In an effort avoid infecting others with coronavirus, a Malaysian man who had just returned from working in Japan walked for three days from Kota Kinabalu to his hometown Kota Marudu—covering about 120 kilometers in total.
Alixson Mangundok, 34, feared he possibly carried the deadly virus and opted to avoid public transportation.
But Mangundok didn’t have to go it alone because as he passed a cemetery at the beginning of his journey, a dog began walking alongside him.
Perantau di Jepun. Pulang ke kampung halaman di Kota Marudu dengan berjalan kaki sejauh 124 kilometer. kenapa??? sebab...Posted by Nor Idzatul Nisa on Tuesday, April 7, 2020
“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.
Mangundok named the dog Hachiko after the famously loyal Japanese Akita dog.
Mangundok had expected to be held in a state-provided quarantine center upon his arrival at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport from Japan. But after he submitted samples for testing, the doctor cleared him for self-quarantine at home.
Rather than risk the health of his relatives who might have picked him up, Mangundok decided to walk.
“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.
Mangundok is a father of two and the youngest of twelve siblings. He has worked overseas for much of his life in countries including Singapore, Algeria, Australia, and South Korea.
Throughout the journey, the pair rested at bus stops and shopped for water at convenience stores where Mangundok purchased cans of sardines for Hachiko to eat. They encountered weather conditions and many roadblocks along the way.
“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.
Mangundok declined the officials’ offers to hail him a ride because, he said, “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.”
On the morning of March 28, the man and his dog were about halfway to Kota Maraud when Mangundok waved to his brother as he saw him driving by.
“He waved back but did not recognize 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.
It wasn’t until later—when Mangundok was recognized by his brother’s supervisor—did his brother come back for him, informing the rest of their family that Mangundok had been walking for three days and asking for a car to be sent so he could drive himself and his new dog the rest of the way home.
“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.
“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.”
After he was cleared of COVID-19 on April 7, Mangundok was screened a second time at Kota Marudu hospital.
Mangundok remains in self-isolation with his new companion Hachiko while they await a second round of test results.