The people who took refuge at the covered court of San Luis, Batangas in the weeks following the eruption of Taal Volcano have been at the receiving end of the generosity of hundreds--be they relief goods, cooked meals, clothes, or medicine.
But the group of men and women who took the stage at the court one morning offered something different for the evacuees.
It was a song made for the people of Batangas who have been suffering because of Taal's eruption.
Leading the group was Randy Hernandez, a member of San Luis's emergency rescue team.
Randy is a familiar face to the evacuees. He works nearby and drops by the evacuation area frequently.
But more importantly, he was one of those responsible for getting many of them to safety the day the volcano erupted.
That experience of going to the worst-hit areas like Agoncillo and Laurel planted the seeds for Randy's song, which he wrote a few days after.
"May nag-text sa akin na barkada ko, 'Gawa tayo ng isang kanta'. 'Di pa (siya) nagte-text, talagang convinced ako na gumawa," he said.
(A friend texted me, 'We should make a song'. But even before the text, I was already convinced to make one.)
INSPIRED BY TRAGEDY
Randy has been writing songs for around 3 decades now.
Most of his 50-plus compositions are for church, where he is a choir member. As a municipal employee, he penned San Luis's hymn. And he's been tapped to write songs for schools in his area.
But this was the rare occasion he drew inspiration from heels of tragedy.
"Nakita ko doon ang katatagan ng Batangueño, yung katapangan," he said.
(I saw there the sturdiness of the people of Batangas, their bravery.)
It took an hour to write the song he titled "Share the Love".
The ballad opens: ""Ikaw ay matatag / Katapangan mo'y likas / Dugong Batangueño / 'Di sumusuko"
(You are sturdy / Your bravery is innate / Batangueño by blood / Never gives up)
Randy said he also drew themes from the struggles of the people he met at the evacuation center.
Despite the title, the song is mostly in Filipino, with English phrases at the chorus--a trend in many recent pop songs.
One passage talks of overcoming trials like the eruption through faith and coming together.
The lines of the chorus also hark back to other familiar songs: "Hawak kamay tayong lahat (Let us all join hands) / Let us share the love"
Randy asked his friends from church and the municipal hall to record the song at home.
Emotions rang high when his group introduced the song to the evacuees, hours before launching it in a program attended by town officials.
"Practice pa lang ito, napatingin ako sa evacuees sa likod. Nag-iiyakan sila. So ibig sabihin, talagang nararamdaman nila yung mensahe ng kanta," he said.
(While we were practicing, I glanced at the evacuees at the back of the court. They were crying. That meant they really felt the message of the song.)
It was the children of evacuees who sang along the loudest and even danced with the teens from Randy's church's youth ministry.
Tears welled up in faces as the chorus repeated:
"Put our trust, have faith in God / Bangon, bangon (Rise up) Batangas"
Maybe it was Randy's church background, but it was as if the evacuation center was turned into a worship hall.
"Ang gusto ko lang, itaas ang morale nila, na I-uplift ang kanilang spirit, at nandito kaming lahat para magdamayan."
(All I want is to raise their morale, uplift their spirits, and show them we are all there for each other.)
Beyond that, he said it's also a message of gratitude to other Filipinos who stepped out to help the people in his province.
"Parang nakaka-proud kasi nadadala ko sila doon sa pamamagitan ng kanta."
(It makes me proud because I brought them to that point through the song.)
"Share the Love" is just one of many songs written in the aftermath of the Taal eruption, expressing solidarity with the victims and calling for compassion.
For Randy, all that matters is the song touch its intended audience, and point them back to the divine, especially now, when many are trying to get their lives back on track.
"Ang Diyos pa rin ay makakapag-uplift o makakapagplano ng maganda para sa lahat dito sa Batangas. Faith lang, faith lang sa Diyos."
(It is still God who can uplift or plan a good future for all of us here in Batangas. Just faith, just faith in God.)