The eruption of Taal Volcano may have shaken the lives of people in surrounding cities and towns but amid the devastation brought by the volcano’s restiveness, the spirit of volunteerism in Filipinos has also been awakened.
Several organizations and foreign countries have sent sympathies and aid to the most affected population, with humanitarian workers in the frontline working round-the-clock.
While it is true that disasters spare no one, it is more heartwarming and inspiring to see how people from all walks of life respond to the call for help and give donations in their little ways.
Hundreds of bikers in blue– all Angkas riders– traveled to Sto. Tomas town to help those who have evacuated to safer grounds.
One of them was Hermie Garsota, a part of the Angkas rider volunteers and the 20-plus-member Motor Xtreme South, specifically.
“Iba’t ibang grupo po kami pero iisa lang na sa Angkas. Ang layunin namin dito, magbibigay ng mga relief goods, pagkain, damit sa mga nasalanta. Iba’t ibang batch kami, sa kahapon mayroon din, ngayon iba din, pati bukas at ‘yong sa Linggo (We are different groups here but all are part of Angkas. Our goal here is to give relief goods, food, and clothes. We’re a different batch from those who went here yesterday, and those coming tomorrow and on Sunday),” he told the Philippine News Agency on Friday.
From his group alone, Motor Xtreme South, Garsota said they brought at least 50 boxes of goods containing noodles, canned goods, and water—all intended for communities and families who are sheltering the displaced.
“Nag-start na ito noong Monday pa. Sa sobrang dami ng grupo, iba’t ibang barangay ang pupuntahan namin, hindi lang isang lugar (It already started on Monday. With the huge number of groups, we’ll be going to different barangays, not only one specific area,” he said.
For volunteer Lito Melano, the donation drive shows how Filipinos are ready to respond and help others however small their resources are.
“Ganito sa amin. Isang group kami na nagtitipon-tipon, nagsasama-sama para makatulong sa mga naapektuhan ng pagsabog ng Taal Volcano (We are like this in our group, we gathered to help the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption),” he said.
“Kung kinakailangan na ulitin namin ito, ‘di kami magdadalawang isip na ulitin. Personal namin ito sa group, nag-ambag-ambag kami, nagkusang loob kami na maglikom ng halaga para ibili ng mga pangangailangan para maitulong sa mga kababayan natin (If we need to do this again, we won’t hesitate to do so. We did this voluntarily and chipped in to save an amount that will be used to buy relief goods for our fellow Filipinos),” he added.
Aside from these motorcycle riders, there were also some small groups and prominent organizations handing out donations around the mostly ash-laden Batangas province, particularly the nearby communities where people sought refuge after their towns were placed on lockdown.
In the Old Tanauan City Hall, one of the structures that serve as an evacuation center, donations and assistance are pouring in as hundreds of individuals take temporary shelter.
In the usually bustling towns of Taal and San Nicolas, abandoned houses covered in ash as well as few men and dozens of dogs, cats, and goats were the only ones left.
From the lakefront in San Nicolas, one of the nearest areas from the crater, the Taal Volcano which had been photographed with massive ash plume and lightning streaks looked calm.
But its threat remains– Taal Volcano is still under alert level 4, meaning a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days.
As of Saturday, the government said there are a total of 96,061 people from Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon affected by the volcano’s eruption on January 12, of which at least 70,413 are taking temporary shelter in 300 evacuation centers in the region.
The effect was also felt by the education sector as some 30,000 students have been displaced.
In a briefing with public school officials in Batangas City on Friday, the Department of Education said at least 78 public and 13 private schools were abandoned after residents were forced to evacuate.
The agency, however, said it will take put in measures to make sure that education continues for those affected. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)
Top phot: A group of volunteer onboard a jeepney donates water and hygiene kits to the eruption-affected families in Tanauan. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)