“Wala na kaming babalikan. Natabunan na ang mga bahay namin,” said Chona Dedale, 43, from Barangay Berinayan, San Nicolas, Batangas — a community found literally in the vicinity of the Taal Volcano’s parameter (We no longer have a place to go back to. Our houses are covered in ash).
On Sunday, when the Taal Volcano erupted, Chona, along with her mother, 69, and their neighbors took a gloomy 30-minute crowded boat ride away from their now ash-covered barangay. Most of them had to walk to the nearest rescue site, and Chona was only able to carry one bag with five pairs of clothing for her and her mother.
Chona has two brothers, but she has no news of their whereabouts. She said that she separated with them the night when everything was in chaos at the rescue site. Her family is originally from Eastern Samar and they don’t have anyone to run to. She was desperately crying and praying for [anyone’s] help, thinking of her mother’s condition and how she would tend to her needs. “Hindi ko po alam kung anong gagawin. Takot na takot po ako,” she said. (I didn’t know what to do. I was so scared).
As if on cue, one of her kababayans she called Alvin took pity on her mother and he brought them with him in Munting Coral, Calaca, Batangas where they have to live with a family of five– all of whom took shelter in the same household. “Nabuhayan po ako ng pag-asa,” she smiled. (I suddenly saw hope).
Chona and many other displaced individuals are living in communities away from the permanent danger zones. They chose not to stay in the overcrowded evacuation centers to give way to others who might need temporary shelter more; they live with their close family and friends instead. These displaced individuals are called “home-based” by local authorities.
Learning about this situation on the ground, the Operation Blessing Foundation Philippines went around Barangays Munting Coral and Balimbing, Calaca, Batangas to distribute relief goods containing basic hygiene kits, pairs of slippers, water bottles, blankets, and sleeping mats. Almost 300 families were able to receive their own relief packs.
“Kasya na kaya sakin ‘tong tsinelas?” “Tay, ‘di na masyadog malamig sa likod pagtulog mamaya,” said Tatay Baldo, 59, and Babylene, 24, almost simultaneously. (“Will these slippers fit men now?” “Tay, it won’t be that cold for our backs when we sleep later.)
“Ma’am, ilagay niyo po kami sa Facebook para malaman ng pamilya namin na okay lang po kami,” she said. (Ma’am, please put us on Facebook so our family will know that we are safe.)
Tatay Baldo Oliva, along with his two sons, daughter’s family, three grandchildren, Babylene Perelonia (his daughter-in-law), and Cherry Lyn Servito, fled with their whole community from Barangay Berinaya, Laurel, Batangas on that uneventful Sunday night when Taal Volcano spewed ashes that covered most parts of CALABARZON.
He was teary-eyed when he described how their locality suddenly turned dark; and next thing they knew, it started raining “stones and sand”. Tatay said they had to literally disassemble the boats’ oil tank to get what remained of its fuel and divided it among themselves for their motorcycles’ fill. They had to destroy some parts of the boats of what could have been their stable source of income just for them to flee from the looming danger of ashes blanketing their whole barangay. They did escape — with four to five people in one single motorcycle, taking only one bag of belonging for the entire family.
Babylene, on the other hand, recalled how some of their neighbors walked from their barangay to the nearest evacuation center, just because they don’t have the means to escape faster. She said she was happy to see their municipal government mobilize their rescue efforts early so they had to transfer to military trucks, only to hop out because it was overcrowded. It was then that they parted ways with Tatay Baldo’s daughter and her family.
They stayed for two nights at Niyogan Elementary School and was transferred again to Splendido de Taal covered court where they received the relief goods containing hygiene kits, slippers, and sleeping mats from Operation Blessing Foundation Philippines.
The displaced people screamed in glee when the OB Staff showed the contents of the bags– toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, detergent powders, diapers, sanitary pads, among other basic hygiene necessities. Also included in loot were water bottles, a pair of slippers, blankets, and mattresses.
Tatay Baldo’s family and neighbors are among the more than 140 families taking comfort in the confines of Splendido covered court. Majority of whom make a living out of fish farming, irrigation, and navigation-related activities (tourism, sight-seeing).
They had no choice but to leave their pets and animals (horses, cows, chickens, pigs) because as tatay Baldo puts it “gusto man po namin, di namin kaya. Mas mahalaga po ang buhay ng tao kaysa sa hayop, Ma’am. Pinakawalan na lang po namin sila bakasakaling makahanap sila ng masisilungan at kakainan,” he added. (Although we want to take our animals with us, we can’t do it. People’s lives are more important than our animals in this time. We released them with high hopes that they were able to find shelter and food [on their own]).
They wish they could go back to tend to their animals but the alert level status of Taal Volcano is refraining them from entering the permanent danger zones.
“Ang dami nang pumunta para magbigay ng tulong, pero kayo ang kauna-unahang nagdasal para sa’min. Hindi talaga nagpapabaya ang Panginoon. Maraming salamat sa inyo. Makakatulog na kami ng hindi nilalamig ang likod mamayang gabi. Pagpalain kayo, neng”, Tatay Baldo uttered in delight. (Many have come to help but you are the first ones to pray for us. God really never neglects us. Thank you very much. We can now sleep without feeling the cold in our backs tonight. May you be blessed.)
Chona came in late. She said she came running when she heard about the relief goods distribution. She was shy at first but she thanked the Operation Blessing staff non-stop when she received the goods and medicines she personally asked from the volunteer nurses. “May sakit po kasi ang nanay ko. Hindi ko na po nakuha ang mga gamot niya kasi kailangan po naming tumakbo para hindi maiwanan ng bangka,” she said softly.
“Wala na kaming bahay na babalikan. Lahat ng kabuhayan namin wala na. Kinausap ko si Alvin at dito na muna kami makikitira sa mga kamag-anak niya. Tutulong ako sa mga gawaing bahay kahit sa sahig pa kami matulog,” she added. (We no longer have a house to go back to. All of our livelihood are gone. I talked to Alvin and we will stay with his family for the meantime. I will help in the household chores even if it means sleeping on the floor).
Chona’s family owned a sari-sari store as their source of income. She also frequently helped her brothers tend to their cows and pigs. At times when food was scarce, she said she would help in harvesting fish in Taal lake, but all of these are gone.
“Sa sahig na po kami natutulog gamit ang karton pero mas okay na po kaysa sa wala. Maraming salamat po sa panalangin at tulong ng Operation Blessing lalo na po sa kumot at banig. Huwag po sana kayong magsawang tumulong,” Chona said after she asked to leave because she had to look after her sick mother. (We sleep on the floor using just carton boxes but it is better than nothing. Thank you for your prayers and help especially the blanket and sleeping mat. Please do not get tired of helping others).
If you are able, please donate hygiene kits and food supplies to the “home-based” evacuees –they need diapers for babies (adult diapers are also needed), body soaps, deodorants, shampoos, and other basic everyday household necessities like detergent powder and dishwashing soaps. Please coordinate with the local authorities properly.
Please continue to support our cause. You can bring relief to thousands of families now in evacuation centers by partnering with us. To know more, visit https://www.obphil.com/home/be-a-partner/.
For more inquiries, please call us at (+632) 8663-4701, (+632) 8663-4710 or 0939-921-5543.