The day it rained white


    I DIDN’T think it was possible to see another one in the same lifetime, but ash has fallen again in Manila and its surrounding areas. Taal volcano went from being on a perpetual level 1 (it has always been restive) to level 4 in a matter of hours, taking everyone by surprise. By Sunday evening, ash was already falling as far as Meycauayan, Bulacan.

    A little bit of history, courtesy of Kris Pasion, @indiohistorian on Twitter: it was also in January back in 1911 when Taal spewed smoke and ash, beginning on the 27th and lasting until February 8. The eruption is said to have been so powerful that it was heard as far as 360 kilometers away. 1,400 people died in that tragedy, with the double wallop delivered by the violent eruption and the succeeding earthquakes.

    Social media and private chat groups were abuzz, from sharing photos of the eruption to the sudden frenzy of buying face masks. We didn’t have social media back in 1991 when Pinatubo erupted, and I wonder if behavior would have been the same. Debates about being able to turn on their air-conditioning units went long into the night, and tips for cleaning up when the ash fall stops were passed around.

    It’s too early to say whether the devastation will be the same as Pinatubo, where whole barangays were buried in ash. I certainly hope this won’t be the case here. The extent of the impact still unknown and we have a difficult road ahead. The precarious situation with our water supply will be worsened by the cleaning up that entire towns and cities (all necessary, of course) will be doing once the ash fall stops.

    Please take care and clean off ash only when necessary. Remember that while it washes off, it will harden and clog our already unmanageable sewers and drains if government does not conduct clean up operations immediately and regularly until the debris is all gone.

    It’s too early to tell what kind of rehabilitation will be needed, but I hope government will be ready to respond to the relief and rescue needs swiftly. LGUs in the areas surrounding Taal, like Agoncillo and Lemery, will be in dire need of support for their evacuees. Here’s hoping that the bright boys along the Pasig are alert, awake, and alive, and did not go back to sleep after hearing about the news.