For thousands of people, although the emergency is not over, life is slowly returning to normal after the eruption of the Taal volcano in the Philippines on January 12th 2020, which caused serious damage to the surrounding areas.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the alert level 4 has been lowered to level 3 and the danger zone has been reduced from 14 to 7 km from the crater. The Focolare community is using all possible means to provide for the needs of those displaced by the disaster: more than 300,000 people were forced to evacuate.
Purisa Plaras, focolarina and co-director of “Mariapolis Pace”, the Focolare’s little town in Tagaytay, says: “A few days after the eruption of the Taal volcano, we returned to Tagaytay to check on the situation of our community and share everything with the different families living around our Centre, which is located within the danger zone, within 14 kilometres of the volcano. Concerned about their basic needs, we distributed food and water to the families.
One of our young Focolare members shares: “It is not easy to deal with this situation. It is heartbreaking and I couldn’t help crying. I cannot explain how I feel right now, but deep down I know that God loves us immensely, embracing together the face of Jesus Crucified and Abandoned in this situation. I will be strong here, to serve Jesus also in others”.
Randy Debarbo, the focolarino responsible for the territory around Mariapolis Pace, says: “On Sunday, January 12th , as we were returning home from a meeting, we noticed the bad smell of sulphur in the air. It started raining but there was something strange. The rainwater was staining our umbrellas and clothes. Then we realized it was volcanic ash mixed with rain coming down like mud! When we woke up the next morning, we no longer recognized what was around us. Everything was grey as if we were colour blind. We saw the massive devastation caused by the eruption of the Taal volcano. The public school near the centre of the Focolare became a temporary shelter and transit centre for about 500 people coming from the lakeside villages close to the volcano. Faced with such devastation, a voice inside me spoke aloud: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat…”. This concern for Jesus in those who are in need led him to remain in Tagaytay together with other focolarini.
Randy continued, “Together with the other focolarini, we travelled by truck for about 20 kilometers from Tagaytay to buy water to distribute to some families who were still in Tagaytay. It was very moving to see the families momentarily relieved of their worries, the children were happy to receive even a bucket of water. With a doctor from Tagaytay, we decided to visit the families around us to try to meet their medical needs.
Arriving at one place, the people from that neighborhood were all along the street, waiting and asking for food. Instead of just visiting one home, we were able to offer a free medical checkup to those who were waiting for food. We put together the small amounts of money we had in our pockets and personally bought medicines for those in urgent need of medical care”.
In addition to the generous help from the families of the Movement in the Philippines, the Movement around the world is supporting, with prayers and financial contributions , Mariapolis Pace which is at the service of the work of the Focolare Movement in Asia.