ARCORES Philippines, USJ-R, San Nicolas Parish Conduct Relief Operations in La Castellana


June 19, 2024—The Augustinian Recollect International Solidarity Network or ARCORES Philippines together with the University of San Jose-Recoletos-Center for Recollect Community Engagement and Social Involvement (CRCESI) and the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish of Talisay City, Negros Occidental delivered 16 sacks of rice, boxes of canned goods, noodles, hygiene kits, face masks and tissue packs for the victims of the eruption of Mr. Kanlaon.

It can be recalled that Negros Island’s lone active volcano erupted last June 3 and in just two days brought down lahar (pyroclastic mud) flowing into seven barangays of La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

Based on the data of La Castellana’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), at least 3,255 individuals were evacuated into five different sites in the town.

St. Vincent’s High School (SVHS), adjacent to the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish-Shrine, Poblacion, La Castellana is one of the main evacuation centers that housed the evacuees coming from Barangay Cabagnaan, the worst affected among all the barangays.

As of press time, there are still 171 families comprising of 580 individuals in SVHS. According to Rev. Fr. Ricon B. Dagunan, parish priest and school director of SVHS, they have opened all classrooms, including that of the senior high school, to the evacuees since the evening of June 5 when the residents were force-evacuated by the local government because of heavy mud flow from Mt. Kanlaon.

Of the 580, 188 are children aged between 2 to 12 years old. Incidents of diarrhea, fever and stroke have already been recorded among the evacuees.

Fr. Dagunan said that the evacuees are expected to gradually return to their homes within the week once the alert level, pertaining to volcanic activities, is lowered from the current Level 2. The parish priest told Rev. Fr. Rouel Sia, OAR, president of ARCORES Philippines and director of USJR-CRCESI, that the next priority of the Diocese of Kabankalan and the parish is to help evacuees re-build their livelihood and shelters. Many of them lost their livestock, especially cows, and the vegetables that were almost ready for harvesting.

Together with Rev. Fr. Romel Enar, assistant parish priest and chaplain of SVHS, Fr. Dagunan expressed his gratitude to the Augustinian Recollect Community that showed them solidarity in this time of crisis.

Mystic Kanlaon
Incidentally, Mt. Kanlaon, with an elevation of 2,465 meters above sea level, has recorded three phreatic eruptions that occurred on a June 3—in the years 1986, 2006 and 2024. However, this most recent one happened with no warning at all for the people of La Castellana.

“The parishioners came from the Santa Cruzan that culminated our Flores de Mayo activities,” Fr. Dagunan said.

ARCORES Philippines. Rev. Fr. Rouel Sia, OAR, president of ARCORES Philippines and director of USJR-CRCESI, leads the team of Augustinian Recollect volunteers. Rev. Fr. Roland Cepe, OAR, director of Identity, Formation and Mission of Colegio de San Nicolas de Tolentino-Recoletos, and Rev. Fr. Ubano Galanido, OAR of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish are also part of the team, including volunteers from Colegio de Sto. Tomas-Recoletos and USJ-R. 

For the Vulnerable, For the Children. Rev. Fr. Ricon B. Dagunan, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish-Shrine and school director of St. Vicent’s High School, plays with the evacuees as ARCORES team wait for the turn to see the evacuation site. There are 188 children aged 2 to 12 years old in the site.
On Eruption Day. Fr. Dagunan, center, shares how parishioners just left the church after Santa Cruzan when Mt. Kanlaon erupted. Fr. Sia (L) and Fr. Cepe (R) listens in.
Mending What is Left. An evacuee fixes broken stools inside the covered hall of SFHS.
Synodality in Action. Rev. Fr. Romel Enar, assistant parish priest (rightmost), receives the Augustinian Recollects’ donations for the victims of Mt. Kanlaon eruption as he was on his way to celebrate a funeral mass.
Recovering Together. The evacuees of St. Vincent’s High School are from Barangay Cabagnaan, La Castellana town. Their barangay was the worst affected area of the mud flow.
Water and Tents. The LGU of La Castellana provides tents for families occupying the covered hall of SVHS. The hall also serves as storage of containers of drinking water.
Inside SVHS. This Catholic high school owned by the Diocese of Kabankalan has opened all its classrooms to evacuees. Some women evacuees look on as relief goods are being prepared for distribution.

Photos By Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga

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Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga

Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga