Taal survivor recalls evacuating ailing father, deaf mute daughter

Bonz Magsambol
Taal survivor recalls evacuating ailing father, deaf mute daughter
'First time kong na experience ito at hindi ko alam ang gagawin,' says 39-year-old Rowena Balina

BATANGAS, Philippines – Rowena Balina thought that when Taal Volcano began erupting on Sunday afternoon, January 12, it would be the end of everything for her and her family. (READ: Taal Volcano’s 2020 eruption: What we know so far)

“May makapal na usok po. Maitim sabi ko may nasusunog ata. Hindi pumutok daw ang bulkan. Tapos mga alas kwatro na may ashfall. Mag silikas na daw kami. Bakit lilikas e mga gabok lang ‘yan? Tapos.” teary eyed Balina said.

(There was thick smoke. It was dark so I thought something was burning. But others said Taal Volcano erupted. There was an ashfall past 4 pm. They advised us to evacuate, but why should we leave when it was only ash?) 

Balina and her family lived in a small nipa hut in Talisay which is within the 14-kilometer danger zone. Balina said that when Taal Volcano started spewing ash that Sunday afternoon, she immediately thought of her ailing father, a survivor of 3 strokes, and her 14-year-old deaf-mute daughter Rosalyn Lamano. 

“First time kong na experience ito at hindi ko alam ang gagawin. Naramdaman namin ang lakas ng lindol. Hindi ko alam kung paano ko maililikas ang may sakit kong tatay dahil hindi na nga siya makalakad,” said the 39-year-old Balina.

(This was the first time I experienced this and I really didn’t know what to do. We felt the strength of the earthquake. We didn’t know how to evacuate my ailing father because he could barely walk.)

Balina said she asked her partner, Eric Lamano, 37, to stay by her side when a series of earthquakes shook the ground. That was the time they decided to evacuate. But the problem didn’t end there.

Because of Rosalyn’s disability, Balina had a hard time explaining to her daughter that they needed to move fast and evacuate their home.

“Kinalabit ko siya, sabi ko, takbo! Tapos naka nganga lang  siya. Sabi ko naulan, tapos titingin lang siya. Tinuturo ko sa kanya ‘yung balikat niya. Sabi niya, bok bok. Ibig-sabihin alikabok. Sabi ko magtakip ng bunganga, nagtakip siya. Tapos nakatunganga lang ulit siya,” recounted Balina.

(I tapped her, and said, run! She just opened her mouth. I told her it was raining, she would just stare at me. I pointed at her shoulder, and she responded ‘bok bok.’ It means ash. I told her to cover her mouth, she followed. Then she was just staring again.)

They were rescued by their neighbors who helped them lift the ailing father to a safe place, while the couple took charge of carrying Rosalyn. 

None left for them

After surviving the catastrophe, the couple now worry over how can they get their lives back. Their main source of living was fishing. But now the waters surrounding the Taal Volcano continue to dry up.

“Nawala ang lahat. Wala na kaming babalikan. Na washed out na ang kabuhayan namin,” Lamano said. (Everything was gone. Our livelihood was washed out.)

Lamano appealed to the government to help them bounce back.

“Ang hiling po lang sana namin ay matulungan nila kami na makapagsimula muli. Dalawang linggo na kami rito sa evacuation centers at nag aalala na kami kung anong magiging buhay namin pagkatapos nito,” Lamano said. (Our wish is for them to help us rebuild our lives. We have staying here at the evacuation center for two weeks, and we worry what our life would be after this.) 

As of Thursday, January 23, Alert Level 4 is still  raised over Taal Volcano. State volcanologists say that a major explosion may come within hours, days, or even months.

Many residents living within the 14-kilometer danger zone surrounding the restive volcano are uncertain as to what the future holds for them. Or worse, they ask if there still a future for them. – Rappler.com


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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.