By: Vaughn Alviar Philippine Daily Inquirer / January 25, 2020

Disaster experts would agree that volcanic eruptions are the most unpredictable—and, thus, most despised—natural disasters.

Volcanic activity can trigger variable earthquakes and aftershocks. No technology is available yet to predict if and when a volcano would explode with lava exactly; scientists rely more on seismic movements and land rising as if something is stacking up underneath.

When the main event finally happens, the explosive eruptions can send plumes of smoke, steam, ash, rock and lava upwards and then down onto villages. The volcano can then spew pyroclastic flow, a fast-moving and lethal current of superheated gas and volcanic matter. Taal Volcano, among the most active volcanos in the Philippines, can even spawn a tsunami with the lake around it.

As early as Jan. 13, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology hoisted an Alert Level IV for the rather deceiving “supervolcano,” a warning that a violent eruption was imminent within hours or days. As of press time, the explosive event hasn’t happened yet. Some 34 eruptions since 1572 will show that the volcano can either go off abruptly as in 1965 or last for months as the seven-month event in 1754. Meantime, volcanic ash has already collapsed homes, and suffocated plant and animal life. Earthquakes have created fissures and further torn down homes.

Meantime, viewing decks that once drew droves in have been deserted; the tourism industry essentially bogged down. With authorities on high alert now, over 500,000 residents from a 14-kilometer radius were force-evacuated as 11 Batangas towns surrounding the Taal Lake were locked down. They’ve needed help and will need help for an uncertain amount of time.

Thankfully, despite their plunging revenues, real estate developers have opened their properties to cater the needs of displaced individuals. These companies and properties inspire us all to reach out to the survivors of the Taal eruption.

Splendid home

Over 500 individuals from Laurel, Batangas, found a temporary shelter in Sta. Lucia Group’s exclusive Splendido Taal located along the Tagaytay Ridge in Alfonso, Cavite. They suspended operations to offer the whole property as an evacuation center for some 120 families.

“We saw the need to help our fellow Filipinos within the area who were greatly affected by the eruption,” said Sta. Lucia Land president Exequiel Robles. “Opening up Splendido Taal to them is a testament to our commitment to always be of service to Filipino families. We are currently closely coordinating with the local government here and monitoring updates.”

The company also joined relief efforts in Cavite and Batangas provinces originating in the private sector. The group distributed on Jan. 15-22 close to 1,000 food packages, beddings and hygiene kits good for over a three-day period.

The operation was spearheaded by the Sta. Lucia Foundation. It also mobilized Sta. Lucia Land and its marketing arms Global Marketing, Royale Homes, Sta. Lucia Ventures and Mega East Properties. The company decided to help even as its very own projects were stalled and ruined by the Taal eruption.

“While some of our projects have been affected, we are more than thankful that no lives were lost and that everyone is safe from our end. We are aware of the current situation of many individuals who were displaced because of this natural calamity and in our own way, we want to bring help and that’s why we immediately mobilized a group to go to some of the evacuation centers—even opening up one of our projects to serve as temporary shelter,” Robles explained.

“This is a challenging time especially for our fellow Filipinos living in Batangas. Families were displaced and livelihoods were lost. But as the country continues to see evacuation centers being filled up, the Filipino spirit and bayanihan again came to the fore,” he added. “And we, at Sta. Lucia Land, will continue to extend help in any way we can as we seek to see our fellow Filipinos through these challenging times.”

Private sector stepping up

Many more companies have reached out to the evacuees, providing much-needed help and assistance in such a time of trouble. Their actions have inspired good deeds within the corporate world and among individuals.

With some 500,000 individuals fleeing their homes and the Taal volcano still yet to erupt explosively, the needs continue to mount—for clothes, beddings, food and water, hygiene kits and more. The displaced persons will need a continuing outpouring of charity and compassion to get through an ordeal that has already rendered some homeless and without a livelihood. The disaster is truly a challenge of bayanihan of the present time.

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