I left my daughter Anaya around 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, Jan. 12, to run an errand. It is exams week—she doesn’t want me puttering around our small condo when she’s studying.
The mall where we live in Tagaytay is a mere 2 kilometers away. No sweat. Even with weekend traffic, I know the side streets. I was confident I could come home quickly. Plus, there are three CCTVs outside our unit, there are roving guards. My 11-year-old daughter was safe, I thought.
As customary, Anaya asked for pasalubong, so I drove to Jollibee in the other side of town, another 2-km drive.
Then Taal Volcano erupted. Traffic slowed as motorists stopped to take photos of the billowing smoke from the crater. What started as a spectacle unfolded into a nightmare…
The air started to smell funny. The clouds darkened and lightning started to shoot up in all directions from the volcano. Everyone scrambled to safety and got in their cars.
Traffic moved at a glacial pace. I could see only our condo building from afar. I just sat in my car, helpless, hoping for no earthquakes—yet. Anaya was all alone.
Then my phone rang. It was Anaya. “Mommy, I’m smelling smoke.”
“Get a small towel, wet it, inhale through it. Just like our fire drill. Turn on the fan for ventilation.”
Then the earth shook. I wanted to ditch the car and just run to get to her, but it started raining.
Inside the car, I watch as 4 p.m. started to look like 5 p.m. I kept calling Anaya, assuring her that I could run to her any time and she could even see my car from the balcony.
But my daughter was brave. She continued reviewing for her quarterlies.
By 5 p.m., the sky darkened into night. The bits of ashfall that weren’t visible started to mix with rainwater. Soon, my windshield wipers screeched —I was wiping mud. It had gone dark I was still stuck in traffic.
I realized I was driving farther away from home. I stopped and let other cars pass. Power was down and there were no street lights. It kept raining.
Good Samaritans sprayed water on the windshields of passing cars. I asked for water. Every 50 meter, I went down and poured water on my windshield. I did this for 2-3 hours until I reached our condo.
I reached my daughter and we felt safe in the building until the tremors started at 10 p.m. It went on every 10 minutes.
The shaking from the eruption felt like an 8 on the Richter scale.
At 5 a.m., when the building shook so hard, Anaya and I started to evacuate. We ran down 12 flights of stairs with our luggage.