BATANGAS, Philippines – When the skies darkened and the ash began to fall on January 12, Batangueños Shara Gepoleo and Kimberly Bathan had much to fear: both were carrying babies in their bellies and they had to flee from the restive Taal Volcano.
Seven-month pregnant Gepoleo, her husband Vincent, and two of their 4 children did not immediately leave their home in Lemery town. They thought they were safe. But when their town councilors kept on knocking on their doors to convince them to leave, Gepoleo was only able to pack just one bag before they were brought to a covered court in Tuy town, which served as its main evacuation center.
The 20-year-old Bathan and her husband ended up in the same evacuation center. At first, they stayed for a week in the home of Bathan's uncle in Calaca, but it was getting too cramped for her. Eighteen families were sharing that house, and Bathan, who was 5 months pregnant, was already experiencing spotting.
Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler
So just like Gepoleo, Bathan and her husband decided to go to Tuy's evacuation center. They were among the luckier ones, as the municipal government provides for everything the displaced residents need.
Food for the evacuees is given 3 times a day. This is on top of the other relief goods being sent by outside organizations and other local government units. As pregnant women, Gepoleo and Bathan are also prioritized whenever they needed medical assistance from nurses deployed at the covered court.
There are even toys provided for Gepoleo's 5-year-old son and two-year-old daughter Venice.
But the mothers know this is just temporary. They remain worried for the day they would have to give birth. (READ: In Talisay, desperate residents beg on the street for money, water)
Bathan is hoping the government would shoulder the costs of her delivery. Because she has a heart condition, delivering via a caserean section is her only option.
Gepoleo also hopes her beloved town of Lemery will rise from the ashes. There's simply no place like home, she said.
On Saturday, February 1, the Alert Level 3 is still raised over Taal Volcano, with its ongoing eruption affecting at least 126,952 families or 473,332 persons in Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, and Cavite. (READ: Batangas sets up 'ash for cash' program for Taal eruption victims)
Even the team of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology at the Taal Volcano Observatory in Talisay, Batangas had to evacuate to Tagaytay. But this did not stop them from monitoring the restive volcano 24/7. – Rappler.com