Overseas Filipino Worker nurse-triathlete Romeo “Oreo” Puncia ran and biked indoors over a total distance of 731.63km over 45 hours in a span of 19 days to raise funds for COVID-19 response efforts while being an active health worker in the frontlines of the battle against the disease.
The first Filipino UAE resident to cross the Ultraman Florida finish line managed to continue his Race With a Purpose Campaign, this time running and biking a course for 19 days – all done indoors due to community quarantines enforced to stop the spread of coronavirus disease.
The 19×19 COVID-19 project had the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) triathlete running on his treadmill and biking on a stationary bicycle seen on live stream in between duties as a healthcare provider in an Ambulance Section for Emergency and Public Safety Department from April 5 to April 24, 2020.
Puncia covered a distance of 19km for 19 days, for a total of 361.34km clocking a time of 32:32:42.
The Filipino triathlete cycled 19km for a total of 370.29km with time logged at 13:03:39.
Romeo Puncia shared with Good News Pilipinas how his team came up with the lockdown project to donate and help front liners, labor camp employees, and no work no pay employees in the UAE.
The team was able to raise funds to donate around 3,500 pcs of Surgical Mask, 100 pcs. of Face Shield, 100 pcs of KN95, 10 pcs of Thermal Scanner, and 3,000 Dirhams or Phy42,000 worth of Food/Relief items.
The missionary athlete also sent 5 pcs. of thermal scanners to the Philippine General Hospital EMS and boxes of Running Shirts to the Tribal and Indigenous Communities in Palawan, Philippines for whom he usually conducts his Race With a Purpose Campaign.
The UAE-based Overseas Filipino Worker admitted, “Honestly it was quite exhausting because I have to balance everything – work, family, ministry, training, and schooling – but because of the motivation and purpose of why I am doing these, it made me focus on my goal.”
Puncia also said that he raced at home “To let them know that even during the lockdown, curfew or community quarantine they can make themselves healthy and do their home workout… To encourage them that they can make a huge difference to somebody else’s lives while they are in the comfort of their home. That we together can make things all possible. And that they can be a blessing to everyone.”
Puncia revealed that his new coach said other athletes have duplicated what he did, racing for fundraisers. “I am just happy lang na we are also influencing people to do the same and we even helped them pano gawin,” he adds.
EMT NURSE OFW FRONTLINER
The missionary triathlete who was honored in 2019 with the Award for Contributions to the Health and Welfare of Children by the Filipino Nurses Association in the Emirates, also shared about his frontline work in the battle against COVID-19.
Puncia recalls that he has had many COVID patients and that during his last 4 days of duty, he cared for 5 patients.
The day before his interview with Good News Pilipinas, he again had himself tested for the third time to make sure he is still negative for COVID-19, even though he wears full PPE.
“I still need to protect myself marami din kasi sa area kung saan ako naka assign,” shared Puncia.
The OFW nurse says he regularly exercises and eats a proper diet to increase his immune system.
He also takes multivitamins and undergoes proper disinfection. “Madalas na paghuhuhgas ng kamay, as in minsan OA na kasi syempre meron akong anak na laging nag aabang sa bahay,” the doting father says.
At work, Puncia says he practices health protocols, washing his hands, sanitizing, wearing full PPE before handling patients. He also practices social distancing even with workmates. He makes sure they properly disinfect and clean the ambulance he rides.
Before he goes home to his family he takes a bath. When he arrives homes he sprays disinfectant on his shoes and again takes a shower before meeting his family. His household also undergoes disinfection twice a week.
He actually followed the same routine before COVID-19 came to UAE. Now they have doubled the routine.
Romeo Puncia plans to race in more triathlons once they are allowed. He is eyeing races for the following:
- July 26
SwimJunkie Caramoan 15KM Open Water swim
- August 23
Ironman 140.6 Kazakhstan
- October 25
Ironman 140.6 Philippines
- October 29-31
Tribal Sports Festival, Palawan
- November 27-29
Ultraman World Championship, Hawaii
With reports from Blesilda Dela Cruz.
WATCH Romeo Puncia’s 19×19 COVID Project highlights here and SEND CHEERS in the comments below to the OFW nurse missionary triathlete who raced for COVID-19 response efforts.
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