'No home to return to': Agoncillo residents worry about future after Taal eruption
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2020 - 8:28am

TAGAYTAY, Philippines — The future is uncertain for residents of Agoncillo town in Batangas after the eruption of Taal Volcano two weeks ago left a lot of townspeople without homes to return to.

Agoncillo—a municipality close to the volcano—was among the areas hardest hit by volcanic ashfall and earthquakes when Taal burst to life on January 12.

The provincial government of Batangas finally allowed Monday residents of Agoncillo and Laurel towns to return to their homes—except those living in areas within the seven-kilometer danger zone—a day after state volcanologists announced that a massive blast no longer appears imminent.

But many residents of Agoncillo opted to stay inside evacuation centers as they have no other place where they could seek shelter. In the case of San Luis Central School, at least 28 families are still seeking temporary shelter there.

Lorna Austria said they would be “willing” to stay in an evacuation center as long as the teachers continue to welcome them. Classes will resume in disaster-hit areas on February 3.

Nilo Holagado, who said he has lived all his life in Agoncillo, said his house was really damaged by the eruption,

“Nakita ko na ‘yung aming bahay pero wasak. Wala nang babalikan. ‘Yung bahay ng mga kapatid ko wala rin,” Holagado said.

(I already saw our house and it was really destroyed. There is nothing to go home to. Even the houses of my siblings are destroyed.)

“Siguro naman baka kami ay tutulungan ng gobyerno para magsimula nang onti-onti gaya ‘yung mga nawasak na bahay dahil talagang down na down, di namin alam ‘yung pagsisimula namin pagdating dun,” Austria said.

(Maybe the government will give us a little aid for those whose houses were destroyed to start again. Our homes were really downed, we don't know how to start when we return there.)

No one is known to have died in the eruption but the ash Taal belched out ash that crushed scores of homes in Calabarzon, and killed crops and livestock. It also forced over 135,000 people to seek temporary shelters. 

Taal was downgraded from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 Sunday, which means there is a “decreased tendency toward hazardous eruption.” Phivolcs said warning signs such as earthquakes and gas emissions have been steadily waning.

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