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Relief items being put together by the Filipino community Image Credit:

Dubai: Hundreds of boxes containing donations from the Filipino community in Dubai have been sent out for the benefit of Taal Volcano eruption victims in the Philippines. The first batch of relief goods arrived in the province of Batangas on Tuesday.

A total of 282 jumbo boxes – each weighing more than 50-kg containing various relief items, including canned goods, clothes, blankets, toiletries, face masks – were collected during a one-day drive held at the Philippine Consulate over the weekend.

“It was the Filipino bayanihan (helping each other out) spirit that moved our kababayans (countymen and women) in Dubai to pool their resources and come to the aid of our fellow countrymen,” Filipino community leader Josie Conlu told Gulf News.

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Volunteers taking stock of the generous donations

According to reports, more than 160,000 Filipinos are staying in various evacuation centres across Batangas and nearby provinces of Cavite and Quezon since the Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12.

“After hearing the news, many of our kababayans here have started their own collection drives so we decided to come up with a one-day event to gather all the donations and sort out the goods that will best suit the recipients,” Conlu said.

One-off project

“It was a one-off project. The Philippine government has not called for any international relief assistance but of course we realised that some people wanted to donate that’s why we held the event. But it’s a continuing relief drive and those who want to send more relief goods may do so directly to the local government units or non-governmental organisations in the Philippines,” said Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes.

Lance Japor, vice-president of FilCom Bayanihan, added that donations were directed to coordinators of provincial disaster risk reduction management councils and village leaders who have relatives in Dubai.

“Some Dubai residents who are currently in Batangas also serve as coordinators. One contact person in the village of San Pascual is handling at least 7,000 evacuees,” Japor said.

“The League of Freight Forwarders, a group of Filipino cargo companies in the UAE, meanwhile, has provided discounted rates. The first batch of relief goods were sent by air freight but the main bulk of the donations via sea cargo will arrive within 30-40 days,” he added.

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Collections from a donation drive

Japor said more donations will be needed in the coming days and people can organise themselves to send donations.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said that Alert Level 4 remains hoisted over Taal, which means a hazardous eruption is possible within days.

“We have observed weaker volcanic earthquakes, but found that the amount of emitted sulfur dioxide (SO2) is fluctuating, which means magma is actively degassing beneath Taal, said Maria Antonia Bornas, chief of the Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division.

Your help is your game

The bayanihan ((helping each other out) spirit has reached the basketball court. Filipino basketball players in Dubai are organising a pocket tournament for the benefit of Taal Volcano eruption victims.

Organised by OldSchool Basketboleros and officiated by JK Sports, the two-day basketball tournament will kick off today (Wednesday) at Satwa Park, with the participation of eight teams.

“There are no cash prizes and no fees will be collected to join the tournament but each team is expected to give a donation which will be sent to village and community leaders in Batangas province,” said organiser Arnel Fernandez.

“We are also in touch with relatives of some of our players who will coordinate the relief operations in their respective areas,” he added.

Fernandez said this was not the first time that basketball aficionados have banded together for a cause. Recently, charity games were also organised to raise funds for the medical bills of a former basketball referee and player.

Particpating teams in the basketball tournament dubbed Tulong Mo, Laro Mo (Your help is your game) include OldSchool, Young Maverick Dads, Satwa Dayo, Pyesa Trinitas, Mamba Team, SBL Team 1, SBL Team 2 and Exodus Team.

Apol Lucero, a basketball player who also hails from the province of Batangas, said: “Like in the games, helping people in need requires team work. We are showing our team work on and off the basketball court.”