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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, January 14, 2020
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OPINIONS

Will Taal just cough, or throw up?

Ninfa Leonardia

As of this writing, Filipinos, especially those living in the area where Taal Volcano is located, are giving thanks that, at least, the “alburoto”, as a lot of reporters, especially on TV called it, of the Batangas-based natural wonder, had seemed to ease a bit. But we don’t know yet, if it means that it has gotten over what had caused the tantrum, in the first place. What a furor it has caused all over the country, not only in its immediate area, because the effects of the disturbance were not limited to its immediate neighborhood.

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As of early evening, the disturbance was not yet rated an “eruption”, although fears were rife that it was only a matter of time. With the help and wonders of television, we, who are safely distant from Taal, were able to see the extent of fear and disturbance it has caused. Who could believe that the ashes it threw up alone could thicken the roads with up to eight inches high? One could also see the terror in the faces of the people, young and old, as they rushed away from their homes, not knowing where they would find safety!

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Those who have actually seen Taal Volcano, must be wondering that it could be capable of causing such horror and destruction. Yes, I am among those who have actually seen and admired it, because it is set in the middle of a lake and very picturesque, too. Who would have known it could just send up ash a kilometer high, as well as fill up streets, and coat roofs of houses? It was only in my latest column that I had mentioned the people of Australia having to wear masks to avoid breathing the smoke from the raging bushfires torturing the country. Yesterday, reports said people from Taal also had to rush to get masks to avoid inhaling the deadly ash!

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And, as usual, there are profiteers who take advantage of calamities and tragedies, and this time, reports say that masks were already selling for P200 apiece in the affected areas! Thanks to television, we, in the safety of our homes, could see scenes of evacuees, begging for rides from those with vehicles. It was heartening to see scenes of people with cars, stopping for those pleading for rides. Other scenes showed entire families sleeping on the floors of houses that took them in.

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The Taal problem is not only a local, or even national problem, because it has caused air transportation to halt for several hours. News last night said some flights had resumed, but the greatest fear yet is, when will the real eruption take place? As of last night, the reports were just about rumbling and spewing of ashes. But there is no assurance for residents, not only of Batangas, but all its neighboring provinces, that it will not happen. We have several records of deadly eruptions, among the latest, the one of Pinatubo that caused a lot of destruction. I hope the praying of the Oratio Imperata by a TV channel was followed by the affected communities.

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A light touch in the reporting of the Taal activity was that two couples who were getting married still chose to go on with the ceremonies despite the disturbance and the commotion. Well, maybe they didn’t care about the potential danger, after all they were going to swear during the ceremony that “Till death do us part”. I wonder about the sponsors and the wedding guests, though. Did they run out of the churches in all their finery, only to get them coated with ash? Two towns named after historical figures, Laurel and Agoncillo, have been described as “ghost towns” after their residents had fled to safer grounds.

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We have just seen the destruction wrought by “Ursula” in the Visayas, now it is Luzon that is facing a possible eruption. By the way, typhoons are given names to remember them by, what about volcanic eruptions? Ah, they are remembered by the name of the volcano and only identified by the year they struck. Remember Pinatubo? But we in the Visayas, especially Negros Island, have a great need to pray that we will be spared from such a calamity. Remember we also have a volcano straddling our two provinces – Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. Let us not forget to pray that Canlaon will always behave herself.

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But maybe we should try to see some good in what have been happening in our country. Unlike others that seem to be on the brink of war that are man-made, we are coping with Nature, and, so far, we seem to be coping well, unlike what would happen to those bellicose foreign leaders who seem to be girding for war that, with the technology known to this generation, could cause more death and destruction that any natural calamity could. So let us listen to our religious leaders, and pray that we be spared from the worst.*

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