None of us would ever guess anything this horrible could happen. Not so long ago, the Taal Volcano suddenly exploded, leaving so many people homeless in a matter of weeks. Nearby hotels, churches, and event places were closed because of the heavy ashfall. While people were still recovering, a pandemic occurred; a virus called Covid-19 infected the world and the Philippines was not spared from it. The local wedding industry took a toll after so many cancelled weddings due to these consecutive happenings. I personally had destination weddings that were cancelled and moved. Although things were chaotic, we went into action.
We were still in the efforts of helping the victims of Taal when WHO declared that the virus from Wuhan was already a Pandemic. It was unbelievable. My parents even told me that they have never experienced anything like this before and never thought they will in their lifetime. Things were getting crazier and crazier as people started panic buying, crowding every grocery store you can think of, while the government ordered a community quarantine in the whole Metro Manila.
My weddings in Manila and other destination shoots got postponed. I had to let my team work from their own homes. These are truly tough times for wedding photographers such as myself. My clients were troubled since they went through so much hard work in planning their wedding the best that they can for many months. OFWs and foreign guests of some couples were already in the Philippines for these weddings. Everyone had no choice but to postpone and no one had a good idea of when they should set the next date. Despite so many uncertainties, we reassured our clients that we are willing to have their postponement within the year for free and we would work things out with them if they are planning to postpone up to next year.
The stuff we saw in the news was starting to get more worrisome. The official number of infected people are rising. Those in poor communities were not just scared of dying from the virus – they were also scared of dying from starvation. After hearing these, we went into action as soon as we could. We bought more food and toiletries using the outreach funds from our wedding bookings, and we repacked them into loot bags. We were lucky to even get volunteers who were generous enough to deliver these donations to a poor community. They even did it best while following the rule of social distancing!
When we heard that the Taal Volcano exploded, I was with my family at a small resort in Laguna. This was a few months ago, back in January. Coincidentally, it was my father’s birthday. We looked around and saw the titanic wall of smoke from where we were. My father, who grew up in Tanauan, got worried about his relatives as he tried to contact them as soon as he heard. We watched the smoke that whole day and witnessed a show of volcanic lightning that evening. The day after, the ashfall was everywhere. It got all over our car and that’s when we realized that things are starting to get really dangerous.
I was already having cancellations of destination weddings in Batangas and Tagaytay. Top wedding churches and even the best event places and hotels were closing because of the heavy ashfall. Not long after the explosion, we heard about numerous evacuations at nearby towns. People fled their homes to stay at evacuation centers and houses of generous families. They had to stay there until the volcano calmed down. But the real problem was just beginning. Majority of the evacuees were people from the poor community. Some had no food, no clothes, no toiletries, and not even a soft mattress to sleep on. That’s when we decided that it is best to help out immediately!
We first asked for donations from friends. We were so surprised how many quickly reached out and donated! For such a short time, my house was filled with so many different donations! These donations consisted mostly of clothes and toys, so we had to buy toiletries and other necessities. This was also where Ram Marcelo Photography and its clients came in. We got our funds from a percentage of our wedding booking earnings, which was regularly used for outreach programs.
I have forgotten how many times my team, other wedding suppliers, and photographers got together to visit different towns in Batangas and hand out donations. We were there at least once a week! There were times when we had to go through dirt roads in order to reach small communities that are seldom getting donations. It was stressful and exhausting, but it was surely a fulfilling experience that we will never forget. The sight of volunteers from different parts of the Philippines joining forces in order to help the Batanguenos was definitely a heartwarming memory to keep.
We were very, very happy to help. One of the missions of Ram Marcelo Photography is to seek honor from God by impacting the lives of our employees, clients, and our communities. I personally believe that God owns this company, and therefore we are passing his blessings to other people in need. It is amazing how God prepares and aligns everything when we do our ministry or our help. We may be living in extremely difficult times, yet because of so many amazingly generous people brought to us by God, we were able to make things lighter and easier for those who are underprivileged.
With that, we would like to thank everyone who helped us. To our partner videography company, Hello & Co. Cinema, to Leather Manila, Generika Drugstore to other photographers esp. Erlin Olan, Paul Vargas, Ays Gonzales to the celebrity make-up artist Muriel Vega Perez, to my friends, and especially to my family, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts. And also, every help that we do would not be possible without each and every client of ours! Your prenup and wedding bookings have made these donations possible. And special thanks to those clients especially Mitzi Khan who even donated further!
Let us all pray that everyone who received the bible that we included will find peace from God. We have a big God who we can lean on to, especially during these times. He is sovereign and has control. We just have to give our faith to Him. No matter what may it be volcanic eruptions or pandemics, our God is bigger than all of those combined! Dasal at bangon, Pilipinas!
Now, how can you help them further? Contact us!
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10