PLDT and Smart extend aid to people affected by Taal volcano eruption

(Press Release)

Medalia Biscocho saw her life turned upside down when Taal volcano erupted in January 2020. Her family left their home in Maabud North, San Nicolas, Batangas along with thousands of residents to flee the danger.

“It was hard. We had to transfer to different evacuation centers because there were just too many people,” recalled the 42-year-old mother. “I leaned on my faith. I prayed for my family. Of course, I drew strength from my children.”

A month later, Medalia’s woes worsened when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the government to lay down restrictions. Despite the hardship, she’s grateful that she has found work as a barangay health worker in their community. With her meager salary, Medalia admits they’re barely getting by, “I sell different items to augment my income. My husband wasn’t able to return abroad because of the pandemic. But what’s important for us right now is that we’re together.”

In nearby Barangay Bangin, recovery has been slow and hard for 56-year-old Jovito Reyes as well. He says, it didn’t help either that he had to move around while waiting for clearance to return to his home. “First, I went to my relatives in Taal. After that we moved to San Mateo then Cogeo in Rizal before staying with relatives in Cavite,” he narrated.

Jovito said he lost almost everything to the volcanic eruption and the violent typhoons that ravaged South Luzon late last year, “Super Typhoon Ulysses badly damaged our community. Fissures appeared after the typhoon dumped heavy rain on our village.”

He also works two jobs to support his partner, “I’m currently working as Barangay Secretary. But I also drive a tricycle on the side.”

Residents in and around Taal Volcano have been struggling to rebuild their lives after the calamities that struck them one after the other. So, they welcome every opportunity to earn more. And this is what PLDT and Smart brought when they recently returned to San Nicolas town, to boost residents’ livelihood and the community’s disaster preparedness.

Forty families from three barangays in San Nicolas received additional income from Smart through its cash-for-work program. Family heads who tended their communities’ vegetable gardens for 10 days received financial aid from the company.

“The program helped us secure food for our household. I’ve also learned to appreciate gardening and have found fulfillment in growing your own vegetables and harvesting them later on for consumption by our family or for sale in the community,” shares Medalia.

Smart also helps connect Medalia and her neighbors with consumers. The PLDT wireless unit taught beneficiaries how to use technology for farming through the Digital Farmers Program (DFP). Part of Smart’s #FarmSmart advocacy, DFP is a pioneering collaboration between Smart and DA-ATI that aims to level up farmers’ productivity and marketability through trainings on the basics of smartphone use, Internet access, online safety and security, agri apps, social media, and social media marketing.

Smart is committed to help affected Batangueños rebuild their lives after they were disrupted by the eruption of Taal Volcano. To help San Nicolas prepare for calamities and natural disasters, Smart turned over two disaster warning tools in the form of “batingaw,” a bell or a siren used by communities as an early warning device.

“This ‘batingaw’ could save lives. It will help alert the community of imminent natural or man-made threats.,” said Jovito.

The effort is part of Smart’s #SafeandSmart campaign that empowers the public in using technology for communications and helping mitigate the risk of disaster in communities.