Future uncertain for volcano island residents after Taal destroyed their homes, way of life
Massive deposits of ash destroy a house on Taal Volcano Island.
Philstar.com/Efigenio Christopher Toledo IV
Future uncertain for volcano island residents after Taal destroyed their homes, way of life
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - January 29, 2020 - 6:08pm

TAAL VOLCANO ISLAND, Philippines — The lives of the thousands who had built their livelihood around Taal Volcano have changed forever following the eruption that destroyed their homes and killed their source of income.

Taal Volcano Island—once a picturesque paradise located in a lake in Batangas province—now resembles a wasteland after the second most active volcano in the Philippines rained ash across the island two weeks ago.

Destroyed houses and schools were covered in massive deposits of ash. Many animals were buried in desolate sand dunes, while others were found decomposing near the shoreline. Dead trees were everywhere.

Randy Olimpiado said there is nothing left to save in his ash-covered house in Sitio San Isidro in Talisay town. The house of her daughter in Brgy. Calawit in the nearby Balete town was also destroyed.

He used to earn money by renting his horses to ferry tourists up the mountain.


Reynold Desipeda, also a resident of the tourism-dependent Sitio San Isidro, said he was accompanying tourists when Taal woke up from its slumber.

“We were on top of the volcano. We had customers near the crater. The steam and the tremors were really strong,” Desipeda recounted.

The former tour guide doesn’t have a plan yet on how his family will move on from the tragedy and rebuild their lives. For now, he and his family are temporarily seeking shelter in Sto. Tomas town.

“It would be very nice if the government provides us houses and livelihood. That’s big help,” Desipeda said.

The future is even more uncertain for Olimpiado, Desipeda and thousands of others who have lived in “pulo” for years now that the government said it would bar people from returning to the island.

Taal volcano island is categorized as a permanent danger zone—long declared off-limits to settlements.

Batangas Vice Gov. Mark Leviste said in an interview on "Unang Balita" that the displaced residents of the volcano island will be relocated to Ibaan town in the province.  

Entry into volcano island

State volcanologists lowered the status of Taal Volcano to Alert Level 3 Sunday, which signifies there is a “decreased tendency toward hazardous eruption.”

Those living in areas around Taal Lake were allowed to return to their homes as volcanic activity subsides. The residents of the volcano island, however, were still not allowed to go back, as experts said that human activities are unsafe here.

But the ban did not stop residents from coming back to the island. They keep on returning to check their ash-covered houses and feed the animals they left behind.

“We returned because our livelihood is here,” Donabelle Mangana said, referring to fishing. The resident of Brgy. Pulang Bato in San Nicolas was checking her heavily-destroyed home, hoping there is still something she could recover.

But she said she and her husband return to an evacuation center in Alitagtag town—where her family temporarily seeks shelter—every afternoon “because we have nothing to stay at here on the volcano island.”

Should they be not allowed to make a settlement on the volcano island even after the threat disappears, Mangana said her family would just go back to Marinduque—her husband’s hometown—to start anew.

But for Olimpiado, who has lived his entire life on the volcano island, he is planning to come back.

“We are used to here on the volcano island. This is where I was born,” he said.

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