US organizations, public figures raise funds for Taal Volcano victims

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AFTERMATH. A local resident from Taal Island carries a large fish. Ash belched out by Taal Volcano has enveloped the entire island, burying houses and coating mountains and ridges with a blanket of gray. Dead animals strewn all over were indistinguishable from house debris, fallen tree branches and halved coconut trees. | Inquirer.net photo by Chris Quintana

Following the Taal Volcano eruption in Batangas, Philippines this week, members of the Filipino American community and various American public figures have raised funds for those affected by the disaster.

The Taal Volcano began spewing clouds of ash on Sunday, January 12. The ash — which has spread more than 62 miles — has created a public health hazard and prompted the evacuation of half a million people in and around the affected zones, as previously reported in the Asian Journal.

The natural disaster caused by one of the deadliest volcanos has disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, and it kickstarted a global call for donations and aid.

The non-profit organization the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) issued a statement on Wednesday, January 15 announcing that it would raise funds for the thousands of affected Filipinos through a GoFundMe account, and they are encouraging more people to donate.

“The unrest and destruction resulting from such natural disasters can have devastating effects on survivors — physically, emotionally, and financially,” NaFFAA Chairman Brendan Flores said. “It is our genuine hope that the financial support we amass together can go miles towards helping families rebuild.”

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), a Bay Area-based non-profit Filipino advocacy group, also joined the state-side effort to provide aid to Taal victims through a fundraiser.

“This event displaced thousands of our fellow countrymen, disrupting their economic livelihood and will continue to affect them emotionally and economically in the foreseeable future,” NAFCON said in a statement posted to Instagram, noting that farm workers and fishermen, “the most vulnerable sector of our society” are among the most affected by the disaster.

NAFCON also mentioned an open call for doctors, nurses, members of the health care circuit and community volunteers to join them on a “medical mission” to help these regions affected by natural disasters.

Fil-Am Mayor Arvin Amatorio of Bergenfield, New Jersey recently called for donations to the relief effort, according to a Facebook post from his wife Ilya. 

Partnering with fellow Fil-Am Marc Pascual, councilman of Bergenfield, Amatorio brought two balikbayan boxes of N95 masks to be distributed to Filipinos in the Batangas area.

The creative community has also begun organizing events focused on raising disaster relief aid. According to its Facebook page, FilAm ARTS is hosting a benefit in Glendale, California on Sunday, January 26 and is looking for performers and volunteers to help with the event. Actress and singer Joan Almedilla is slated to perform; to get in touch, email them at info@filmamarts.org. 

Celebrities in the Philippines have already called for donations for the effort, but the news has also motivated American celebrities to give back. 

While performing his new stand-up set in Manila over the weekend, comedian Dave Chappelle also donated P1 million to Rayomar Outreach Foundation, a non-profit raising money to provide aid to Taal volcano victims.

Katrina Razon, daughter of Solaire Resort & Casino Chairman and CEO Enrique Razon, posted an Instagram photo with Chappelle expressing many thanks to the comedian, who performed at The Theatre at the casino on January 14 and 15. 

American comedian Dave Chappelle pledged P1 million to Taal Volcano victims through the Rayomar Outreach Foundation following his performance in Manila, according to a post by Pinay entrepreneur Katrina Razon (far right). (Photo courtesy of Katrina Razon)

“Dave not only sent audiences here into hysterics, [but] he also demonstrated how kindness and wisdom prevail the way,” Razon wrote. “Dave once said, ‘Constantly take inventory of what’s important [to] you.’ Thank you, Dave. For the laughter and nuggets of wisdom.”

Seismologists warn of imminent danger

Authorities began issuing evacuations from a 9-mile danger zone surrounding the volcano, displacing about half a million residents, many of whom live in Batangas. Evacuees are currently being cramped into 373 evacuation centers that are serving as temporary shelters.

As of Thursday, January 16, about 121,455 individuals (including more than 26,000 families) have been evacuated, according to the latest update from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) of Batangas.

Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivocs), told reporters that Phivocs is “analyzing what this seeming calm of the volcano means” and that the activity from the volcano had “generally waned to weal emission of steam-laden plumes” since the initial release of ash. 

But the potential imminent threat of a massive eruption hangs in the balance as seismologists warn evacuees not to return to their homes; according to Phivocs, there have been 100 recorded tremors in the area since Wednesday, January 15 which means that magma was still rising. But that didn’t stop residents who took advantage of a lull in the ash emission.

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