It has been more than a month since the Taal Volcano erupted. But it seemed that nothing has changed. Everyone is now back to normal except that now we are more alert, anxious, and confused. Some parts of Tagaytay are still covered in smut. I can still smell sulfur and see the remnants of the eruption everywhere I go. That night was unexplainable. It happened so fast. Our phones weren’t charged. We weren’t prepared. Truthfully, though, you can never be too prepared. It was a night full of uncertainties. It was indeed a night to remember.
It happened on a Sunday afternoon when most tourists or locals were outside running errands or simply enjoying the cool breeze of Tagaytay. Taal was noticeably beautiful that day as it was surrounded by clouds and blue skies. She was so mesmerizing, we didn’t notice that she was already pissed off, emitting smoke.
Captured at 2:00 pm on our way home. Photo by Millie and Memphis Manahan
At around 2:30 pm. I smelled a strong foul odor lingering. At that time, it was hailing mud and rocks. I immediately stopped and panicked. In my head, “this is it. It has erupted.” We grabbed whatever we could: clothes, my laptop, phones, just whatever was within arm’s reach. We started wetting handkerchiefs and used them as masks so we could survive. It felt like the smell was slowly killing us. Kids couldn’t breathe anymore. We walked from our apartment to a hotel nearby and used it as a fortress. Luckily, the hotel still welcomed us despite being covered in mud.
As soon as we got settled, we started hugging each other. It was a moment of realization that life is so precious and short. When nature strikes, all we can do is pray and wait. It was beyond terrifying. Just when we thought it was safe, boom, we started feeling tremors. It was just the beginning of an ordeal.
Earthquakes were felt approximately 15-20 minutes. Everyone was anxious about what’s going to happen next. It felt like it was never going to end. Earthquakes were apparent that we already got used to it. We were at the point of just waiting for us to get diminished by the wrath of nature. But Filipinos are resilient. We still shared jokes. Everyone tried to uplift morale by being human, by being kind to one another.
Earthquakes finally subsided; although we felt aftershocks thereafter. Early morning, guests were helping the staff clean their cars; others were shoveling off the smut. Everyone was just helping each other. A true Bayanihan spirit was felt that day.
Bayanihan Through Social Media
Bayanihan is a Filipino custom derived from a Filipino word “bayan” means nation, community, or town. Bayanihan is a term we use when it shows the oneness or unity of a community towards the betterment of everyone. Back in the day, people would do “Bayanihan” to help someone in need like moving to another place or if one needed emotional or physical support. In this day and age, Bayanihan is also digital: it’s fast, efficient, and reliable.
When we finally got settled in our hotel room, to our surprise and disappointment, we found out we didn’t bring any cash. We only had one ATM at that time. We couldn’t buy anything. We were hungry. The only ATM nearby was out of service. As a last resort, I asked for help from my friends through social media. I asked for some cash and call cards (or load) so we can keep in touch on and offline. The signal was wonky but it was enough for us to unveil the true essence of technology and friendship.
It didn’t disappoint. My friends used powerful apps like PayMaya to send load and used online banking methods to give monetary support. I also would like to give props to NDRRMC for sending us real-time updates as to what’s happening in our surroundings. Through social media, we were able to find a way to escape from danger. Through my post on Facebook, a friend reached out so they can pick us up and take us to Manila. A friend offered their condominium unit for free. A few friends offered cash, load, clothes, food, and ultimately, prayers.
I couldn’t think of any way to thank everyone who helped us but to pay it forward. We used the power of social media in gathering funds and donations. In just three days, we were able to come up with monetary and in-kind donations. In cooperation with our dear Barangay San Jose, friends and colleagues from the industry, we were able to go back to Tagaytay and give relief goods to 600 families from Alfonso, Agoncillo, Laurel, and Tagaytay.
Our relief operations didn’t stop there. Bayanihan through social media is real. Even until now that PHILVOCS has decreased the level to Alert Level 2, we still accept and receive donations to feed these victims and provide livelihood programs.
We’re lucky to have surpassed it. Taal is still caring. No casualties but houses and livelihood were compromised. The Lord was still watching over us. The Lord works in mysterious ways. He made sure the city had enough funds to cover the drought we’re experiencing now. Although we’re now on Alert Level 2, people are still hesitant to visit Tagaytay or Batangas. The city government is for the safety of everyone.
Photo by Millie Manahan @notyourordinarymum IG
Photo by Millie Manahan @notyourordinarymum IG
What a night to remember. An experience I could keep in my arsenal of amazing stories to share with my grandchildren. It was a night that refined us to become better and more responsible parents. A night that would define what “preparedness” truly means. A night when we all bowed down and prayed for Mother Nature to listen to us. A night that proved that if we don’t listen to Mama (Mother Nature), we’d feel her wrath.
Indeed, it was a night of realization and admiration. A night that proved technology is one of the best things that had happened to us. We humans, however, must be responsible for sharing news online.
If I could give one key takeaway from that incident it would be using your time wisely. I realized work can wait. My life and my family can’t.
Soon, we will rise again.