Traffic is reportedly bad in the roads leading to the Southern Luzon provinces of Batangas and Cavite, because there are so many vehicles headed to the evacuation areas to distribute donations in kind. Residents started going to such shelters when Taal Volcano first spewed ash last Sunday, Jan. 12.
The help from individual citizens, non-government organizations and private companies is heartening. Aside from the material donations, the volunteerism in terms of time and effort have been overflowing.
Some donors choose to document their activity and take pictures of themselves hard at work. Others prefer to remain anonymous and eschew photos or videos of any kind. Others organize fund-raising drives to encourage their friends, relatives and colleagues to participate as well.
The response is a bright spot during these dark and uncertain times.
Those who have nothing better to do than spread lies and fake news, call out others for their so-called inadequate contributions, find fault in others even those who are hard at work, and those who take advantage of the emergency for personal profit are the exception rather than the rule.
There is a bigger challenge, however, amid the spirit of resilience and bayanihan among the people. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has announced that the area remains on Alert Level 4 and that an explosive eruption, with all the danger it carries, is still imminent.
For us observing from a distance, the possibility is grim but it is one we can afford to conveniently shove out of our minds after, say, dropping off donation boxes, or transferring amounts to the bank accounts of trusted organizations, and reading the news in the comfort of our homes.
For those living in the danger zones, it’s a disruptive, life-changing eventuality that has already begun to unfold.
One of the most difficult aspects of this whole tragedy is the uncertainty that accompanies it. Since the danger remains imminent, there is no telling if, or when, the volcano will violently explode. As a result, people have to put their lives on hold, mostly in the inconvenient, crowded confines of evacuation centers. They have left behind their homes and have no idea when they would be able to get back to their normal routine, or whether they would find their belongings as they had left them, at all.
Bayanihan is not a one-time event. It is not a box to be checked, that once you’ve made a donation you can already move on to other items on your list.
May the rest of us empathize enough with those whose lives and livelihoods are at stake, and act on the fact that their needs are both immediate and long term.