JUST A THOUGHT: ‘If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?’ — Jim Carrey
GREAT TO BE BATANGUEÑO: It just feels so good, so great, to be Batangueño these days.
The overwhelming, spontaneous flood of public assistance, mostly coming from residents of the province, in the wake of Taal Volcano’s Jan. 12 eruption makes me realize how beautiful inside and out the people of my province are.
Their display of kindness and kinship is the most beautiful sight post-Taal.
Moments after Taal erupted, spewing ash in nearby towns and Tagaytay City, concerned citizens had been quick to help motorists by heaping pails of water on motorists’ windshields. Thick ash fall covered cars, blurring or blocking drivers’ view altogether.
As residents were forced to evacuate their homes, it was touching to see operators of small-time carinderias open their doors to evacuees to feed them. For free.
Makes you feel good to be Filipino.
QUICK TO HELP: Dr. Luis Luna, municipal health officer of Rosario, an evacuation town, tells me a few classrooms in the public schools have been filled with tons of clothing, and other donations.
Rosario Resort and Hotel, a new resort complex owned by a cousin, Mario Alday Noche, opened its doors to evacuees. Mario offered the use of their events hall to evacuees, at the same time that he slashed hotel rates to those who wanted to be booked in more comfortable surroundings.
Ja1 Church, led by Bro. Ito Inandan, spearheaded a feeding program for 1,000 evacuees in Rosario on a daily basis. Pigs were slaughtered, their meat cooked into caldereta, adobo, and other popular Batangas dishes normally served during fiestas.
A sad note followed. Three students of De La Salle-Lipa, Rio John Abel, Maximino Alcantara, Darwin Lajara are heroes of the Taal tragedy.
The boys were on their way home after delivering food aid to evacuees when the car they were riding rammed into a truck, killing them instantly.
UNWRITTEN CODE OF BROTHERHOOD: Everywhere, I see or hear from radio-TV news how Batangueños opened their homes to strangers and relatives fleeing the wrath of the volcano.
On a visit to my hometown Rosario mid-week, I learned that evacuees from San Nicolas, Agoncillo and other heavily affected towns had camped into local schools. Some joined their relatives in faraway barrios of the town.
It all seemed so heartwarming, yet so magical, this wonderful idea of Batangueños helping one another in this most volatile, challenging time. Upon learning that evacuees had streamed into town, neighbors sent food, bananas, other fruits, whatever, to homes and shelters that adopted them.
Someone welcomed 18 evacuees, plus five dogs, into his home, even if he barely knew them.
Was it an unwritten code of conduct, this act of spiritual brotherhood, of fraternal love, among provincianos? I wonder.
It all came so naturally to Filipinos, like second nature, this urgent sense of bayanihan, a widespread Filipino tradition that could have started in this province. Their action reveals a deep sense of protectionism, care and love for their fellow men.
SIMPLE ACTS: I could only speak for myself. Perhaps, I could be a minor representation of a general sentiment among natives born and raised in the province.
On the way home from Manila, I passed by the local public market to buy goods, noodles to cook, meat, some vegetables to join the broth that could make their way into lomi.
I gave them to my sister, whose house has been turned into a center as she hosts 10 relatives of her husband’s from heavily damaged San Nicolas. Mine is a very small act, yet it could be a sample of a typical Batangueño reaction to crisis.
UNITED FILIPINOS: Did you notice?
Batangueños didn’t have to scream and yell on TV for other people from other places to help them in their moment of crisis. Their needs were immediately addressed locally, with help, of course, from other good samaritans, residents of other places, such as nearby Cavite and Laguna.
The general sentiment to help has spread far and wide that it has touched actors like Angel Locsin, Derek Ramsay and Alden Richards, public figures, residents of far-flung provinces like Isabela and Pampanga, among others.
View this post on Instagram
Team effort! Nagpapasalamat po kami ni Lyn Garcia, my fiancé Neil Arce, at kapatid ko na si Angela sa lahat po ng nag-volunteer na magdamag na nag-repack, nagbuhat, at nag-distribute ng goods para makatulong sa mga apektado ng bulkang Taal. Sa mga kusang nagbigay po ng donasyong goods and cash, maraming salamat po. Ang total po ng na-repack nating goods ay: 3,126 Food packs 1,760 Hygiene Kits 200pcs Towels 100pcs Blankets Water bottles + multiple boxes of Medical Kits, Masks, & few boxes of baby needs Nakapag-distribute po tayo sa 3 evacuation centers na malimit na mapuntahan, at nakapaghatid tulong din sa isa pang evacuation center. Ang Red Cross Batangas Chapter po ay mas may kakayanang maunang rumesponde upang mabilis na makapagbigay ng tulong sa mga nangangailangan, kaya nagdonate po tayo ng 2 truckloads ng “ready to distribute” goods na handa nang ipamigay kung sakaling mas lumala pa po ang situwasyon. Dito po napunta ang mga naitulong ninyo. Maraming salamat po sa Red Cross Batangas Chapter for assisting us at maraming salamat po muli mga magigiting na volunteers! Mabuhay po kayo! Sana po maski paano, nakagaang po ito sa hirap na nararamdaman ng mga apektado sa sakunang ito. Karamay nyo po kami. (PS: I decided to post the items and make an accounting this time para po malinaw sa mga nagdonate kung saan po napunta ang tulong po nila.) credit to owners #BangonTaal #HelpTaal
That is not to say, however, that Batangas doesn’t need outside help. The big picture demands assistance from the national government in a much bigger way, far greater than lomi and the bags of soap and used clothes that I delivered to our parish church in Quezon City.
BANGON, BATANGAS: Batangueños are known to be a resilient people.
“Bulkan ka lang, Batangueño kami,” said one Facebook post. They swear they’ll get over this recent debacle with heads held up high. Bangon, Batangas is their battlecry on social media.
Bangon, Batangan (the old name of the province), would have sounded more symphonic.
View this post on Instagram
These past few days have been very emotional for me. It breaks my heart to see my fellow countryman suffering from the eruption of taal volcano but at the same time im so proud and amazed to see so many people coming together to help these victims. I pray the worst is over.
Batangueños are known for being a people of pride and dignity. Remember Gen. Miguel Malvar, the last person to surrender to American forces during the last war. He was Batangueño.
They are also quite protective of family in a very clannish way. It partly defines their character, loud but caring, staunchly loyal, brave yet loving. Never has the appellation barako been seen in a more positive light.
An article on the website, Batangas: History, Culture and Folklore, cites a 1915 Anthropology paper written by one Leon Bibiano Meer mentioning some very fascinating insights about the characteristics of the Batangueño of that era.
View this post on Instagram
The paper is part of the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
Meer described the Batangueño of his time as “hospitable, moderate, sober, religious and very much attached to the soil of his birth.”
I feel so good, so great, to be called a Batangueño these days, with that heavy ‘’ala eh’’ accent dangling proudly on my tongue, and everything else, notwithstanding.