(Lipa, Philippines) Prompted by the situation of the abandoned poor and moved by the call to be witnesses of the Redeemer, the Redemptorist Lipa Mission Community of Manila Vice-Province responded to the aftermath of the increasing unrest of Taal Volcano as it opens its doors to our sisters and brothers fleeing for safety. Taal Volcano is one of the Philippines’ active volcanoes, located 60 kilometres south of the City of Manila, on the province of Batangas, the island of Luzon. The last time that the volcano erupted was in 1977. Last January 12, 2020, the Philippines saw its phreatic explosion that resulted in ejections of volcanic materials and ashfall. This resulted in a massive evacuation of communities from the towns near the volcano, especially within its 14 km radius. The Redemptorist Community of Lipa is situated 30 kilometres from the volcano. As a result, some of the families from these areas came at the doorstep of our community seeking refuge and safety. As early as the dawn of Jan 13, 2020, Redemptorists together with our lay partners immediately accommodated 26 families with 98 individuals. These families came from the towns of Lemery, Balete, Agoncillo and some villages of Lipa City affected by the eruption. It further increased – as of January 21 – to 75 families and 255 individuals.
The whole community – both professed and lay partners immediately mobilized its response to the needs of the families and its solidarity with other people situated in nearby evacuation centres. In partnership with Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK) – a partner organization of the Redemptorist Manila in providing mobile kitchen that will cook and provide hot meals to families fleeing from natural disasters, we provided meals to thousands of families every day within its care and centres around the area. We are grateful to the contributions of every partner from donors, volunteers and the evacuees themselves in this effort. However, our response is not limited to providing meals and accommodations. Together with our partners, we have also conducted debriefing sessions through art-making and storytelling with the children, sharing with the adult and Zumba dance that facilitates as a ‘space’ for families to share their fears, and anxieties in this time of calamity. We are also grateful that the affected families also showed their eagerness to help fellow evacuees by volunteering in cooking and providing meals through the mobile kitchen. We gather all this experience in our celebration of the Eucharist as a community of God.
The community and volunteers were also able to be in solidarity with other affected families outside our place. We also visit and distribute donate relief packs to other churches and evacuation centres that shelters other affected families. In coordination with the local government and the archdiocese, we were able to extend our effort to other evacuation centres and families living outside the evacuation centres. This was made possible by our hundreds of partners, volunteers, and donors who continue to actively participate in this effort since at the beginning of this calamity. According to the data of the provincial disaster response and risk management office of Batangas, there are around 26,000 individuals affected by the eruption which may last for more days. For this, we ask you, for your continued prayers and support as we ask the Lord for an end for the unrest of Taal volcano so that the affected families may able to start anew.
(Photos from Divino Amor Facebook page)