Even after the initial phreatic eruption last week, the threat of a major eruption from Taal Volcano continues to loom in many Filipinos’ minds. This uneasy period has urged PHIVOLCS to put the immediate Taal area under Alert Level 4, forcing thousands of families to evacuate to safer areas. While they still cannot return to their homes, help is on the way to keep them comfortable where they are.
One of the compassionate organizations offering help is Ayala Corporation, which through its automotive division, AC Motors, held a relief drive earlier this week. The relief drive was conceived when AC Motors management made the decision to cancel their scheduled media thanksgiving party in February to use the budget to bring relief to the Taal eruption evacuees. AC Motors gracefully allowed members of the media to participate in these relief efforts.
While it may seem easy to simply drive to evacuation centers and offer support and relief goods, Ayala Corporation wanted to ensure help and relief goods get to where they are needed the most. To ensure this, the group, through the Ayala Foundation, coordinated with the Batangas local government which directed us to six evacuation centers within a 14-km radius from Taal Volcano.
AC Motors had prepared 10 Kia K2500 Karga light duty trucks with closed van cabins to bring the goods. These would then be donated to the local government units of Batangas after. In addition to the vehicles, the relief goods would be comprised of brand new hygiene kits (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.), blankets, banigs, towels, underwear for male and female, mattresses, and sacks of rice. There was no fanfare nor photo opportunities involving executives or government officials. Ayala Foundation simply wanted to get straight to work delivering supplies and turning over the vehicles.
Our role in this operation would be to drive these new Kia K2500 Karga trucks to the evacuation centers and assist in the distribution of goods. After, we would drive the Karga trucks back to the provincial capitol building for their turnover. Personally joining us would be AC Motors Presidents, Felipe Estrella, III of Volkswagen and Manny Aligada of Kia.
Escorting the convoy of trucks was a fleet of cars from AC Motors’ three brands (Kia, Volkswagen and Maxus). Honda and Isuzu vehicles from Ayala’s dealerships also joined in.
Upon meeting with local coordinators in Batangas City Hall, our group was assigned to Sta. Teresita, Batangas, a distant rural town in Batangas where refugees from the towns of Calumala, Cuenca, San Jose, Lemery, and as far as Agoncillo have gathered.
Despite our best efforts, the many supplies we brought were still not enough to cater to all the evacuees, particularly the elderly and sick who could not go to the town’s basketball court to get their supplies. Nonetheless, this is not the last effort of Ayala Foundation as the group vows to continue to return with more supplies and aid.
If you feel compelled to help, we recommend that you find a legitimate aid organization or an accredited agency to partner with. For those that wish to drive and volunteer themselves, we recommend coordinating first with the local government in order to determine where help is needed the most. From there, make room for a local coordinator to join you and direct you to the appropriate evacuation center and communicate with key persons to distribute the goods fairly.
By Iñigo S. Roces