TRUCK No. A34 was number four of ten Kia 2500 Kargo utility trucks that was to be delivered to the provincial government of Batangas to be able to better respond to the emergency caused by the sudden eruption of Taal Volcano last January 12.
Along with thirty members of the motoring media we drove the 10 Kia 2500s through the still dusty roads of Batangas. After a rendezvous at the Batangas Provincial Capital the crew of drivers and volunteers assembled by AC Motor’s group would drive another hour or so to get to our relocation centers where we were to drop off over half a ton of items—in truck No. A34, blankets, sleeping mattress and plastic banigs, hygiene kits and underwear packs.
There were 20 other cars from AC Motors’ allied companies Volkswagen, Maxus, Kia, Honda and Isuzu that were also laden with relief goods, but the Kia Kargos carried the most. We left the Honda Magallanes dealership in Makati, and quickly made our way to through the South Luzon Expressway into the South Luzon Access Road all the way to Batangas City.
The trip was fast and unimpeded. The convoy reached the Batangas Provincial Capitol, where the group met their local coordinators and guides to the six evacuation centers in the towns of Alitagtag, Santa Teresita, San Jose, San Luis, Padre Garcia, and Mataas na Kahoy.
Just a day earlier, Sunday, the traffic was happily stretched 5 kilometers down in SLEX and 3 kilometers back in STAR because of the sheer number of vehicles and volunteers headed to Batangas.
I say this was “happily” backed down because if Tweets and posts were to be the basis, everyone in the various congested tollgates seemed to have been more patient and understanding than usual because they knew they were helping out their Batangueño countrymen.
As of this writing the Alert Level has gone down from 4 to 3 allowing residents in towns outside the 7-kilometer danger zone to be able to return to their homes.
The effect of the relief operations we volunteered in went way beyond the lifting because as one resident puts it, “we do not know what we will be coming home to.”
AC Motors’ swift response to the widespread effect of Taal volcano’s sudden eruption helped most of the evacuees were at that time in various centers in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna provinces. I was with Mike Potenciano and Lindy Pellicer on Truck No. A35 and Volkswagen’s Timmy de Leon and TessDrive.com’s Aries Espinosa on a Volkswagen Toureg.
A side story to this narration.
AC Motors was supposed to hold an appreciation night this February for media partners.
When Taal volcano erupted, the company decided to conduct relief operations instead.
When the motoring media learned of the change in plans, they themselves volunteered to drive the participating 30 vehicles with the relief goods inside.
Kia Philippines, one of the six brand companies under AC Motors, would be celebrating its first anniversary on January 30. The donation of the 10 vehicles has become part of the efforts to help the province of Batangas rebuild the areas affected by the Taal eruption.
Arriving at the Batangas provincial capitol we were assigned to our local government relocation centers and introduced to the volunteers who will handle the distribution of goods.
“The relief operations are just the beginning. We have a long way to go in the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected areas. Keep the heart. Keep the faith. We are here to help you all the way, as long as you need us,” Ayala Foundation President Ruel Maranan, said addressing the local groups at the provincial capitol.
At the Padre Garcia evacuation centers we were assigned to, we unloaded the relief goods and handed out the hygiene kits, towels and blankets, sleeping mats, mattresses, clothes, and underwear for men and women to at least 200 of the 1,200 displaced families from different disaster-affected areas.
Apart from the six evacuation centers the volunteers visited, three other areas where evacuees were located – in Barangay Madalunot in Calaca, Barangay Caloocan in Balayan, and Barangay Bagong Pook in Rosario – were identified. Evacuees in these locations would also be given relief goods, via the office of the Batangas Provincial Governor Hermilando Mandanas.
After the distribution, the volunteers regrouped at the Batangas Provincial Capitol, where the 10 Kia Karga K2500 units were turned over. Currently, the donated vehicles are being used to carry relief items from the Provincial Evacuation Center to hard-to-reach areas in the province. These vehicles will later be assigned to affected municipalities that need them most.
“The project is a collective effort from everybody, from Ayala Corporation to AC Motors to Ayala Foundation to the motoring media. Special thanks to Kia Philippines for donating 10 brand new Kia K2500 light trucks which can be used extensively for relief operations in Batangas,” Arthur Tan, Group President and CEO of AC Industrials, said during the pre-departure briefing.
“Moving forward, I hope this is the beginning of how we have to work together in order to help our country in being able to be prepared for natural disasters,” he said as we readied ourselves to board the vehicles on route to Batangas.