January 12, 2020.It was a typical Sunday afternoon where families are gathered together, enjoying the weekend in high spirits as the new year has just rolled in. Not one person was aware of the tragedy that was about to unfold a few minutes later.
Needless to say, we all know what happened next. The ground started to rumble and shake. Fissures began to spew smoke and steam all over the island volcano. Then out came a huge pillar of smoke, ashes, volcanic debris, and sulfur.
Taal Volcano has erupted.
Small But Terrible
Taal Volcano is known to be the world’s smallest active volcano. It is the second most active volcano in the Philippines next to Mount Mayon.
To say that it is “small but terrible” is a complete understatement and undermines the tremendous destructive power of the volcano island.It is completely unpredictable. It can look peaceful and serene – beautiful, even – in its dormant state. However, once it unleashes its wrath, it leaves behind a trail of destruction and catastrophe.
Historically, according to a paper titled “The 2010 seismovolcanic crisis at Taal Volcano (Philippines),” eruptions of the small volcano are powerful and violent. They can happen at any time. Until now, as we all witnessed a few weeks ago, there is no surefire way to forecast its eruptions well in advance.
The volcano exploded without warning, taking the residents and tourists in the area completely by surprise. People were advised to evacuate and clear the cities and towns surrounding the area. Hordes of people fled the town and went to seek refuge in neighboring provinces.
What started as a dreamy Sunday turned out to be a nightmare.
Rescue and Relief Ops
As soon as the news of Taal’s eruption broke, rescue and relief operations were immediately mobilized. Filipinos and the world over started to take to social media and ask not just for prayers but for any kind of help that could be lent to the victims of the tragedy.
People started giving. Companies and institutions did their civic duties and organized donations drives. Military and police staff and personnel were deployed.Construction and trucking companies sent out trucks to help transport people. Some sent an articulated hauler to help with the disposal of ashes, dirt, and debris. Everybody wanted to pitch in and help.
For the next few days, help and assistance from all over poured it much to the relief of the victims and the volunteers on-site.
Picking Up the Pieces
Now that Phivolcs has lowered the alert level to Level 3, people are starting to go back to their homes to pick up the pieces and start all over again.
While some of them are excited to go home, others are left with severe trauma and just want to relocate.
All the help and aid they received are well appreciated. From food to clothes to financial aid to clean-up drives, the victims have nothing but gratefulness and respect to each Filipino that gave and volunteered. However, there is still a lingering sorrow left in their hearts in light of the pain of the losses they experienced.
On January 22, 2020, the Philippine House of Representatives held an out-of-town plenary session in Batangas where the volcano is located. According to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, they did this to show the victims that the congress prioritizes responding to the victims’ needs.
While it may seem like a symbolic act, until something tangible and practical comes out of it, it will remain just that – symbolic. The question on a lot of the victims’ minds right now is, “Where do we go from here?”
How will the government help them rebuild their lives and regain that which was lost? How do you follow through to make sure the words spoken are not just empty promises?
But the Filipino people are resilient. They know how to bounce back from every tragedy they have faced. The Filipino spirit is very much alive, especially during circumstances like calamities. If there’s one good thing about a tragedy, it brings Filipinos together to work with one another in helping people rebuild their lives.
It might take some time and the process will not be an easy one but they will recover. They always recover.
This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.