
Being a dual citizen, Ricky thought he would be allowed to travel without any issues. When he got to the airport, however, he was told he had to get a travel exemption from the Australian Border Force on compassionate grounds.
"It was on the spot. Luckily, the flight was delayed for about three hours and I was able to fly out."
When he got to the Philippines, the difficulty he faced was getting to his mum's bedside on time.
"She was in the hospital already then. Coming from overseas, I was required to do a two-week quarantine; but it wasn't an option because of her condition."
"I really moved heaven and earth to find a way to get to her. I was able to get a COVID test from the Philippine Red Cross. I waited a day and it was negative."
The negative result exempted Ricky from quarantine and he was able to be by his mother's side when she passed at the end of April.
'I just want to go back home'
Community quarantines also made it difficult for Ricky to organise his mum's wake and cremation.
"We couldn't hold a regular wake; instead we organised video chats so family and friends [could pay their respects]."
"My mum's wish was to be cremated. She didn't suffer from COVID and crematoriums then prioritised those who died from the virus. We had to wait 10 days to get her cremated."
Fatigued and grief-stricken, all Ricky yearns for is to be able to fly back home to Melbourne.
"I gave myself a month to tend to my mum's affairs...now, [every one of us stuck abroad] just want to go home.
"The flight caps instituted by the government have been limiting our ability to fly home because airlines can't schedule flights because of the caps."
"Sweeper flights were originally scheduled on July 2 but were cancelled due to the caps. We have flights scheduled for end of October, but those can be cancelled again - especially because of the situation in Victoria."
Admitting that he has had "zero" help from the Australian government, Ricky shares that he refuses to believe that it doesn't have the ability or resources to help stranded citizens.
"We're at their mercy at this point," he shares, adding, "once they sort our their policies and recognise the plight we're in, we can then come home. That's our only hope".
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