Filipinos were taken by surprise when Taal Volcano suddenly erupted steam and ash last Sunday. But because the Philippines is no stranger to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and our fellowmen are known to offer a helping hand during times of crisis, it was not surprising to discover many Good Samaritan stories in the midst of ash fall and mud. Trained by annual calamities brought about by extreme weather, Pinoys mobilized to donate, volunteer, and organize.
It took the simplest of gestures to make a difference. Many drivers escaping the eruption voiced their gratitude toward Tagaytay residents who, instead of following the advise to stay indoors, lined up the streets and armed themselves with hoses and pails of water. They washed down passing cars covered in ash so that drivers could finally see through their windshields as they make their way home.
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For people who couldn’t leave Taal, refuge was found in nearby establishments who threw open their doors to help. Earl Anthony Bautista shared a different kind of hotel review online when he and his group suddenly had an unplanned stay at Hotel Kimberly: “[Their] staff was nothing short of kind and hospitable, even during the time of crisis," he posted on Facebook. "We weren't able to check-in officially, because they couldn't issue electronic key cards while the power was out. We, along with some other guests, thus had to pass the night at the lobby. But the staff wasted no time in ensuring our stay was as comfortable as possible, given the circumstances." The staff provided these stranded individuals blankets, pillows, and slippers; chicken-and-egg sandwiches, coffee and drinking water; free and thorough carwashes. They even brought out board games. "What's more, they didn't charge us for anything! All these, while they stayed up all night, monitoring the situation, and keeping us calm while earthquakes occurred every 30 minutes or so. All these they offered with a smile, and without asking for anything in return! Ang galing niyo, grabe!”
Feeding the hungry
With thousands of families displaced, the first task is to make sure they are fed. M. Castillo Eatery in Batangas displayed signs of “Free food! Free food to all evacuees! Free!” and welcomed weary families to their humble carinderia. Angel Castillo announced, “Malapit lang sa kanto ng Manghinao! Feel free to come po!” Learning of this generous effort random cars and strangers will just stop by the carinderia and leave cooking ingredients and money.
The acclaimed restaurant Antonio’s reported on Facebook that while its staff is safe, the establishment continues to work 'round the clock to help those affected by the eruption. “Our kitchens and bakeries have been hard at work preparing meals for our evacuated neighbors. Our staff have also been distributing clothes, blankets, and mats to sleep on for over 1,800 families that have been displaced. This is the time when real and genuine hospitality is needed. We would like to thank all the kind hearts who have been helping us with our mission, we will continue to do so for the time being as we wait for Taal’s situation to settle down.”
Art Relief Mobile Kitchen is also in some affected areas cooking hot meals in exchange for a smile. Partnering with chefs (Waya Araos of QC favorite Gourmet Gypsy being one of them) and farms, the group is currently in Lipa, Batangas, and will open a second kitchen in Alfonso, Cavite, to feed the evacuees. The group is founded by photojournalist Alex Baluyut.
To donate ingredients and to help in the cooking, visit the Facebook page of Art Relief Mobile Kitchen. You can also donate cash so they can buy ingredients. Deposit any amount to ART RELIEF MOBILE KITCHEN INC with BPI account number 0911 0161 68. Check out the Facebook page of Antonio’s for details on how to help.
Child welfare and animal safety
1000Bearhugs is collecting stuffed toys for scared children to hug. “Play is a child's natural language and a means for them to make sense of their experiences. Trauma can be addressed through the experiential narratives of play therapy and allows a child to speak of what he or she has gone through when they cannot find the words to do so. These toys provide children with a certain amount of security in a sometimes-scary world.” They are also calling for art teachers and art materials to help families in evacuation centers by providing relief from the trauma and entertaining them as they wait for good news.
Check out the Facebook page of 1000Bearhugs, or call 0917 796 1378 to help.
While people were the priority in evacuation, many concerned citizens were alarmed at all the animals left behind at tourist destinations, farms, and homes. As soon as the volcano calmed down a bit, animal rights groups, farmers, and pet owners mobilized to go back into the danger zone and rescue the animals. Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Animal Kingdom Foundation are just a few of the animal rights groups on the ground.
Animal lovers are also doing their part to help care for the animals. Beachborn owner Sarah Irene Tirona couldn’t just sit at home, sharing developments on her Facebook account. She first started by raising money for donations for pet food. “Let’s goooo save the animals from the #taaleruption! Donations will go to dog food, cat food, feeds, bowls and whatever else PAWS needs.” With the money she raised, Tirona went to all the pet stores she can find to buy pet food and supplies then drove all the way to the animal shelters in the affected areas. There, she shared videos of the condition of the animals, which moved people to donate even more.
Meanwhile, The Happy Alpha Project founder Paty Tabas opened her farm for rescues. “We have a 6,000 square-meter farm lot located at Baras, Rizal, which can be used as shelter to any kind of animals. From big horses to small puppies.” Paty also called on people who can volunteer transport of the animals. “We are in need of bus, truck, van with drivers to move the rescued animals from different locations to the farm… We are trying to move as much animals today.”
Call The Happy Alpha Project at 0977 820 7078 to find out how to help with the animal rescue and relief operations.
Donations still needed
Over 30,000 people were displaced by the Taal Volcano eruption. That’s a lot of people whose basic needs must be met. Food, water, clothes, blankets, bath and grooming products, and medicines are necessary and in short supply.
You can donate to the Philippine Red Cross, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Caritas Manila. Schools like UP, Ateneo, De La Salle, and PUP are collecting donations, too. Just drop off your donations at their campuses. Items needed are easy-to-open canned goods, bottled water, water containers, face masks, toilet paper, towels, soap, and clothes, especially underwear.
Evacuees are also in need of mattresses. If you have extra lying around at home, please think of donating. Oskie Declines reported on his Facebook account that Uratex donated a truckload of foam mattresses. Declines said, “Foam donation at Brgy Halang, Lipa, Batangas. Nagpapasalamat po kami ulit sa Uratex Foundation.” His photos showed a long line of people happily getting new mattresses, knowing their families won’t sleep on cold, hard floors anymore.
But it’s not over yet—everyone can help! You can donate in cash or kind. You can volunteer your time or your vehicles. You can open your home or your vacant properties. You can disseminate information on how to volunteer or donate. There are many more stories of how Filipinos are practicing bayanihan to help each other out as Taal Volcano seethes and rumbles. Add your own and donate your time or resources now.