Sinulog while Batangas is in a state of calamity
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 19, 2020 - 12:00am

How can we celebrate the Sinulog with joy, excitement and glee here in Cebu, when thousands of our kababayans in Batangas are currently suffering in hundreds of evacuation centers? I have decided to cancel my flight to Cebu. I opted to help in the evacuation centers.

Batangas is in a state of calamity, and we can’t close our eyes to the suffering of our fellow Filipinos. This natural disaster is so big and far-reaching, that we are tempted to recall the tragedy brought about by Yolanda. Although there has been no fatality among the people, the massive dislocation of the entire towns surrounding the Taal Lake presents to our government and people a gargantuan responsibility of managing this big disaster. People are homeless, hungry, confused, and totally distraught. They do not know where to get their next meal. The volunteers who are helping with food, water, clothing, blankets, medicines and all, can’t stay in the evacuation centers forever. Sooner, the victims have to think of ways to help themselves.

Batangas is a first-class province with an area of 3,119.75 square kilometers, and a population of 2,694,335 (roughly half of Cebu's). It has four component cities, namely Batangas (the capital), Lipa, Tanauan, and Santo Tomas. Batangas has six congressmen in the House, and its governor is Hermilando Mandanas and Mark Leviste is vice governor. Vilma Santos-Recto, one of the House’s 18 deputy speakers, is representing the lone district of Lipa. I wonder why the politicians are mysteriously silent and not available nowadays, including Ate Vi. Politicians are good only for the good times. The volunteers in the centers are mostly from Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, and even from Cebu and Mindanao.

The towns directly affected by the compulsory evacuation are those within the 14-kilometer danger zone (first priority with no less than 460,000 residents. The second priority is within 17-kilometer radius and that involves 930,000 people, or a million more or less. Where shall we get the money, logistics, and space to accommodate this huge size of target beneficiaries? The towns and their number residents are: Agoncillo, 38,059 people; Alitagtag, 25,300; Balete, 22,661; Cuenca, 32,783; Laurel, 39,344; Sta. Teresita, 21,127; Mataas na Kahoy, 29,187; Talisay, 45,301; and Taal, 56,377. It can extend to Lipa City, 332,356; Tanauan City, 173,366; Lemery, 93,157; and Calaca, 81,859.

The question is how do you feed a million people for a month or for many months? In 1754, the eruption and the days before and after the Big One lasted for no less than 200 days, killing 1,335 people and injuring hundreds. Thousands were never found, probably buried under the burning lava and the boiling liquefied ash and sulfur. There were already 33 eruptions since 1572 but the worst were those of 1754 and 1808. Whole towns were buried and thousands of animals were killed, farms were inundated and houses were destroyed. This 2020 Level 4 alert level means that an “explosive eruption” will most probably take place in a few days or within a number of weeks or months. It will become Level 5 alert when there is an on-going actual eruption.

And so, I ask, how do we, Cebuanos, celebrate Sinulog, under a constant fear for our kababyans in Batangas? We can never ignore their pains and anguish. We can only pray to the Señor Santo Nino for their deliverance from such a major tragedy.

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