After two weeks of restless anticipation for Taal Volcano’s next move, PHIVOLCS lowered Taal’s alert status to Level 3 on January 24. With the alert level lowered, meaning Taal is no longer at risk of a violent eruption, the lockdown on most evacuated towns around Taal Lake has been lifted and residents can now return home.
But the damage has already done and these lakeside towns are far from the home the evacuees left behind.
What were once colorful towns are now covered in gray ashfall and mud. Roads have been ripped apart by the earth and houses have collapsed into the broken ground. In this photo series, we look at Batangas post-Taal through the lens of photojournalist Alecs Ongcal, who arrived at ground zero the day after the eruption. Ongcal visited nine of the most affected areas and, as someone who covered Marawi after its siege, the damage in these towns is near indescribable.
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“I’ve been inside the most affected area of Marawi City after the war ended, and the destruction there is different from the blanket of ash that covered these towns,” Ongcal explained. “Marawi is an abandoned city where nature patches up the destruction of war. Trees, weeds, and all sorts of plants dominated the scene. But in Batangas, even nature is dead. In abandoned towns, it’s colorless and lifeless. The animals left in Marawi looked wild and fierce after surviving the war. Here, the animals looked desperate.”
As the evacuees return home in the wake of Taal, they will meet a new challenge: rebuilding their lives as Taal continues to rumble across the lake.
Ashfall coats the statue of President Jose P. Laurel in the municipality of Laurel, Batangas.