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Filipino students discuss the Church’s swift response in the aftermath of the Taal Volcano eruption

Latter-day Saints gather at a local meetinghouse as Taal Volcano humanitarian relief efforts take place around them

Following the eruption of the Taal Volcano on Jan. 12, students from the Philippines expressed their concern and hope as well as gratitude for the support The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has given.

Jhon Alfonso Sia, a junior from the Philippines studying biochemistry, said, “For us … we also have hope despite everything happening in the Philippines. We always think everything will be well or fine at the end.”

The Taal Volcano is located in the Philippines 40 miles south of Manila and it erupted in a cloud of ash, reported The New York Times. The second-most-active volcano in the Philippines had been showing signs of unrest since March 2019.

According to The New York Times, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology lowered the alert level for the volcano and people have started to return to their homes. More than 390,000 people were displaced as a result of the volcanic eruption, as reported by local officials.

Vaughn Curioso, a sophomore from the Philippines studying graphic design, said he is grateful for the aid the Church has given during the eruption as well as in the past.

“The fastest response was the Church. It was … faster than the Red Cross. When typhoon Haiyan came … the Church was the first one to give aid, faster than the local government.”

According to churchofjesuschrist.org, Elder Quentin L. Cook personally presented $20,000 during his visit to the Philippines and announced a $100,000 fund for humanitarian aid. The fund will be used for food, protective face masks, and other supplies for those affected by the volcano.

Additionally, the Church has opened chapels to be used as shelters for those displaced, according to Darlene Torres, a sophomore from the Philippines studying math education.

“Even the churches are becoming evacuation centers [in the Philippines] ... Even if they are members of a different faith … it’s open for them. They can be there until their homes are safe to go back to.”

Torres said part of the culture in the Philippines is working through hard times with a happy attitude.

“Even if there is something really bad happening, we can still laugh and make jokes. That’s just a Filipino thing. We are just big on being a happy people wherever we go, even if there are many things happening.”

Sia agreed and added, “We’ve been in worse situations, and we always survive, and we always stand up on our feet.”

Sia said he believes the people’s positive attitudes could also be attributed to the widespread Christian beliefs throughout the country.

Curioso shared celebration and a positive attitude are the culture of the Philippines and the way they live.

“It’s culture for us … For example, if someone died, we would close the street and have a party for them to celebrate their life. That’s what happened with my grandpa. We had karaoke, and we had cards and food.”

Curioso also shared that though he tries to be optimistic, there is still a concern for his family and country.

“I do [worry], especially because my mom is aging … But my main worry is usually when there is an eruption, it’s always followed by something like an earthquake or something plate tectonic-wise. That’s what I’m always worried about because there’s a big fault line not so far from where I live.”

Torres said she is worried as well and explained her sister lives near the Taal Volcano, and crops in the area are being affected.

“My older sister lives near there, less than an hour. She lives in Calamba Laguna. My sister is with her family there. They had to move out because it’s fairly close, and it’s kind of dangerous.”