Situation Report
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San Jose, Batangas (22 January 2020) - Joanna fled Agoncillo, Batangas with her family and is temporarily seeking shelter at school classroom with five other families. Photo credit: OCHA/G. Maramag

III. Taal Volcano eruption: a family’s journey

A family from Agoncillo, Batangas remains displaced

Joanna, 40 is a private nurse and caregiver from Agoncillo, Batangas. She fled with her family of seven on Sunday, 12 January with her husband, Romel who works part-time as a fisherman and as a carpenter. “There was a strong smell of sulfur in the air, frequent earthquakes and we could see the smoke from Taal.” said Romel. As evening came, the decided to flee to safety. “Our barangay (village) had a truck that was going around the community. We initially got a ride to Balayan, Batangas, but there were fears of a tsunami because people could see the lakeshore waters receding. We eventually reached San Jose the next day. It was a long journey with five young children and my elderly mother.”

Leaving their life and livelihood behind

Romel and Joanna’s five children are from four to thirteen years old. “I hurriedly packed the kids’ school papers and some clothes. But the rest – their school uniforms, books and our belongings we left behind,” said Joanna. Her children haven’t attended school in over two weeks. As a team leader at the evacuation centre, she gets information from the camp manager about their situation. “We were told if we were to stay here longer, the children from San Jose will use the classrooms during the day, and we sleep in them at night.” There are currently 23 people staying in the classrooms, mostly relatives. “This is our first time being displaced for this long. I’m worried that we have no work opportunities here and if my kids end up in a temporary school, they will need a little lunch money. I can’t send them to school with nothing.”

Hoping to return home

Joanna heard from other villagers that her home was completely destroyed. “Some neighbors were able to return to retrieve their farm animals and they were able to check in on our house,” The roof had completely caved in due to the rain and ashfall. While alert levels were lowered on 26 January, their hometown of Agoncillo, Batangas is one of the communities in the in the 7-km danger zone, which as of 28 January still had restricted access. “We want to go home, and fix whatever is left of our house. We have nothing here and depend on donations. When will we be back on our feet?”