By Joseph Pedrajas
TALISAY, Batangas — Residents of the Volcano Island are ready to leave the island “for good,” even if it means also leaving the memories they have made with it.
“Kung anong kanyang binigay samin na kasiyahan, ay ngayo’y pinalitan din ng kalungkutan,” farmer Reynaldo Magpantay, 58, told the Manila Bulletin on Thursday.
Magpantay said that even if “life was hard on the island, [they were] always happy because of the kindness and the unity of the people there.”
How they would observe their feast day was also one memory he will always remember.
“Kapag ka’y samin, ‘pag nagpipiyesta ay masaya. Kahit ganyan ang aming isla, tuwing piyesta, pinakamahinang gastos namin sa isang barangay P30,000 sa mga palabas pa lamang,” he recalled.
The “scenic view at the crater of the Taal Volcano,” which had attracted many tourists and had become the main source of income for many residents, was also among the most memorable things Magpantay would never forget.
“Dahil pag ikaw ay nakaakyat sa view deck, kahit ikaw ay may problema, parang nawawala na dahil sa ganda ng tanawin,” he said.
Reydian Umali, 43, admitted that it was because of the beauty of the island that he was able to support his family.
“Maganda ang hanap buhay sa bulkan dahil ang pera ang nadating, dahil sa mga turista,” Umali said, adding that aside from being a tourist guide, he “was also a fisher who earned a living because of the Taal Lake.”
Asked about the best experience he had in the “now-deserted island,” Umali said, it was not taking advantage of its rich resources, but when he met his wife.
“Nagpeperya kami dito dati tuwing may piyesta. Doon ko nakilala ang asawa ko,” he noted, saying that his wife used to frequent their carnival in 2003.
“Tiga Tingloy ako noon, pero tumira na ako dito noong napangasawa ko sya,” he added.
Like Magpantay and Umali, Edwin Maguinao, 45, would have no problem leaving the island.
“Masakit samin [ang nangyari pero] ano hong magagawa, naroon na,” he said, “Walang problema [na umalis].”
But Maguinao expressed hope that before they “leave the evacuation site once the situation in Batangas is settled,” the local government should first secure their settlement and provide sources of income.
“Ang amin sana, wag kami pabayaan bago nila paalisin. Sana may tirahan na ibigay samin,” he asserted.
Magpantay shared Maguinao’s sentiment and vowed not to appeal when they would no longer be allowed to return. He admitted, it was for their own safety.
They also have nothing left on the island.
“Ay, kahit masakit sa aming kaloobang lisanin ay talagang mapipilitan kami dahil ang hanapbuhay doon ay magturista. Eh wala naman nang dadating doong turista,” he said.
“Wala rin kami masasaka pati ang aming pang-araro, natabunan na ata, di ko na mahanap,” he added.
While the residents could no longer relive the memories they made on the island, they are still grateful that all of them are alive.
“Mabait po ang bulkan na yan, pinalikas muna kaming lahat kaya walang namatay,” Maguinao said.
“Sunod-sunod na lindol bago sya pumutok. Nahahalata na namin. Mensahe sya nang mensahe,” he added.
On Thursday, some residents went back to the island: not only to get what they left, but perhaps, to bid goodbye as well.