She, her husband and two children were among the last residents to leave the island. They walked first to the nearest evacuation center in Caloocan, Talisay, then to a multipurpose gym, only to move to another building as the gym had developed cracks. In the morning they were taken by rescuers to the evacuation site in Tumaway, Talisay, where the couple have since been staying. Their children live with Belen’s in-laws. Fourteen months on, Belen and her family are reliving the horror, with Taal threatening to erupt again. A small sari-sari store enables them to get by; her husband is unable to work because of a heart condition. Their children long for them to be reunited. Belen is clinging to the local government’s promise of relocation. Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Taal Volcano island “no man’s land.” Talisay councilor Jerome Natanauan asks evacuees for more patience and understanding as he reassures them that they will be relocated to a new community. He and the Talisay LGU are grateful for the aid donated by private companies, like PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. As in the past year, PLDT and Smart have come to the aid of more than 250 families staying in three evacuation centers in Talisay, amid the increased activity at Taal. Also lending a hand are the Alagang Kapatid Foundation, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Metro Pacific, and One Meralco Foundation. “We returned to Talisay, Batangas, to help not only those who have been in the evacuation center for a year now, but also other residents ordered to evacuate due to Taal’s increasing unrest,” said Decerie Claire Astorga, PLDT AVP and Cluster Head for Regional Customer Development in South Luzon 1.
All these efforts are part of PLDT and Smart’s #SafeandSmart advocacy, which promotes preparedness and immediate response through network resilience, continuous availability of communication services, mobile solutions and activities, and relief assistance to help communities mitigate disaster risks. Smart continues to engage stakeholders to #LiveSmarter for a #BetterWorld and bring much-needed support to communities that have faced adversities.