MULTIMEDIA

Picking up the pieces: Leaving Volcano Island

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2020 11:06 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2020 12:32 AM

As he gathers his belongings, Ernesto Vergara makes up his mind. He is leaving home.

“Ay ayaw ko na. Retired na rin naman kami,” he replies when asked if he had plans of going back. 

Ernesto, along with his wife Erlinda and their neighbors, were gathering clothes from what used to be their home. 

They stand beside a window on what used to be the house's second floor, now on ground level, a result of the collapsed ground and thick mud formed from Taal Volcano’s ashfall.

For 20 years, Ernesto made a living on Volcano Island as a fisherman. 

Looking at the island now, one wouldn’t have guessed it was once teeming with life. Once green and lush with plant life, it now lies barren. Communities are covered in mud and ash. 

The Vergaras said they would open a new chapter in their lives and move to San Nicolas to stay with family and look after their grandchildren. 

A move like that, however, would cost money, and every little bit helps. Knowing this, Erlinda rummages through clothes salvaged from their home as she looks for something.

“May tatlong libo pa ako dito eh.”

Ernesto Vergara and his neighbors salvage what they can from their home in Brgy Alas-as in Taal Volcano Island. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Aboard boats, residents return to Taal Volcano Island one last time to gather what's left of their belongings. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A man passes by what used to be the 2nd floor of a 2-storey building in Brgy. Alas-as in Taal Volcano Island. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Mud, earth, and ash have altered the landscape of Brgy. Alas-as in Taal Volcano Island. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Burnt trees dot the previously green landscape of Brgy. Alas-as in Taal Volcano Island. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Ernesto takes stock of the effects of Taal Volcano’s eruption. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Erlinda takes a rest from looking for usable items in their home after Taal Volcano's eruption. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A child holds a satellite dish mounted on what used to be the 2nd floor of a 2-storey building in Brgy. Alas-as in Taal Volcano Island. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A fisherman walks along the coast, getting ready to look for his family's belongings. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A man washes items savaged from his home, destroyed by Taal Volcano's eruption. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Erlinda organizes clothes she was able to salvage from her home. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Fishermen return to Brgy. Alas-as in Taal Volcano Island on to try and dig out their boats buried in ash three meters deep. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Ernesto carries some of his belongings in a sack as he navigates through the barren landscape. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A police officer looks on as Erlinda Vergara gathers what clothes she can find from her home. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A man holds up a shirt found in a cabinet left on Brgy. Alas-as located in Taal Volcano Island. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Ernesto looks around as he searches for other usable items. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Erlinda points at the distance as she organizes their belongings. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Ernesto gets ready to leave the place he called home for some 20 years. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News