Last October 2023, representatives from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) National Headquarters and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) visited Bungkaras Evacuation Center, the remaining evacuation facility in Albay for families affected by Mayon Volcano’s ongoing unrest. The purpose of the visit was to determine the specific areas where additional assistance could be provided.
Among the families they met are the families of Rona Villanueva, Lorna Padilla, Amy Nabor, and Abby Solano who were then taking turns cooking in the community kitchen set up by the PRC. They were frying tuyo (salted dried fish) and sautéing sweet potato leaves for their children’s first meal of the day. The food they had prepared was only enough to get them through the day, but they still shared the food with the visiting staff.
“Every day I keep worrying and thinking if Mayon will erupt. Our life since June is uncertain,” said Amy Nabor, a mother of three, in Filipino.
“I had to transfer my two children to a school within walking distance of the evacuation center. For them, this means adjusting and adapting to an environment entirely new to them,” Rona Villanueva, a mother of five, shared in Filipino.
“In the previous evacuation center, we had to share a room with ten other families. I was worried that my children would get sick because of the crowded spaces,” Lorna Padilla, also a mother of five, said in Filipino.
“I did not grow up here, so I am worried for my baby because this is our first time to evacuate,” said first-time mother Abby Solano, as she related in Filipino.
Mayon Volcano’s effusive eruption in the first week of June has forced thousands of families to leave their homes and livelihood in the mountain’s foothills. While majority of the population who preemptively evacuated have already returned home in September, there are 50 families from Barangay Anoling, which is within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone of Mayon, whose lives are still far from normal as they huddle in Bungkaras Evacuation Center because of the volcano’s continuing unrest.
The PRC, in partnership with IFRC, continues to support the provincial government of Albay in providing crucial aid to families who were evacuated from the danger zones. The following humanitarian aid was given to over 10,000 individuals since Day 1: 90,000 hot meals; over 3,050,000 liters of water; 900 loaves of bread; four community kitchens; sleeping kits and jerry cans to approximately 2,500 families; 3,662 feminine kits; and 1,210 hygiene kits.
“The hot meals help me in breastfeeding my baby, while the community kitchen helps me cook food for my other children before they head to school, a food that can hold them over until the next mealtime,” shared Lorna.
Rona, meanwhile, expressed her gratitude for the aid, especially for the provision of clean water: “Volunteers refill this [water bladder] daily. Because of this, we have access to clean water every day.”
The PRC also conducted Psychosocial First aid to 1,521 individuals, facilitated child-friendly spaces to 4,426 children, organized menstrual hygiene management to 1,389 women, conducted hygiene promotion, provided medical care to over 700 persons, demonstrated first-aid skills to 500 individuals, and provision of health awareness through the distribution of 5,700 brochures and posters on Dengue, Leptospirosis, and cough and colds.
“The volunteers gave the children storybooks and drawing materials. As a mother, these are important for me. Although my child is only one year old and cannot read yet, I still read the storybooks to him before we sleep at night,” said Abby.
PRC Chairman and CEO, Dick Gordon, said that the organization will provide assistance that goes beyond immediate response efforts, adding, “We will continue to collaborate with the provincial government of Albay in the next phase of aid and recovery for evacuees until normalcy is restored.”
The Research Division Chief of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), Eugene Escobar, mentioned that a number of families residing within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone of Mayon volcano had been permanently relocated years ago. However, over time, generations of these families returned to the area when they started their own families, as they did not have their own land to build their homes.
**This article was written on November 20, 2023. The remaining evacuees returned to their houses last December 8, 2023.