Alixson Mangundok and his three-day journey from here to his hometown Kota Marudu, some 120km away, with a dog as his companion, has lit up social media and become a talking point among online users.
On March 25, the 34-year-old returned after working in Japan, but he chose not to take public transport or get his relatives to fetch him, fearing the possibility that he may have contracted Covid-19.
“After reaching the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, I was screened and did not show any Covid-19 symptoms but I was still asked to go to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a more thorough screening,” he said over the phone.
After giving his samples at the hospital, the doctor told him to self-quarantine at home while waiting for his test results.
“But when I was told I could self-isolate at home and not pose a risk to anyone, I decided to walk to Kota Marudu because I am used to walking for kilometres during my hunting and farming days,” said the father of two.
After lunch at the hospital, Mangundok set foot on his journey. Before long, as he walked past a cemetery, a dog came up and tagged along.
“I thought it would walk away eventually but it stayed with me the whole way. That is why I decided to adopt it,” said Mangundok, who has named it Hachiko (after the famous Japanese Akita dog noted for its loyalty).
Along the way, they rested at bus stops and passed by a number of roadblocks and made new friends and braved the rain and heat.
“At every roadblock, the police and security forces would ask where I was going. When I told them Kota Marudu, they could not believe it,” Mangundok said.
He explained his reasons, showed them his passport and letters from the hospital. The police would then advise him to be careful and to rest at clearly lit areas.
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 fatigue.
On the morning of March 28 near Kampung Tandasan Kota Belud, halfway to Kota Marudu, Mangundok saw his brother driving by.
When his brother heard that Mangundok had been walking for days, he arranged for a car to be sent to him so he could drive home with his new companion.
“I did not go to see my parents when I reached Kota Marudu but went straight to a small hut in the farm because it would be safer for everyone,” he said.
Mangundok’s first test came out negative and on April 7, and went for his second Covid-19 screening at the Kota Marudu Hospital.
In total, Mangundok and Hachiko walked for some 70km together.
The original heading of this story has been amended to more accurately reflect the duo's journey