January 12, 2020. Do you still remember what you were doing during this day? This was the day the Taal Volcano started erupting. Days later, various places in Batangas and some parts of Metro Manila experienced ashfall—prompted everyone affected to wear a face mask. After 42 years, the Taal volcano erupted again. But who would have thought that the necessary measures we needed to take from the eruption signaled our preparations for what came after—the pandemic.
As the ash covers major places in Batangas and nearby municipalities, including some areas in Metro Manila, people were advised to wear face masks for protection. The ash, when inhaled, could pose detrimental effects to the human body. With the increase in demand for N95 masks, supplies have started to run out.
After almost a week-long dread from the eruption of Taal Volcano and the ash fall, things started to normalize. But it didn’t take long until we started hearing about a looming crisis from a neighboring country. The World Health Organization published their first news about the outbreak happening in Wuhan, China. On January 13, 2020, Thailand reported the first case of COVID-19 outside the country.
Start of face mask as new normal
Fast forward to March 7; the Philippines reported its first local transmission of the virus. Come March 11, 2020; The World Health Organization classified the outbreak as a pandemic. The following day, the entire Metro Manilas was placed on community quarantine. With the short notice of the “lockdown”, people rushed to the supermarkets for food supplies. Alcohol and face masks ran out fast.
Remembering the scenes from March 12, some places were in total chaos. You could see fear from the faces of people while carrying their supplies. Just like that, our lives were changed forever. Since that day in March, we haven’t experienced not leaving our households without a face mask. If you would look at it, the Taal Volcano eruption prepared us for this norm. We just didn’t know then that it was for a global health crisis. It was indeed a gloomy time to live in—comparable to the dark, nearly sunless days with the ashfall.
Today, as the country starts easing restrictions, we can see some bright spots poking our days. We have been through a lot, and we are still going through some of it to this day, but may these events remind us that when things happen, they sometimes prime us for bigger things to come. Stay safe, wear your mask, be in the know, and always be mindful of our experiences—they could be telling us something we will know soon after.