By Manila Bulletin Lifestyle 

With the eruption of Taal Volcano, thousands of residents in the Batangas province were forced to flee. In response to the ongoing calamity, more and more people and various organizations are coming together to help those affected by this natural disaster.

To honor the bravery, hard work, and generosity of the volunteers and donors, we listed some of these good Samaritans who gave their best, even to the point of putting their own lives at risk just to give aid to the victims of the tragic catastrophe.

Batangas’ Trio

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Filipinos are mourning the passing of three young heroes from Batangas. Friends Rio John Abel, Maximo Alcantara III, both 22, and Darwin Lajara, 26, braved the cataclysm and headed straight to an evacuation center in San Jose, Batangas to deliver some relief goods.

But on their way home in the wee hours of the night, a fatal accident took their lives. According to a police report, their car crashed into a trailer truck as they were driving along the national highway in Banaybanay I, San Jose, Batangas, at around 1:30 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Rio and Maximo were declared dead on the spot. Suffering serious physical injuries, Darwin was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he died the following day, Wednesday, Jan. 15.

Merril Patrick Morie Cobarrubias, a close friend of these three heroes, confirmed this sad news to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle in a phone interview.“Napakabuting tao ng tatlong ‘to. Basta alam nilang kaya nila at may posibilidad silang tumulong kahit sa maliit na paraan hindi sila naghe-hesitate (They were really good people. They wouldn’t hesitate to help anyone if they could),” she says.

Their loved ones, friends, and the people they had helped are in mourning. Rio, Maximo, and Darwin and their good deeds won’t be forgotten.


Breathe Easy

Toqa - A Time for Heroes

Providing an alternative solution, sustainable brand Toqa is giving out its pollution masks for free to everyone who needs it.

“Everybody has the right to live safely, though we don’t necessarily have the resources to ensure that. We’re just doing our part to help,” Isabel Sicat and Aiala Baldovino of Toqa tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “It’s crazy to charge when it’s a matter of safety! We had already designed the masks. Experiencing the ash fall in Metro Manila made us realize we could also supply them to those in need.”

Toqa is a project that locates sustainable high fashion in the tropics. The textiles used for its collections originate from rescued deadstock, fabrics, which are no longer in production. These will be manipulated to reflect the character of the island.

“While the N95 medical-grade face mask is the best protection, supplies are running out rapidly. We made new Toqa pollution masks for anyone in Metro Manila who needs it,” Toqa wrote in an Instagram post. “They’re not as efficient as N95, but they’re better than nothing.”

The masks are inspired by the two’s day-to-day experience with Makati City’s pollution.

Keeping in mind its sustainability thrust, the masks are made of several layers of fabric, a non-stretch denim woven on the outside, soft terry cloth on the side that touches the nose and mouth, and stretchy garter for the ear loops. Like everything Toqa makes, all materials are sustainably sourced and thoroughly washed.


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When 61-year-old Rosalinda Mantuano heard about the Taal volcano eruption, she couldn’t help but cry out of guilt. “Kasi wala syang maitulong (Because she couldn’t help) financially,” explains her 30-year-old daughter Maryann.

The news about the face masks, because of their enormous price hike or scarcity, provided Rosalinda an opportunity to help. Being a dressmaker by profession, she thought it would be good to sew fabric masks and give these away for free. She was able to make 500 masks made of cotton fabric for the first batch. What was even more heartwarming was the participation of Harvey Fadera, Rosalinda’s son-in-law and husband of Maryann, who is head of the Batangas Alpha Riders Club (BARC). “Sila ‘yun nagdidistribute ng mga nagawa. Pinasabay namin pag nagdadala sila ng kanilang donations (They would distribute what were made. We included our masks with the donations they would deliver),” adds Maryann.

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Her Facebook post about her mom’s efforts became viral, garnering thousands of hits that led to TV and radio interviews. Little did they know that this was just the start of her mom’s humble home project. A lot of viewers, followers, and listeners found ways to get in touch with the Mantuano family who is based in Barangay Sto. Toribio Marawoy, Lipa City. Inquiries have been pouring in, asking where they can send more materials and cash donations so that the family can make more masks for distribution. “Sobrang thankful talaga. Unexpected na ganito yung mangyayari (We are really thankful. We weren’t expecting this to happen),” says the overwhelmed Maryann. “Sa pagdami ng materyales at sa pagdami ng mga nangangailangan, nagtulung-tulong na kaming lahat ng pamilya ko (Because there is an increase in both the materials coming in and the ones who need the mask, all our family members have been helping).”

A rough estimate of more than 900 masks have been made, and they have been making non-stop the whole day. BARC continues to hand these masks out to people in evacuation centers, public markets, highways, and just about anywhere. “Basta makita namin na walang face mask (As long as we see that they don’t have a face mask)”

This family proves that anyone can help in any way they can. “Kayang kayang tumulong kahit sa anong paraan kung gugustuhin mo. Napakasarap pong tumulong ng tumulong. (We can help in whatever way we can if you really want to. It’s feels so good to keep on helping).” And that’s what the Mantuano family will keep on doing, pulling all-nighters to make masks for anyone who needs them.

Brick by brick

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What has always been considered as a threat and health hazard has been put into good use.

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) of Biñan, Laguna has used the volcanic ash spewed by Taal Volcano to produce bricks.

To make this happen, City Mayor Arman Dimaguila, through the Biñan City Information Office, says he ordered residents all over the city to collect ash inside and outside their home.

“[The] clean-up drive collected almost two dump trucks of volcanic ashes on its first day,” Dimaguila tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “These were then transferred to the MRF along with other plastic wastes. Seeing the amount of ash that came in, we thought of creating bricks out of it.”

For two years now, the city has been producing eco-bricks out of plastic waste, white sand, and cement, which they use for pathways in public schools. This time, using the same machine, MRF employees added volcanic ash—about 40 percent of the mix—in the production of bricks. On average, Biñan City’s MRF produces around 5,000-7,000 bricks per day.

This initiative to create what Dimaguila calls the “taal bricks” is part of “Bayanihan sa Biñan,” a program inspired by the city’s battle cry, “Sa lungsod ng Biñan, mamamayan ay maaasahan.”

“[We want to show that] bayanihan in Biñan is alive with or without disaster,” he says. This is precisely why the city has also decided to donate the bricks to the victims of the eruption.

“Residents in Batangas whose houses were directly affected by the disaster will be the recipients of the bricks,” Dimaguila says. “We are also willing to donate it to other LGUs and organizations that will be needing it.”

Bayan Batangan

Upon hearing the devastation caused by the Taal volcano eruption, the alumni of De La Salle Lipa in Batangas rallied together to help fellow Batangueños by organizing an online relief operation. Because many were busy with work or school, all their coordination efforts were done via online messaging and Excel file sharing—despite this, they were able to assign people to work on finances, communication, logistics, and more and after two full days had collected almost ₱50,000 in donations.

Through a commitment with a local supplier for hygiene kit items—resources so easily overlook but very essential to every person—the money still being collected are enough to supply over 500 hygiene kits, ready to be distributed in different evacuation centers across Batangas.

“As a native Batangueño, I felt a sense of obligation to lend a helping hand so that we could all stand up from the Taal eruption calamity,” says alumnus Rezen Andaya, one of the forefront organizers of the De La Salle Lipa operation who noted on the hashtags they used, #BayanihangBatangan and #BangonBatangas. “We are growing every day as more people are called to serve. We were serious and enthusiastic and still are. With the amount of support we’ve been receiving in the form of donations and encouragement, we are compelled to keep on going.”

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