Bayanihan and volunteerism, both forming the core essence of the culture of this Southeast Asian archipelago of 106 million people, have shown yet again the capacity of the Filipino to help his neighbor in times of disaster—as in the latest eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas.
Local government officials in the National Capital Region keep sending assistance to communities affected by the eruption as the number of evacuees continues to escalate.
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--On Saturday, the Makati City government started deploying disaster response vehicles and equipment to Bauan, Batangas to assist thousands of residents in the evacuation center.
--Mayor Abigail Binay said the city was sending a supertanker, a chemical fire truck, two penetrator fire trucks, a mobile clinic, two advanced cardiac life support vehicles, a mobile shower with portalet and a vacuum tanker, two mobile kitchens, water filtration, jerry cans, and an impounding vehicle that would be used to rescue stray animals.
--The city government of Taguig, on the other hand, is currently conducting a medical mission and relief operations in Laurel, Batangas and delivered food packs, face masks, hygiene kits to families affected.
--In San Juan, the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council approved the transfer of P2 million to Batangas Provincial Risk Reduction Management Fund.
--The Parañaque City government also donated sacks of rice and other necessities to affected communities while local government units of Malabon and Marikina provided relief goods to families and individuals in evacuation centers.
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--Manila City Mayor Francisco "Isko" Domagoso ordered the deployment of a response team as well as emergency vehicles to help out residents in Batangas while the Muntinlupa City government made a donation of P3 million to most-affected localities and delivered thousands of relief packs to evacuation centers.
--Local officials in Quezon City went to Tanauan, Batangas to provide blankets, sleeping mats, mobile showers, among others for the evacuees.
--Mandaluyong City Risk Reduction Management Office officials is also coordinating with Batangas authorities for their assistance to those affected while the city government of Caloocan extended assistance by providing family disaster kits, food packs, among others to evacuees.
--For Melvin Crisostomo, dean of the Student Affairs Office at the City University of Pasay, the surge of donations for the evacuees in Batangas corresponds to the number of Filipinos who value their kababayan in time of disasters.
“Our university would like to promote ‘pakikipagkapwa-tao’ [human relations] among our students. Letting them feel to empathize with others, in helpfulness and generosity in times of need and that when disasters occur, students could be able to extend assistance a helping hand,” Crisostomo said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Friday.
He said he was grateful to those who donated and never had second thoughts in helping a fellowman.
When Taal Volcano erupted on Jan. 13, Crisostomo said they had 50 students who have been affected by the heavy ashfall.
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Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman and concurrent NCR Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council head Chairman Danilo Lim commended the response efforts of local government units from Metro Manila in helping the localities in Batangas province.
At the same time, disaster observers noted the rise of volunteers to help extend a helping hand to the victims, not only volunteers from the metropolis but also from the nearby provinces.
“Donations are pouring in for localities in Batangas. It feels good that Metro Manila LGUs are extending kindness and generosity to other localities in need during these difficult times,” said Lim.
Serving as focal person for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, MMDA chief of staff Michael Salalima said his office was continuously coordinating with the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office on the needed augmentation of relief efforts.
“More assistance is on the way. We are gathering more donations for the thousands of evacuees,” said Salalima.
MMDA earlier sent rescue team and emergency assets to Batangas province to assist residents.
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The agency also delivered face masks, medicines, bottled water and other necessities turned over to the agency by private companies and foundations.
MMDA’s K9 Unit members and volunteers rescued animals left behind by owners.
Meanwhile, the team of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also started its relief operations for the evacuees in the town of Tuy in Batangas.
Marcos, along with supporters from Tulong Taal and Tuy LGU officials, distributed relief packs to more than 1,500 evacuees located in seven barangays of the town.
He visited Barangays Luntal, Lumbangan, Talon, Palincaro, Malibu, Dao, and Guinhawa with Mayor Armando Afable and Vice Mayor Jose Jecerell Cerrado.
The packs contained an N95 face mask, instant noodles, bottled water, blanket, and personal hygiene kits.
Marcos also donated excess clothing articles to each barangay.
“The government’s response to the crisis has been very good. However, we wanted to focus on those who voluntarily left and are staying in evacuation sites that have received insufficient assistance,” Marcos said.
Tuy officials also said that the evacuees in their sites were from the towns of Lemery, Agoncillo and Taal who were forced to vacate their homes.
“Please use the N95 masks, especially on your children because the air quality in the surrounding areas of Taal has not fully returned to normal. We may not see it, but fine particles may still be present and trigger their asthma,” Marcos added.
