In Batangas, ash can’t bury tales of survival and hope
BATANGAS — Before January 12, Taal Volcano was a scenic tourist spot that boosted livelihood in Batangas and nearby towns.
But when it erupted, it also blew up what was once a colorful view in Batangas province and surrounding cities, whose residents have depended on the volcano’s beauty and resources as means of living.
Data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, January 22, 2020, showed that a total of 71,717 families or 282,021 individuals in Calabarzon have been affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption. Of this figure, 39,052 families or 148,987 are currently in 493 evacuation centers.
Establishments have been closed and towns were put on lockdown but even as ashes obscured roads and properties in Batangas, a glimmer of hope stays with victims.
Sophia Perez, one of the evacuees at an elementary school in Barangay Lumbang Calzada, Calaca town recalled how fear gripped her when the Taal Volcano started to burst and successive earthquakes ensued in her hometown Lemery.
In tears, she recounted how the series of temblors brought her back to the days when she suffered two miscarriages – one of which was also caused by an earthquake.
If life in the evacuation center is hard for normal victims, it would be 10 times more difficult for a pregnant woman like Perez.
“Sobrang hirap. Hindi ka talaga makakatulog. Noong unang dating namin dito, kumot lang ‘yung higaan. Nananakit na ‘yung likod ko, naninigas ‘yung tiyan ko. Lahat na ginagawa ko. Magdadasal na lang para mawala ‘yung sakit kasi hindi talaga ako makatulog,” she said.
(It’s really hard. You won’t be able to sleep. On our first day here, we only laid on a blanket. My back hurts, my tummy stiffens. I do everything just so I can sleep. I just pray so that the pain I feel will be gone because I really cannot sleep.)
Despite this, she said she is resolved to survive the fury of the volcano for the sake of her baby.
“Yung aking anak kailangan ko paglabanan, kasi gusto kong makita nya ‘yung mundo, ‘yung maranasan naman niya mabuhay (I should fight for my child because I want him to see the world, to experience life),” she said.
A few kilometers away from Barangay Lumbang Calzada, young couple Jhonvest and Florida Endozo, aged 20 and 22 respectively, also fight for survival for their future and that of their three-month-old daughter.
Before Taal Volcano erupted, they planned to build their own house in Laurel town. But for now, they would have to stay at an evacuation center in Barangay Baclas also in Calaca until Taal Volcano relents.
Florida could only embrace her daughter when strong earthquakes started to shake the province.
“Malakas na po ‘yung lindol, Minu-minuto po nalindol ng malakas tapos hawak-hawak ko si baby dahil nga po nakakatakot,” she said, also narrating how the house of his mother where they were staying was badly damaged.
(The earthquake was strong. Every minute, earthquakes struck and I clutched my baby because it’s really terrifying.)
Both shed tears as they remembered how the sudden turn of events stole their livelihood.
“Ang aking isda, ang aking hanapbuhay ay natapon ho. Ha-harvestin na sana (My fish, my livelihood has gone to waste. It was already for harvest),” Jhonvest said.
If Jhonvest and Florida carried a small child when they were fleeing Taal Volcano’s wrath, Romana Perez and her family were worried about how to evacuate her bedridden husband Geronimo, 70, from their house in Lemery.
She said they would not have survived if not for the timely aid sent by local authorities and various relief groups.
Both Lemery and Laurel towns are within the 14-kilometer radius danger zone of the Taal Volcano.
Meanwhile, at the barangay hall of Lumbang Calzada, village captain Jasmin Malabanan and other barangay officials discussed their plan to host a singing contest and other recreational activities for evacuees in a bid to allow their constituents’ minds off Taal’s crippling hit.
Relief keeps on coming for now but she said there were times when barangay officials have even donated their own money to provide for the needs of the evacuees.
She also worried about how long they can sustain those in temporary shelters, especially since no one can really predict when the harsh activities of Taal will finally stop.
Nevertheless, her hope that Batangas province will one day rise again remains alive.
“Ang ano lang po namin ngayon, ‘Bangon, Batangas.’ Dahil hanggang mayroong nasasalanta, kami po ay handang tumulong sa kanila. (What we believe in now is Batangas will rise again. As long as there are victims of the eruption, we will be ready to help them),” she said.
Edited by KGA
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