The Taal volcano in the Philippines released a cloud of ash over nine miles high on Sunday, Jan. 12, and continues to emit smoke and small spurts of lava, according to NBC News.
Paola Mora Zepeda, a junior broadcast journalism major at Southern Adventist University, lived in the Philippines with her parents for six years. Her parents texted her pictures of the volcano on the morning of the eruption.
“When I first saw [the pictures], my first thought was that the pictures looked pretty cool… But after a few minutes I realized that this is actually very serious. This is actually very dangerous, and my parents are just a 15-minute drive away from that volcano,” Zepeda said.
Zepeda’s parents have not evacuated. To protect themselves from the ash and sulfur in the air, they put wet rags around their closed windows and avoided going outside. Those who do go outside wear masks and carry buckets of water in their cars to wash away ash collecting on their windshields.
“My dad told me that…the trees, the grass, everything outside looked white, but also muddy,” Zepeda said.
Freshman physical therapy assistant major Anne Pondi moved to the Philippines with her parents in 2013. Her parents also have not evacuated.
“I was scared because my parents live there, almost 15 minutes away from the volcano. No one could go outside for a full day because of the sulfur in the air, and the ash was sticky,” Pondi said. “I’m just hoping that it doesn’t get worse. I feel like it can turn into a big calamity, and some students here at Southern have families that live in the Philippines. Pray for the situation.”
Student Association president and theology major Mark Galvez lived in the Philippines with his parents for five years. Though his parents moved out of the country three years ago, many of his friends are still on the island.
“Many of my friends still have no water, but do have electricity. Clean water is a luxury in the area right now,” Galvez said.. “Homes have been covered by ash, as well as this summer’s harvest. Many church members have no idea what to do next.”
Within 24 miles of the Taal Volcano are three Adventist institutions: Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) and the Southern Asia Pacific Division (SSD).
NBC News reported that a larger explosion is likely, but whether it will happen days or months from now is unclear.
“That just really stresses you as you’re about to go to school, knowing that you’re here, you’re okay, but your parents are there, your friends are there, and though it seems okay, you never know what can happen. Volcanoes are very unpredictable,” Zepeda said.