Groups lead activities to help Taal eruption evacuees recover from trauma


MANILA, Philippines – While countless humanitarian efforts continue to provide aid through donation drives, other groups are focused on helping evacuees cope with trauma. 

Following the Taal Volcano eruption that started on Sunday, January 12, thousands of families were displaced and sought refuge in evacuation centers in Cavite, Laguna, and even Quezon for an indefinite period of time.

The volcano has been on Alert Level 4 since Sunday night, as state volcanologists warned said that a “hazardous” eruption may occur “within hours or days.”

With an imminent hazardous eruption adding to the evacuees' concerns, various groups have initiated fun performances, reading and writing exercises, and games for them in the hope of helping them cope.

Learning activities

In Alitagtag, Batangas, a group of youth volunteers organized the “Aklatahanan Project,” a storytelling activity that aims to nurture a love for reading among children. 

KIDS AT PLAY. The Alitagtag Main College Department gives crayons and coloring paper during a book reading activity for the evacuees at the Alitagtag Covered Court in Batangas.

Photo by Nikko Leoven Pagsuyoin

Around 60 children in Alitagtag Covered Court and 70 children from Alitagtag Central School participated in the activity. (READ: #ReliefPH: Help communities affected by Taal Volcano eruption

In this activity, the volunteers act as storytellers to children aged 11 and below. Volunteers also lend books, teach how to read, and initiate writing and coloring exercises. 

Nikko Leoven Pagsuyoin, one of the organizers, said that this project started in October 2019 to help children develop a good reading habit. 

LEARNING IS FUN. Kids at an evacuation center in Alitagtag, Batangas, join the learning activity initiated by a group of youth volunteers on January 16, 2020.

Photo by Nikko Leoven Pagsuyoin

Following the Taal Volcano eruption that displaced thousands of families, his group thought that children in evacuation centers could still learn something and make wise use of their time learning amid the difficult times. 

“Nakikita ko sa mga mata ng mga bata ang excitement…. They are always asking me kung meron ba daw Aklatahanan. Lalo na sa mga nasalanta ng bulkan, kahit isang araw pa lang namin ginagawa nakita ko kung gaano sila kainteresado,” said Pagsuyoin, who is also the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairperson of Poblacion East in Alitagtag. 

(I can see the excitement in the eyes of the children. They are always asking me when the next Aklatahanan would be. Especially among the evacuees, even on the first day of this  project, I already saw how interested the children were.) 

Pagsuyoin also posted photos of the activity online that led netizens to inquire about how they could donate books and school supplies for the children evacuees. 

The Development Communication 2019 Alumni Community is also accepting bulk donations such as story books, educational and learning books, pencils, ballpens, and other toys for the children in Batangas.  (WATCH: Batangueños dance the 'Subli' to quiet restive Taal Volcano

The group will be conducting “Bulk-Angat: Eduk-Aksyon” Books and Toys Donation Drive on Sunday, January 19. 

The Philippine Mental Health Association Inc. (PMHA) also called for donation of toys (old or new), storybooks, coloring books, crayons, and other art materials. 

Fun and entertainment activities 

Aside from the learning activities, fun and entertainment shows are also being held in evacuation centers. 

Arnold Allanigui, a magician and puppeteer known as Amazing Arnold, also performed magic tricks at the evacuation sites in Alfonso and Silang in Cavite; and Bolo, Bauan in Batangas. 

"Siyempre lahat naman nagbibigay ng pagkain 'di ba. But what I can give is my talent, gusto ko makabigay ng saya, mapangiti ko man lang 'yung mga evacuees.... Kasi nakakapagbigay ka ng hope eh (While everyone is giving food, I want to give the evacuees my talent. I want to bring joy to them, to make them happy in a simple way. Because [through my show] I am able to bring hope)," Allanigui said. 

MAGIC TRICKS. Amazing Arnold performs magic tricks and a puppet show for the evacuees in Bauan, Batangas on January 16, 2020.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Allanigue/Facebook

He said what made his performance unique was that he shared God's word through magic and a puppet show. 

"I dont just entertain them, I share to them the right hope that is with God. Most of them rely on the government and Good Samaritans for help and forget that God exists," he added.

Allanigui is also the president of International Ventriloquist Society-Philippines (IVS.Ph) and the chairman of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians International Philippines.

BRINGING HOPE. Amazing Arnold performs for evacuees in Alfonso, Cavite, on January 16, 2020.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Allanigue/Facebook

He said that on Thursday next week, he will be with his team to perform in other evacuation centers. 

Another group of clowns and entertainment artists also performed at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Sto Tomas to lighten the mood.

WATCH: A group of clowns and entertainers are performing at PUP Sto. Tomas on Wednesday, January 15, to help evacuees cope with the trauma brought by #TaalEruption2020. | via @_bigbryte pic.twitter.com/tz7Va4Xy9J — MovePH (@MovePH) January 15, 2020 

Mozart's Guild, an official student music band of PUP-Batangas also performed to entertain. 

Mozart's guild, the official student music band of PUP-Batangas, entertains Taal Volcano eruption evacuees here in the university. #TaalEruption2020 | via @_bigbryte pic.twitter.com/BR1awoRqJb — MovePH (@MovePH) January 17, 2020 

Psychological aid 

Looking into the psychological impact of the Taal eruption, a group of medical professionals has given Psychological First Aid (PFA) to survivors. 

On its orientation on PFA, the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas (DLSU-D) Center for Applied Psychology gathered more than 200 volunteers from psychology, counselling, and other allied professions on Saturday, January 18. 

This activity is in coordination with DLSU-D Student Wellness Center (SWC), DLSU-Health Sciences Institute, Cavite State University (CvSU), University of Perpetual Help, and other nearby institutions. (READ: 'Fire flew': Elders fear a repeat of the 1965 Taal Volcano eruption

Evangeline Ruga, chair of the DLSU-D Psychology Department, said that the PFA is an immediate response following a disaster to help survivors cope with the adverse impacts of traumatic events like volcanic eruption.

"PFA intends to make survivors feel that they are not alone in times of distress, to connect them to sources of support and to help them feel safe and confident in themselves and in their environment again.... It also intends to help them muster enough strength to go on further healing, recovery, and adaptation," Ruga added. 

The group will also orient the second batch of volunteers in the coming days before their deployment to different evacuation centers in Cavite and Batangas. – Rappler.com 

Jene-Anne Pangue

Jene-Anne Pangue is a community and civic engagement specialist of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. Her involvement with Rappler started when she became a mover in 2014 and an intern in 2015. Since then, she learned the importance of building communities of action for social good as she continues to work with movers and doers across the country.

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