Two-time Taal eruption survivor: Access to information saved lives in 2020

Bonz Magsambol
Two-time Taal eruption survivor: Access to information saved lives in 2020
'May alam ang mga tao sa sitwasyon ng bulkan so hindi sila nagpapanic. Nalaman agad nila kung ano ang gagawin, hindi katulad noong dati na wala talaga,' says Vivencio Manguiat, a survivor of the 1965 Taal Volcano eruption

MANILA, Philippines – Among the thousands of people forced to leave their homes due to the Taal Volcano eruption, there are those who are not new to the struggle, having survived the last one in 1965.

Vivencio Manguiat, 63, is one of them. He recalled how many people died over 5 decades ago because they had no access to information and knew about the eruption too late.

“Ang ikinamatay ng iba ay sa pagputok ng bulkan, ang iba naman ay sa kanilang pangangagaw nila sa kanilang sasakyan, ang [sumakay sa] bangka ay nagdamihan na hanggang sa nalubog ang bangka,” said Manguiat. (READ: ‘Fire flew’: Elders fear repeat of the 1965 Taal Volcano eruption)

(Some people died due to the eruption, while some died while struggling to get on the boats. The boats eventually sank because they were overloaded.)

“Nahirapan mag-evacuate ang mga tao noon dahil gabi nangyari ang eruption at wala rin silang alam kung ano ang nangyayari (People struggled to evacuate because the eruption happened at night and they didn’t what was going on),” he added.

Manguiat said that unlike the situation in 1965, people knew what to do when the Taal Volcano began erupting on Sunday afternoon, January 12. Thanks to the blow-by-blow updates on mainstream media as well as on social media, people were able to safely evacuate from the island.

“May alam ang mga tao sa sitwasyon ng bulkan so hindi sila nag-papanic. Nalaman agad nila kung ano ang gagawin, hindi katulad noong dati na wala talaga (People had an idea of what was going on with the Taal Volcano so they didn’t panic. They already knew what to do, unlike before, [they knew] none at all),” he said. 

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has been monitoring the Taal Volcano since its state of unrest on January 12. Phivolcs is using two networks to monitor volcanic earthquakes – the Philippine Seismic Network which covers the whole country, and the Taal Volcano Network, which includes small earthquakes undetected by the former.

In 1965, Taal Volcano erupted at Mt Tabaro, leaving 200 dead. The eruption was phreatomagmatic and violent, characterized by falling rock fragments, ashfall with 25-centimeter thick deposit, and acid rain. (READ: TIMELINE: Taal Volcano eruptions since 1572)

Homecoming to uncertainty

While the 2020 Taal Volcano eruption recorded few casualties, many people lost their homes and livelihood, just like in 1965.

“Kaya lang ang problema ‘yung kanilang mga bahay na iniwan doon at hayop ay talagang nawala. Ang mga bahay nila natakluban ng buhangin. ‘’Yun ngang Taal Volcano naging disyerto na. Wala ka nang makikitang bahay, wala ka nang makikitang punong kahoy puro akala mo ay buhangin,” Manguiat said.

(The problem now is they lost their homes and their livestock. Their houses are all covered in ash. The volcano island is like a dessert. You cannot see the houses and the trees anymore, just ash.)

With the Taal eruption threat level downgraded to Alert Level 3, people could return to their homes. Manguiat was asked for his message to the national government as evacuees, especially those who have nothing to return to, start to rebuild their lives.

“Ang mensahe ko lang ay sa aming pag-uwi, kami ay may i-uuwi na pagdating sa bahay ay may makakakain dahil kami po ay hindi pa gasino makakapaghanapbuhay. Kaya ayun po ang tanging mahihiling ko sa gobyerno natin na kami ay masuportahan,” he said.

(My only message to the government is when we return to our homes, we would bring home something so that once we’re home, we would ahve something to eat as we haven’t gone back to work yet. That’s all I ask from the government, that they support us.)

In a press briefing on Sunday, January 26, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said thousands of houses were damaged by the Taal eruption, and advised residents not to return to the hard-hit communities.

Mandanas said the provincial government was planning the resettlement of affected residents. He said the initial estimate is 22,000 new homes for resettlement. (LOOK: Eyed relocation site for Taal evacuees in Ibaan, Batangas)

He said a resettlement area had been identified, but work was still being done on the roads, power and water supply. Mandanas explained in Filipino that the process may take two years “because real resettlement areas need to have a source of livelihood.” 

Mandanas also promised assistance to the affected residents by buying their livestock.

On Sunday, January 26, Phivolcs downgraded the Taal Volcano to Alert Level 3. Some residents have already returned to their homes. With a 7-kilometer danger zone from the main crater, only Taal Volcano Island, Agoncillo, and Laurel remain on lockdown with Laurel residents given window hours of 11 am to 5 pm. –


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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.