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Gratefulness and starting anew

An evacuee’s valuable lessons from Taal Volcano

When she sees the tricycle in their backyard, she cannot help but remember all the emotions she went through fleeing from their home in San Nicolas, Batangas Province away from chaos of the Taal Volcano eruption.

“Nangangatog ang tuhod ko, umiiyak ako, dasal ako nang dasal,” shared Remia Cacao, 54, recalling the time when she rode their tricycle going to the town of Balayan.

What added to her stress was not just the fear caused by the sudden turn of events, but also the faulty light of their tricycle traversing the national highway early in the evening of January 12. This is without mentioning yet that her 21-year-old son was driving their motorcycle, which also did not have tail lights, without a license.

With all those emotions, she barely had thought of how much more her husband, Efren, was feeling at the moment. Efren was fleeing from the volcano’s eruption a second time.

He was four during the Taal Volcano’s 1965 eruption but he recalls only bare details of how they flee from their home then in Brgy. Alas-as located in the volcano island.

Erasing the negativities somehow

“Napakahirap pala talagang maging bakwit. Grabe ‘yung stress na pinagdaanan namin,” shared Remia, who shared a small nipa hut with three other families in Brgy. Gimalas in Balayan.

Their family is one of the more than 60,000 affected families who opted to stay outside evacuation centers established in various cities and municipalities in the region.

She added that because of the panic, they only had brought a few things. They only had two pieces of clothing each.

“Kaya nga nagpapasalamat talaga kami sa dami ng taong tumutulong sa amin, kahit hindi namin kamag-anak,” said Remia, who added that the outpouring support from both the government and the private sectors made their lives away from their home easier somehow.

Despite staying outside of an established evacuation center, they received enough support.

“Kaya nga kapag may nagbibigay sa amin, pinopost ko kaagad sa Facebook para magpasalamat,” Remia added.

She and Efren cannot help but be touched, especially with the overwhelming support of the local government and the neighborhood they moved in.

“May isa ngang pamilya doon, sa halip na magcelebrate ng 50th anniversary, sa aming mga wala sa evacuation center ipinamahagi ang handa nila,” she shared gratefully.

However, just when they were getting settled in their small nipa hut, they had to leave again in the middle of the night. Remia faced the same dilemma.

“Ganun na naman ‘yung stress ko. Nabalitaan kasi namin na aabutin daw ‘yung tinutuluyan namin sakaling pumutok ‘yung bulkan,” said Remia.

Efren shared that it was 11:30 at night that they traveled from Balayan to Batangas City, more than 50 kilometers, with the same tricycle.

They stayed in another relative in Batangas City, but they later learned that they fall victim to a not-confirmed information. But rather than going back, they settled in the new home.

“Madami pa rin kaming natatanggap na tulong kahit noong lumipat na kami,” shared Efren, who showed their Disaster Assistance Family Access Card (DAFAC) with the list of assistance they received since coming to Batangas City.

Gaining back their perspective

When they went back to their home in San Nicolas the day after the local government allowed residents to, Remia and Efren saw the ashes covering their roof and the rest of their barangay.

Though they were saddened by what happened, especially for families with houses that are heavily-damaged, they chose to be thankful.

“Kami ay nagpapasalamat dahil kahit papaano, ito lang ang nangyari sa amin. Ang mahalaga ay ligtas kaming lahat at nakabalik nang maayos dito sa amin,” said Remia.

As they slowly rebuild their lives and get back to normal, the family stays alert all the time.

“May nakahanda na kaming gamit para sakaling kailangang umalis, mayroon na kaming madadala,” she shared. Though she does not doubt the help that will come in case this happens again, the January 12, 2020 Taal Volcano eruption had taught them a valuable lesson after all—that is to be always prepared alongside keeping the faith and the optimism.***

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