Quezon City, Philippines. On the afternoon of January 12, 2020, after 43 years of unrest, Taal Volcano, located south of the capital of the Philippines, second most active volcano in the country, erupted again spewing ash into the air as well as pyroclastic materials, generating volcanic lightning, rain of mud, destroying whatever is within its reach, displacing thousands of residents from nearby towns surrounding the volcano. The country’s Metropolitan Manila and other northern regions were not spared from the ashfall shutting down the main hub of the country, all flights canceled, ashes all over the 16 cities and nearby towns, no work and no class at all levels in the affected regions the day after.
The Postulants and their Postulant Master evacuated the Postulancy House located in the town of Indang (26.04 km or 16.18 mi) from the crater of Taal Volcano and headed to Quezon City for safety. The Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony Mary Claret (MSAMC) are all safe in their community in Amadeo, Cavite who are 19+ km or 12+ mi from the crater.
A day after, on January 13, 2020, through the initiative of Claret School of Quezon City, the Claretian Missionaries of the Philippine Province announced the organizing of a relief operation for the most affected victims of the calamity. In-kind and money donations were encouraged and started to come in.
On January 14, 2020, the Provincial Prefect of Apostolate of the Philippine Province, Fr. Larry Miranda, CMF, together with the heads of the different Claretian institutions in Quezon City met to set the official plan for the relief operations in solidarity to those who are affected by the calamity. Drop-off centers and the command center were designated.
An impressive and immense response from the people was noted. An outpour of cash and goods continually arrived. Claretian communities of the whole Province, aside from its offered prayers, started its own drive to augment the disaster response carried out in the capital of the country. Volunteers from the parish, school, publications, and other institutions as well as the seminarians came to do the repacking and preparations of the relief kits.
On the 17th of January, Fr. Eduardo Apungan, CMF together with Fr. Martin Ernest Ele, CMF, the Provincial Prefect of Youth and Vocations, and Fr. Larry Miranda, CMF, went to Santo Tomas, Batangas (border outside the 14-kilometer radius danger zone) for an ocular visit and assessment of the situation. They linked with the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus (FMSIJ) in Santo Tomas who are already taking care of 20 stay-in family-evacuees. They also visited and assessed four evacuation centers in the area: Padre Pio Parish Shrine with 127 families (513 persons) evacuees; Dona Tiburcia Carpio Malvar Elementary School with 4 or 5 families (approximately 30 persons); Santo Tomas City Gymnasium with 180 families (537 persons); and Santo Tomas City Evacuation Center with 244 families (907 persons). Most of these people lost their homes and livelihood. From the visit, they have determined the basic needs of the affected people: rice, instant foods, baby’s milk, underwear for all ages and sexes, babies and adult diapers, toiletries, hygiene kits, mats, beddings, utensils, slippers.
On the 18th of January, more donations and volunteers from other parishes, friends, institutions came.
Likewise, since January 18, 2020, AKO ANG SAKLAY PFA TEAM, headed by Fr. Arnold Abelardo, CMF, visited safe designated Evacuation Centers in Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite in coordination and collaboration with “TULONG TAAL” and with the designated agencies on the ground. They celebrated Masses in the church-turned evacuation center, rendered PFA Psycho-Social Interventions, and cooked food for the evacuees.
On Monday, January 20, 2020, the first group of volunteers distributed the first batch of relief goods to the evacuation center in Dona Tiburcia Carpio Malvar Elementary School, San Miguel, Santo Tomas with 201 families. More will follow in the coming days.
As of writing, the volcano, still at alert level 4, continues to threaten lives near the volcano. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Philippine national institution dedicated to provide information on the activities of volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, etc., has recorded 673 volcanic earthquakes, including 12 low-frequency ones in the last 24 hours, which it says “signifies continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the Taal edifice, which may lead to further eruptive activity.” The entire population of some towns was evacuated and not allowed to go back until the danger is gone. As of 5 am of January 19, the official count from the Batangas Provincial Capitol states that there are 45,374 families affected/evacuated, a total of 184,972 affected individuals.
Prayers for safety and for the end of the disaster are encouraged.
For more details of the relief operations:
Mission Procure of the Philippine Province https://www.facebook.com/Claretian-Mission-Procure-247848022064576/
The Prefecture of Apostolate https://www.facebook.com/cmfapostolateph/