By: Dr. Irma Velarde
January 12, 2020. Taal reminded us that it was not only a tourist spot, but a volcano, an active one at that! It’s phreatic eruption from the main crater spewed ashes to the Calabarzon area extending to some parts of Metro Manila. Most affected were residents of Batangas, Cavite and areas within the 14km danger zone as they needed to evacuate their homes. PHILVOLCS has raised and maintained the Alert Level to 4 indicating a possible hazardous explosive eruption in hours to days. A mandatory or forced evacuation order has been issued. Suddenly, life has changed for the people who have been displaced. Suddenly, Southern Luzon was in a state of calamity!
Everyone was quick to respond. The country has been used to typhoons, year in and year out.... but a volcanic eruption?! Who can turn a blind eye? Definitely not POGS!
Through it’s Region IV arm, the Southern Tagalog Chapter (STC), POGS has mobilized it’s resources and members towards helping those in need. POGS-STC immediately mapped out plans and details for relief operations. Relief operation dates were announced and an outpouring of donations in cash and in kind followed.( Official acknowledgement of the said donors will be on a separate article.)
The POGS-STC-led group went to visit two evacuation centers in Batangas City and two in Sto. Tomas on January 16, 2020. In Batangas City East Elementary School, we dropped off mostly items for hygiene and some old clothes. There were many volunteer doctors at that time thus, we only checked the clinics for other possible needs.
We then visited the Barangay Hall in Pajarang East, Batangas City. The day care centers surrounding the hall has been turned to temporary homes of evacuees. Depending on the size, a room houses 3-13 families. Most evacuees in the area are home-based, a host family takes care of them. They come to the barangay hall to get their share of goods, have free medical consultations and share meals like a big banquet. The group was able to hold free check-ups here together with the Batangas Medical Center consultants and residents-in-training. We also performed room to room visits to check on their condition and needs, as well as to teach them practices for general hygiene and prevention of infection.
The group proceeded to San Antonio Elementary School in Sto. Tomas, Batangas after lunch.
This evacuation center was overloaded with goods already that we had to give them only what they lack such as alcohol and feminine wash. Our area coordinators in Sto. Tomas then pointed us to a newly-opened evacuation center in San Anastacia-San Rafael National High School. The rest of our relief goods were given to them such as mats, blankets, old clothes, bottled water, hygiene needs, et. The team also distributed food and snacks.
The team embarked on another set of mission on January 20, 2020 in Cavite with our truckload of goods. First stop was at Alfonso Central School where most evacuees came from Laurel and Talisay Batangas. Half of our goods were given here. Inside the clinic area, one won’t fail to notice the mountain of clothes where children play and the stacks of bottled water. We held free prenatal check-ups for few pregnant patients and then proceeded with some room visits to the displaced families. Talking to the evacuees, one can say that the Filipino is indeed resilient and can smile amidst any storm.
In the early afternoon, we proceeded and lined up at the City Government Office of Tagaytay to bring our donation. In Tagaytay evacuation centers, one cannot bring the relief goods directly to the centers as distribution is centralized. One can only bring ready-to-eat food for distribution in the centers.
Lastly, we visited an evacuation center at the Tolentino Sports Activity Center (TISAC), Tagaytay City. The group had planned to distribute snacks but were discouraged since they have just been recently fed by certain groups, too. We left our food and talked to the officials present. In this evacuation center, one can see those blue square mini-tents assigned per family and several portalets.
Indeed, there was an outpouring of generosity! Some very accessible or known evacuation centers were overloaded with relief goods. But still there are those that are reportedly hardly been visited. Thus, it is very crucial to coordinate your mission to the leaders on the ground. It is also important to identify specific needs on a day-to-day basis. As of this writing, I’ve heard in the news that donations now are more centralized in Batangas and Cavite for better distribution and utilization.
For the POGS-STC members, it was fulfilling to help and at the same time see for themselves the situation of the evacuees and assess their needs. Naturally, the work does not end here. If PHILVOLCS cannot assure the return of the residents anytime soon then there are many long-term issues to address such as teen pregnancy, infection control, family planning, immunization, sanitation, nutrition, psychological support, etc. .For now, let us keep strategizing how we can aid for the long or longer term, but keep praying that nature is on our side.
POGS-STC Details of Relief Operations:
January 16, 2020, Thursday
1. Batangas City East Elementary School
99 families 383 individuals
Activities: Dropping off of relief goods, and checking up on clinic needs
A short briefing given by POGS-STC Community Service Head, Dr. Alma Joy Morin. M. Lat. Bldg, Batangas, City, Jan 16, 2020.
