On January 12, Sunday at 14:30, one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines erupted and had increasing disruptive activities hourly. Taal Volcano shot up a 15-kilometer high Tephra* column at around 03:00 the next day which caused a thick blanket of ashes cover the neighboring communities.
* This term refers to any material that is launched out of a volcano because of its eruption. (i.e. ash, volcanic bombs)
Volcanic lightning and rains of lava bombs were a spectacle to people who witnessed it from afar but a monstrous calamity to families who lived within the 14-kilometer radius of Taal.
This violent eruption sent more than 38,000 families fleeing for their lives for hours.
In the first five days after the initial eruption, the surrounding communities have been devastated as well by frequent earthquakes that split roads, residences and other establishments–the magnitude of these earthquakes ranges from Intensity I to V.
This continuous movement of the ground indicates movement of magma underneath the surface and ones it comes out, the threat of volcanic tsunami is expected even at present.
We were able to listen to some stories of the affected families and we would like to share them with you.
Rommy*, a fisherman who lived in a nearby town called Agoncillo, shared with us the horror they felt on that Sunday afternoon.
He and his family were in their nipa hut when they felt the ground shook from underneath and saw the sky turned dark in the middle of the day.
“We decided to flee at once”, he said “and grabbed all things that we could.” They drove up and out of Agoncillo to a safer place. For three weeks, Rommy could not feed his family and could only depend on the supplies that came from the local government and non-profit organizations.
Lisa*, a young mother of a new-born baby, ran for their lives when Taal blew up. She scrammed out of their house with her little one wrapped secured from the hazardous ashfall.
Right now, Lisa lives in a classroom which has been turned into an evacuation center. And for over a month now, she and her little baby girl sleeps on a thin mat to ease the coldness of the floor every night.
She has no relatives to go to for help and this young Mom tries her best to provide her baby’s needs.
Carlo*, a jeepney driver in his late 20s, was out on a duty that afternoon when the disaster happened. He immediately drove to towns in search for his wife and young children.
Thankfully, they were safe and sound in an evacuation center when he found them.
However, now that it is taking weeks and months before the threat of the volcano would settle to its final eruption or decrease to dormancy, Carlo and his wife have become restless because their life was instantly put on a halt.
Their children cannot continue their studies and they have no money to start up any source of income.
These three people that represent families are from different backgrounds but ended up having nothing. It did not matter whether their houses were built with stones, with wood or with nipa palms; the ashfall, lava fountains and frequent earthquakes terrorized all properties leaving everybody within its reach devastated.
People like these are who we think about in our recent relief operations. It is a continuing burden for thousands of families to start with nothing and this is why we continue to send help in order to give them hope for a better future.
The first relief operations was on January 22, Monday. Our team of 12 people drove for four (4) hours to the municipality of Barangay Malvar in the province of Batangas. We went straight to the Batangas State University which was an evacuation center to hundreds of families.
We were privileged to serve over 170 households by sharing with them packed goods of essential toiletries, ready-to-eat food, biscuits for the children to cheer them up in their unfortunate state, loaves of bread, drinking water and medicine.
The second relief operations was held on February 12, Wednesday. Our team of 14 people drove four (4) hours to the starting point of a whole day’s journey.
We successfully distributed 950 goods to children and families with the assistance and kindness of the province’s police officers.
Families gladly received packs of hygiene necessities like alcohol, body soap, laundry bars, shampoo, touthbrush & toothpaste, sanitary pads, tissue rolls, underwear, and vitamins for both kids and adults.
Four weeks after the initial eruption of Taal Volcano, families have become restless in their temporary living situation. In addition to this, the cleanliness of their surroundings was not assured. This is why hygiene packs was a necessity for them.
As for the children, they cheered upon seeing the bags of school supplies containing new notebooks, pad papers, pens and other things.
In total, our team reached out to two schools and three towns to which people gladly collected their packets.
However, this series of relief operations is not over yet. There is still so much need that must be met on the next weeks because the Taal Volcano continues to threaten the neighboring communities around it.
The spewing of ashes has decreased in tons but the underground activities has picked up in frequency and can be strongly felt. Taal has an unpredictable behaviour and this is what makes it lethal because it can violently erupt and cause further destruction without any warning.
Right now, more than 30,000 families are still displaced and they have become restless from doing nothing but only waiting.
If you would like to join this effort, you may support us by clicking the link below to our donation page.