This is Maricel Rodriguez, 43, a Barangay Secretary in Sambong, Tagaytay. Hers is a story of calm in the middle of panic, of rising above what she was asked to do. It was January 12, a regular liga Sunday, and Maricel and her neighbors were joyfully watching a basketball game in the gym. The Taal Volcano was visible from where the game was being held, but it had no warning signs of eruption. It was not until the kids shouted in alarm that there was smoke coming from the volcano, that the people of Sambong realized they were in grave danger. This is her story, a story of kagitingan even in the midst of disaster.
“Ako po mismo ang nakiusap kung pwedeng matuluyan ng mga taga-Sambong iyong lugar. Secretary po ako sa barangay, kaya’t hindi ko naman po pwedeng pabayaan yung mga nag-aakyatan.” When disaster struck on that fateful Sunday night, Maricel felt the responsibility to bring her community to safety. She led her ka-barangays to higher ground and requested for temporary shelter in a chapel in Mendez, while their barangay captain remained in Sambong to ensure that the residents evacuated the area. Pictured above is The Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway. This also became one of the temporary shelters of Sambong, after their stay in Mendez chapel.
“May apostolate ang mga Amigonian brothers sa amin kaya talagang alam nila ang nangyari sa amin.” From Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Maricel, together with 86 families from Barangay Sambong, Sitio Bitin, Bagong Tubig, and Balakilong were brought to the Father Luis Amigo Formation Center in Amadeo, Cavite. This is a formation center for the Religious Tertiary Capuchins of our Lady of Sorrows or the Amigonian fathers and brothers.
Maricel is joined by her husband and three kids in the evacuation center. This little corner of Room 1 is what the family of five called home for a couple of days. In the photo, Maricel is seen wearing an ID. Despite being an evacuee, she volunteered her services to keep the center running smoothly. She would be stationed near the rooms so that when families have needs, e.g. food, baby diapers, medical attention, etc., she can inform the fathers and brothers and facilitate distribution of relief items from the stock room. The rest of her children also went beyond the call of duty. Her other son was not able to join this photo as he just came from his volunteer shift, guarding the seminary. Her two children also assisted in the different needs of evacuees.
Maricel and the other heads of family received mattresses, banigs, blankets, and hygiene products in their temporary living quarters. The Amigonian fathers and brothers, together with donors, were instrumental in providing evacuee needs. When asked about her plans after this, Maricel tearfully stated, “Kailan kaya kami makakabawi? Gusto po namin maibalik yung tulong sa kanila.” Beyond family needs, Maricel was keen on being able to return the kindness to the brothers that hosted their barangay.
Private partners were part of the equation in ensuring that evacuee necessities were provided. On January 24, the Ayala group, represented by Ayala Coop, Manila Water, and Ayala Foundation distributed hygiene kits, plates and other utensils, water and water tumblers, and school kits. Chooks to Go also provided meals for the Caviteños that were in the center all in the hope of making the families a little bit more comfortable in this time of need.
Maricel is one of our beacons of kagitingan in the midst of disaster. Despite their situation, she and her family went above and beyond to be able to help out her community. You too can be a part of the relief and rehabilitation efforts. Your help can go a long way in helping affected families rebuild their lives. Visit this link to know how you can donate. https://ayalafoundation.org/donation-channels-for-taal-eruption/