The government still maintains alert level 4 for Taal Volcano, saying that hazardous explosive eruption is still possible within hours to days.
Batangas was also declared under state of calamity on a day after the Taal Volcano started spewing ash.
Dr. Ma. Katherina Mangahas, Makati VSD chief, said the impounding vehicle had eight cages that can accommodate up to 24 medium-sized dogs.
Several netizens have shown concern for animals left near the Taal Volcano.
Photos and videos of animals, including horses and cows covered in ash, have circulated online, prompting animal rights groups and local government units to provide food and basic veterinary care for abandoned animals.
Crisostomo said the school administration’s immediate response was to raise donations from the students, their partners, and other institutions.
Crisostomo said the CUP immediately met on January 15 to discuss any augmentation they can extend to the victims of the volcanic eruption.
The donations—including food items, used clothing, sanitary and hygiene kits—were promptly raised and poured in through social media, he said.
The camaraderie among CUP students, he said, was demonstrated by providing relief assistance to their fellow students’ affected families.
“In our minds, we are not just helping our fellow Filipinos but also we are molding our students to promote humanity,” he added.
On top of the donations, the CUP administration and its student council also raised financial aid to buy more relief goods for the evacuees.
CUP’s Community Outreach head Rosalinda Regala said the overwhelming response of their students and their willingness to donate without asking them to do so was heartwarming.
“It is very heartwarming to see the willingness of those students to donate and help that you don’t have to force them. They’re the ones doing their way to help. This is just a small thing but if you put that little help together, it could create a bigger relief to those who needed it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Brian Aris Bolante, CUP student council president, said reaching out to fellow Filipinos in times of crisis is not just showing sympathy but also promotes nation-building.
“This is how we could get through all ups and down, by working hand-in-hand and help each other,” Bolante said.
As of this posting, the CUP has been coordinating with the Philippine Air Force’s Civil-Military Operations and the Student Supreme Council of the Philippines in the repacking and distribution of the donated items to the evacuees in Batangas.
Meanwhile, 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.
“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.
“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 showed how Filipinos were ready to respond and help others however small their resources are.
“We are like this in our group, we gathered to help the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption,” he said.
“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.
A road going to Lemery and the facade of a fire station in Taal, Batangas.
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 would take put in measures to make sure that education continued for those affected.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) said on Friday that affected personnel of schools within Taal Volcano’s 14-kilometer danger zone would be accommodated in nearby schools.
In a briefing, Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said displaced personnel should report to their respective division offices for deployment.
“This is to augment the teaching personnel and school management there,” Pascua said.
There are 1,055 personnel and 30,814 learners in 78 public schools located in the 14-km radius danger zone of the volcano.
Pascua also reiterated that the agency would track the displaced learners and personnel from the 14-kilometer danger zone of the volcano to determine their needs and transfer them to the schools near the affected towns.
“When we track everybody, we would see to it that the 30,000 displaced learners will be tracked through a learner reference number,” he added.
Citing Memorandum Order No. 3 series of 2020 signed by Secretary Leonor Briones, all nearby public schools within Calabarzon are directed to accommodate Taal-affected learners even with insufficient transfer credentials.
“We have done this during the Marawi crisis were displaced learners are accepted in schools nearby the place where their families evacuated. With or without credentials, they should be admitted to those schools,” Pascua said.
He noted that the policy will also apply to learners from 13 affected private schools.
Pascua also said the agency is preparing for the possibility of extending the volcano’s danger zone to 17 kilometers which will mean the displacement of another 68,984 learners and 2,498 personnel.
He added DepEd is now preparing for the rehabilitation of the abandoned areas.
DepEd Calabarzon director Wilfredo Cabral, meanwhile, cited the need to identify and address the problems of the displaced learners.
“We know this event should not hinder students from continuing their education,” he said.
He said about 1,600 classrooms in 141 nearby public schools are now accommodating more than 58,000 people.
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Among the taken actions of the education sector after the Taal’s eruption are monitoring schools used as evacuation centers, clean-up drives on the schools’ grounds affected by the heavy ashfall,
assisting the evacuees, and preparation of the deployment of the Alternative Delivery Mode (ADM) for learning continuity.
On Friday, Briones attended the DepEd executives’ coordination meeting, planning and preparation of emergency measures in response to the eruption of Taal Volcano, which remains under Alert Level 4. With PNA
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