They were in particular need of hygiene materials. Thus, we gave alcohol, sanitary pads, toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash, feminine wash, underwear among others. Batangas East Elementary School, Batangas City. Jan 16, 2020.
2. Barangay. Hall Paharang East, Batangas City
350 individuals, 92 families
Activities: Dropping off of donations, some distribution of hygiene materials, free clinic, Room to room family visits in instructing them regarding hygiene, prevention of infection and asking their of their specific needs
Teaching the evacuees proper hygiene practices to prevent infection at the centers. Barangay Hall, Paharang East, Batangas City, Jan 16, 2020.
POGS-STC team was joined by its members and residents-in-training from Batangas Medical Center in delivering services such as free clinics and prenatal check-ups. Barangay Hall, Paharang East, January 16, 2020.
Our doctor volunteers sharing a light moment while seeing a male patient. Barangay Hall, Paharang East, Batangas City. Jan 16, 2020.
POGS-STC members conducting free check ups. Barangay Hall Paharang East, Batangas, City. Jan 16, 2020.
It was a great experience to talk to the residents. Barangay Hall Paharang East, Batangas City, Jan 16, 2020
A daycare center room houses several families. Barangay Hall Pajarang East, Jan 16, 2020
Most of the evacuees at Paharang East, Batangas City are home-based. They converge here at the barangay hall to share meals, get free consultation and daily supply. Barangay Hall Paharang East, Batangas City Jan 16, 2020.
3. San Antonio Elementary School, Sto Tomas, Batangas
140 families 494 individuals
Activities: Dropping off of relief goods.
This evacuation center was filled with relief goods that they only received items that they are still in need of like alcohol and feminine wash. San Antonio Elementary School, Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
4.San Anastacia –San Rafael National High School, Sto. Tomas, Batangas
132 families, 544 individuals
Some donations dropped here were also shared with Mt. Claire School nearby which houses 116 families and 486 individuals
Activities: Dropping off of relief goods, distribution of food and snacks
Relief goods from POGS and other donors coursed through POGS-STC. San Anastacia-San Rafael National High School, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, Jan 16, 2020.
Adults and kids alike line up for free snacks! San Anastacia-San Rafael National High School, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, Jan 16, 2020
The POGS-STC team with the local officials of the Barangay. San Anastacia – San Rafael National High School. Sto. Tomas Batangas, Jan 16,.2020.
January 20, 2020. Sunday
1.Alfonso Central School, Alfonso, Cavite
375 families 1957 individuals
The school also provides for the free clinic rooms where volunteer doctors can see patients. Some donations dropped off here are also being distributed to nearby evacuation centers such as the Alfonso Central Covered Court, Marahan Elementary School, Matagbak Covered Court and home-based evacuees, covering a total of 6569 individuals at the time of our visit.
Activities: dropping off of relief goods, free prenatal check-up, room to room family visits
A truckload of donations!!! Alfonso Central School, Alfonso Cavite. Jan 20, 2020.
A van full of pails, dippers and other goods. Alfonso Central School, Alfonso, Cavite. Jan 20, 2020.
Free clinic inside the school with other volunteer doctors. Alfonso Central School, Alfonso, Cavite. Jan 20, 2020
POGS-STC team of doctors for Alfonso Central School evacuees. Alfonso, Cavite. Jan 20, 2020
Overflowing stock of relief goods at Alfonso Central School. Alfonso, Cavite, Jan 20, 2020
A mountainful of old clothes.... Please think and re-think about your donation. Alfonso Central School, Alfonso, Cavite. Jan 20. 2020
The team did room visits to the families of the evacuees to assess their individual needs.
At the center is a super funny granny, a model of the Filipino resilience. Alfonso Central School, Alfonso, Cavite.
2. City Government of Tagaytay Office, Tagaytay City
Activities: Dropping off of donations
The city government distributes the donations to all their evacuation centers, three of which were the biggest housing a total of about 1000 individuals each.
The tall, dark and handsome Vice Mayor of Tagaytay, Reymond Ambion, received the donation. Look at our smiles in this pose! Tagaytay City Government Office, Tagaytay City. Jan 20, 2020.
3. Tolentino Sports Activity Center (TISAC), Tagaytay City
145 families, 542 individuals
Activities: Giving of food and snacks
Those blue mini-tents give them some semblance of privacy, but for how long? TISAC, Tagaytay City. Jan 20, 2020
RD and the Community Service Head having a brief chat with the City Councilor Annabelle Solis, TISAC, Tagaytay City. Jan 20, 2020.