KOTA KINABALU: The story of a man who walked 70km over three days from here to get to his hometown of Kota Marudu (some 120km away) with a dog as his companion, is getting much attention from Internet users.
The man, identified as Alixson Mangundok, 34, had just returned from Japan where he worked on March 25 and fearing that he might carry the Covid-19 virus, chose not to take any public transport or get his relatives to pick him up.
“After reaching the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, I was screened and although the health officials said I was fine and did not show any symptoms of the virus, I was still asked to go to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a more thorough screening,” he said.
After giving his samples at the hospital, the doctor told him that he can undergo self-quarantine at home and he was not required to check into the state-provided quarantine centres while waiting for his Covid-19 test results.
Earlier, Mangundok’s relatives had helped him bring back two of his larger pieces of luggage and left him with his hand-carried backpack as he thought he would be asked to check into the state-provided quarantine centres for two weeks.
“But then I was told I can undergo self-quarantine at home so, to avoid any risk to anyone, I decided to walk all the way to Kota Marudu because I am used to walking for kilometers and days from my time hunting and farming,” he said.
Prior to making the journey, Mangundok had lunch and bought two bottles of water at the hospital.
Soon after he set out on his journey, after he had passed a cemetery, a dog came up and started tagging along.
He allowed the dog, which he eventually named Hachiko (after the Japanese Akita dog known for its loyalty) to tag along.
“I thought it would leave me halfway through but it stayed with me the whole way, that is why I decided to adopt Hachiko,” Mangundok said.
Along the way, they rested at bus stops and passed by quite a number of roadblocks and made new friends, braved the rain and hot weather, as well as walked up and down hills.
“At every roadblock, the policeman and other security forces on duty would ask where I was going and when I told them that I was headed to Kota Marudu, they could not believe it but eventually I convinced them that I was not joking,” Mangundok said.
He explained his reasons and showed them his passport and letters from the hospital for proof and they would then advise him to be careful, alert and to rest in clearly lit areas.
“They also offered to help me hail rides but I declined because I have this dog and I don’t want to pose any health risk to anyone, even though the doctors said I should be clear,” he said.
Mangundok stopped by sundry shops for water and bought cans of sardines for Hachiko but did not eat anything himself as he had no appetite due to his fatigue.
On the morning of March 28, near Kg Tandasan in Kota Belud, which is halfway to Kota Marudu, Mangundok saw his brother who was driving somewhere and waved at him.
“He waved back but did not recognise me as I was shielding my face from the glare of the sun, and I had a dog with me, so he just drove off,” he said.
He said it was later when his brother’s supervisor saw him and told his brother that he was walking.
“At that point, I think they were all worried because my handphone had been dead for two days and they had not heard from me since the airport,” he said, adding his brother had then turned back and found him walking on the road.
From there, Mangundok said his brother had informed the family that he had been walking for three days and asked someone from home to send his car to him, so that he could drive home by himself and bring his new companion with him.
“I did not go see my parents upon reaching Kota Marudu but went straight to a small hut on the farm because it would be safer for everyone,” he said.
He said his first screening came out clean and on April 7, he had gone for his second Covid-19 screening at the Kota Marudu hospital.
“I won’t rest and will not meet my family until the hospital gives me confirmation that I am free from this virus. For now, Hachiko and I spend our time together at the hut,” Mangundok said.
The father of two, and the youngest of 12 siblings, has been working overseas including in Singapore, Algeria, Australia and South Korea since he was 18.
Note: Story has been corrected for factual error. Due to a misunderstanding, Mangundok was earlier reported as walking 120km when, in fact, he walked about 70km.