On Monday, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum reiterated the dangers posed by what is seen as an imminent big eruption of the Taal volcano, a week since it first spewed steam, magma and ash that sent thousands of families fleeing their communities in Batangas and Cavite.
We can trace the exhaustion on Mr. Solidum’s face. He and his crew, counting Mariton Bornas — the Phivolcs’ Chief of Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division, have been working harder the past year peering through the Taal crater and sensing movements even with very limited instruments that can predict the time and day of the big one.
He tried to answer questions from members of the media as nicely as he can, as clearly as he can, when the scientific jargon needed to bridge the layman’s limitations had been tougher than the displaced people’s misery.
For Bornas, she hopes the big eruption comes sooner than wait long and extend the difficulties faced by the evacuees and their generous hosts, and the donors and donations that should soon wane if the Taal’s activity stretches to more weeks and months.
She tried to say it without offending anyone, especially the evacuees who may have misinterpreted the statement. But she made sense, if she was not totally correct.
A few, however, did not get it.
Talisay town vice-mayor Charlie Natanauan had likened the Phivolcs to a god whose words should not be countered. He slammed the order to evacuate and wanted his people to return to their homes and tend to their livelihood.
This, despite the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s lockdown on 199 villages in and around Taal.
Natanauan claimed they were unaffected by the Taal’s initial activity. He claimed no ash blanketed his town. He blamed the media for the “incorrect reports.”
As quickly as Natanauan’s retort, DZRH reporter Rommel Fuertes clapped back from where Natanauan rules with a firsthand view of the Talisay town, which was not different from the other places affected by the volcano’s ashfall.
Natanauan spoke of his “views” and the passed on narratives of his elders not dissimilar with how the brave warriors of our past had faced their volcanic god, junking everything the Phivolcs officials have learned in their scientific research and from exchanges with foreign scientists, all in the name of public service, and if I may reiterate, science.
Natanauan then asked for intercession from President Rodrigo Duterte, so that he can have his people back. This, as Natanauan was staying in a Talisay resort that he said was free from volcanic ashes.
He probably did not know that Duterte and his closest aides listen to what the Phivolcs says. All government action is based on the Phivolcs’ assessment of the situation in and around Taal, and in all the 52 other active volcanoes ringing the country.
Like Natanauan, Tagaytay Rep. Bambol Tolentino also wants business establishments in his area to remain open despite the Alert Level 4 advisory that means an explosive eruption is imminent.
There were very few tourists in Tagaytay over the weekend. This writer saw it firsthand in his visit to various barangays in the Cavite and Batangas towns which are hosting evacuees.
While the Ferris’ wheel at the Tagaytay Skyranch slowly moved, it did not carry weight to witness the volcanoes in the lakes in serene but dangerous silence.
For days, it remained that way but it stole the thunder from the other activities that should have hogged the headlines had Taal slept the way it was before the new year.
A Senate investigation on the alleged anomalies that surrounded the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games could have been one explosive news to have blasted our Monday. But no resolution was filed by the Senator said to be hot in chase of the issue in deference to the victims of Taal.
The House, however, was ready with a counterplan that would have stolen the thunder from that probe, if only to save its leader — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — from embarrassment had it pushed through.
Cayetano is the chairman of both the Phisgoc (Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee) and the Phisgoc Foundation — two separate and distinct entities which have had active roles in the hosting of the Games.
While the nation is busy facing the calamity brought by Taal, our Congressmen went deep in discussing on Monday the constitutional amendments aimed at the extension of their terms.
That was the first resolution tackled by the House this year, self-serving as it was expected from its leaders and members.
It was calamity Cha-cha, because they do not care about you or the direct victims of Taal.
They’re no different from Natanauan, no different from the other village fool blinded by the bright-colored sun as miserable people worm at his feet squirming for salvation. Or his blood.
On the bright side
We really should plant more bougainvillas everywhere.
Studies have shown that it is an anti-pollution solution.
According to a study, “Bio-remediation by using selected plant species is an effective method to control pollution which is universally accepted. Bougainvillea is a pollution-tolerant plant and can help in the mitigation of air pollution besides its ornamental value in the landscaping.”
Ever noticed how Singapore has bougainvillas blooming in many streets? Apparently, clean air studies show evidence that these vines or trees can help give us more breathable air.
Otherwise, we might just have to wear face masks everyday if we want to stay healthy.
If you aren’t convinced that the air we are breathing has become unhealthy, just scour through online shopping sites and search for face masks. You will get a variety of designs and colors, targeted for those who must be fashionable at all times.
Yet the recent Taal Volcano eruption had us all hurrying to wear these masks — never mind fashion, never mind style. It was, simply put, for survival.
Because of the hazardous substances in the air due to the gases and ash spewed out by the angry little volcano, people were told to cover up with not just any mask, but the recommended N95 one.
Unfortunately, these quickly ran out.
The little that were available were sold at much higher prices. The prices of N95 masks skyrocketed to P200 per piece a day after Taal’s eruption caused ashfall so bad, it reached Metro Manila.
This led the Department of Health (DoH) to set a price freeze for medical supplies, such as the highly in demand N95 face mask. This mask, DoH said, should only cost between P45 to P105, while the disposable surgical masks should not cost more than P8 per piece.
Yet even as we decried the abusive greed of some people, we could not help but laud the unstinting generosity of many others, who rushed to offer aid and assistance to all those directly affected by the eruption.
As the ashes continue to fall, the air seemed filled with a feeling of concern and goodwill as efforts were immediately made to bring food and medical supplies.
One netizen posted a photo of a heavily-laden South Luzon Expressway on Saturday, commenting that SLEX was trending online due to the sheer number of vehicles heading to Batangas and Cavite area to bring relief goods. “Ang sarap maging Pilipino (It feels good to be a Filipino)!” he exclaimed.
Some 232,899 residents are affected by the eruption, with evacuees are currently staying in 479 evacuation centers. Until now, they cannot return to the old life they had to leave in a hurry behind. Starting from scratch can be so overwhelming, we, sympathetic and empathetic Pinoys are going out of our way to extend help.
It is during times of crisis when character truly comes to fore. Adversity builds character, they say, and through the sheer number of adversities we have faced, by now we know what kind of traits we can take pride in as a people.
We have proven many times in the past to be resilient even through the most difficult times. This resiliency comes from our positive attitude and humor, which allows us to smile or make light of situations just to make things easier to bear.
Yet what has been most evident, too, is that spirit of caring and generosity that Filipinos show when hard times come. The people’s continued efforts to share and extend help to the victims of the latest calamity is a positive note we should focus on in these times.
It’s like those bougainvillas you see outside. They offer such joyful colors to our surroundings, but more than the bright note it gives, it helps save us from invisible poisons in the air.