Philippine City Gets Creative With Volcanic Ash

Turning adversity into an opportunity to do good for their neighbors.

Feb 1, 2020

Batangas, Philippines before the eruption. (Alisa_Ch / Shutterstock.com)

The area around Taal Lake on Luzon Island in the Philippines is known for its natural beauty. Tourism is popular there as travelers flock there to see the scenery that surrounds Taal Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the country. It was quiet for years until January 12, 2020.

That's when the volcano started spewing ash and later erupted. Since then, the cities surrounding the volcano have been shrouded by a layer of ash.

Several buildings in the picturesque villages that surround Lake Taal actually collapsed from the weight of the ash and 100,000 people had to be evacuated after jets of lava began to be released. Many of the residents were uncertain that they would have homes or businesses to return to.

But the ash that coated everything –  plants, streets, cars, and homes – didn't stop the residents of Biñan, a city that is 35 km south of Manilla, from seeing the good in the situation and finding a way to help their neighbors in the towns that suffered the most from Taal.

Biñan Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila ordered the city residents to collect the ash and to put it in sacks to be sent to the state-owned factory that can produce 5,000 bricks a day, according to Reuters, to turn it into bricks to use for rebuilding damaged communities.

“When the ash came, we thought we’d exchange the white sand which we mix with plastics to be converted into bricks with ash. We did it and they came out sturdy,” Dimaguila told Reuters.

Using discarded plastic in the bricks will help with the country's persistent problem with plastic waste going into the sea. According to Philstar Global, the Philippines generates 43,684 tons of garbage daily including 4,609 tons of plastic waste. There is a lack of proper disposal facilities in the country and that exacerbates the problem

"What we plan is to turn them into hollow blocks and bricks and sell them to interested companies,” Dimaguila told Reuters. But he noted, the proceeds would be donated to the people directly affected by the volcano.

“When Batangas [the region where Taal is located] is in recovery, we will bring the bricks there for building schools, community halls and livelihood centers so what we can give back what Taal has given us,” Dimaguila said. “The misfortune of our neighbors in Batangas is there. Let’s transform this into opportunity."

The Philippines, located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire: zone of fire" and part of the typhoon belt, is a country that is known for natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and major storms. But the Filipino people show resilience and a strong community spirit.

Helping others, as exhibited by the residents of Biñan turning adversity into an opportunity to do good, is a way of life there. Last year, Hands on Manilla, a nonprofit, ran a Good Deeds Day carnival for orphaned children in Manilla. Long known as some of the happiest people in the world, now Filipinos can also be known as some of the kindest.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.