Amid Mayon unrest, evacuees sink in debt
By Rey Anthony Ostria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2018-02-12 06:25:59

GUINOBATAN, ALBAY—Displaced villagers worry not just about ash, their belongings, pets and farm animals as they languish in evacuation centers after Mayon Volcano started to act up on Jan. 13.

Ros Ann Lana, 28, a resident of Masarawag village in this town, has been in the evacuation center since Jan. 15 when the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised Alert Level 3. It had been raised to 4 after lava gushed from the volcano’s summit crater on Jan. 22.

2 kg of rice daily

Lana’s life in the shelter could be typical of hundreds of others in a similar situation.

Lana gets relief supply from the government every two days—two kilograms of rice and canned goods. This was enough for her family of three, including a son who is just 4 years old.

“It’s enough for me, but not for those with many children,” Lana said. “Where to get food every day is the main problem here,” she said.

Lana, who makes a living as a vendor in Masarawag, said there was no source of income in evacuation centers, forcing her and other evacuees to borrow money from fellow evacuees, banks or lending firms.

She took out a loan from a lending firm that now calls her every day to collect payment.

It has become a vicious cycle for Lana. “We have to pay daily installment,” she said. “If we cannot pay today, we borrow from another person to pay the installment,” she added.

Animal health

Her husband, a farmer, returns to the 8-kilometer danger zone daily to check on the family’s carabao.

“He has to bathe the carabao especially if there is ash fall and check if the animals have something to eat,” said Lana.

“Carabaos get sick in times like these,” she said.

Lana was hired by the Department of Labor and Employment for a cash-for-work program.

Her tasks included cleaning up at the evacuation center, Guinobatan West Central School. She and at least 40 other evacuees get paid P290 per day.

But on Jan. 19, Lana’s father, Henry Opiana, suffered a heart attack in the evacuation center.

Not Mayon-related

Opiana was brought to a hospital in Ligao City, some 30 minutes away, where he was declared dead by doctors.

The tragedy further buried Lana’s family in debt.

The casket alone costs P20,000 and though the local government of Guinobatan offered to shoulder half, or P10,000, Lana’s family was so hard-up they would have to borrow the other P10,000.

What complicated things for Lana was whether Opiana’s death could be classified as directly related to Mayon’s unrest. If not, the family would not be entitled to financial aid from the government other than the P10,000 from the Guinobatan local government.

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