How BatangueAos join hands to aid victims of Taal unrest

They say tough times don't last forever.

And so at the height of the rumbling of Taal Volcano, which poses danger to residents nearby, donations pour in for the victims of the volcano's unrest.

Taal Volcano's magmatic eruption on Sunday brought out the kindness and generosity in people in the neighboring areas of the affected municipalities in Batangas, including Talisay, Laurel, Agoncillo, Taal and Lemery.

Authorities in these areas recommended a total evacuation due to heavy ashfall brought about by the restless volcano.

The aftermath of the volcano eruption caused ashes which covered roofs, cars, and streets near Taal.

But the disaster showed the kind and gentle BatangueAo spirit.

Aside from a few spewing of ashes, Sto. Tomas, San Pascual, and Batangas City were safer grounds for residents who evacuated from their communities.

Residents of San Pascual welcomed more than 500 individuals from Balisong, Agoncillo, and Lemery, where they stayed at the San Antonio Elementary School.

'This is our battle'

San Pascual residents welcomed the victims wholeheartedly, helped and fed them, knowing that the evacuees were starving on their way to evacuation centers.

Jorjuanna Pacia along with her family and neighbors residing in Barangay Sto. Nino in San Pascual volunteered to prepare the needs of the evacuees.

"Nakakagaan ng pakiramdam na nakikita mo yung mga kababayan mo na ligtas, hindi mo man sila kakilala pero parang pakiramdam mo nakahanap ka ng pamilya sa ganitong sitwasyon. Ibang klaseng saya ang hatid nun (It feels good seeing your 'kababayan' safe from harm. You may not know them personally, but in this kind of situation, it feels like you found a family and it brings a special kind of happiness]" she said.

Early morning of January 13, Pacia and her niece stayed in the evacuation center to entertain evacuees from other municipalities.

They served arroz caldo or chicken rice porridge, and boxes of water.

"We will still be here until the eruption activities of Taal Volcano stop and we pray that everything will go back to normal as soon as possible," she said.

At the corner of the school's covered court, people were busy preparing for packs of foods.

Fely Albay, who was with her daughter and other relatives, prepared food which will be distributed to the evacuees for dinner.

Albay is a housewife and a mother of two. She does laundry for a living and her husband is a house painter. She does the donation with her sister-in-law and her entire family. The physical efforts and financial assistance were just nothing compared to the comfort they could extend to those who needed their support.

She said residents in San Pascual were lucky that they do not have to experience evacuating from one place to another, but it melts her heart seeing some people endure the disaster.

"I am very saddened about what happened to my fellow Batanguenos. We are just lucky that our place was not totally damaged. We will extend any kind of help to them as much as they needed." she said.

She said in times of catastrophes, no one will help people but their own neighbors, hence she vowed to look after the evacuees and let them feel that the battle is not theirs alone.

"This is a fight of the entire Batangas, a battle of all Batanguenos," she said.

Taal Volcano erupted Sunday afternoon forcing residents nearby to evacuate from their homes, as experts warned of a "hazardous eruption."

"What more I can say? I am very saddened by their condition right now. Imagine, they have to leave their livelihoods and their homes just to get away with the harmful effects of Taal volcano's eruption," Albay added.

Lending a hand

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported the volcano exhibited a fast escalation in volcanic activity, which triggered health hazards and structural damages to the municipalities nearby Taal.

As the agency raised the alert status of the volcano, Maricon Cassanova and her family scrambled to safety on Monday from their place in Balisong.

Along with her mother-in-law who was in a wheelchair, they rushed to the San Antonio evacuation center, one of the safer grounds for them to stay.

Cassanova said they were warmly welcomed in the evacuation center, where she witnessed the spirit of 'bayanihan' there.

"This place is tidy, the people in San Pascual are accommodating us accordingly when it comes to food, items of clothing and our other needs. We just hope and pray everything will be back into normal," she said.

She said they experienced power interruption right after the volcanic eruption, which made it hard for them to stay with open communication lines.

"It's my first time to experience this kind of situation, but I never felt alone on this experience because even the people who didn't have to evacuate are staying with us, making us feel better. I am very much grateful to all of your help," she said.

At the height of the disaster, different state agencies and non-government organizations already extended support to the victims of Taal's unrest.

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman and CEO Senator Richard Gordon ordered the immediate mobilization of teams and PRC assets to aid in the ongoing evacuations of residents affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Meanwhile, Mark Leandro Mendoza of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) Southern Tagalog District, the volunteer and civilian organization of the PCGA, said their organization has conducted an assessment to monitor the needs of the evacuees and extend whatever support they can.

Mendoza said the evacuees are in need of more packed foods, water, sleeping kits and face masks to protect them from the hazardous effects of the ashfall.

He said PCGA Southern Tagalog is open for the donation from other organizations and is willing to assist them in the distribution.

He urged the residents of Batangas to stay calm in the midst of the events saying they can "get through this calamity."

Source: Philippines News Agency