Masks for Mayon: Running shop owner races to bring masks to hometown near volcano

LOS ANGELES — Joe Matias is known for his work with marathon runners in the Philippines and Los Angeles.

But now, he’s racing against time.

For the past few days, he’s been collecting masks and money to help his hometown of Camalig, affected by the recent Mayon Volcano eruptions.

“Alert 4 level, so basically that town is within the danger zone. I’m very concerned that’s why we’re trying to help in our own way from here. A lot of my aunts and uncles are there in that town and we had to evacuate them, so they’re now in Legaspi City.”

Growing up at the foot of the volcano, he knows the poor air quality that follows volcanic activity can have lasting effects.

“I lost my mom recently. Growing up she always had asthma. Later on she had COPD. So living next to the volcano was always a hazard that I grew up with and seeing my mom suffer from that. She was always affected by the ash.”

While friends have been dropping off thousands of masks at his “A Runner’s Circle” shops, he’s also been raising funds on GoFundMe for the Mayon Mask Drive.

“Most of my friends that own dental offices I think they have surplus masks which is amazing. I can’t thank those guys, but as we went along we’re finding out that speed is a must we have to get the masks to them as soon as possible — so I think the best way is our GoFundMe system. Which is we’re fundraising and sending masks there.”

With an eruption of donations, Matias has helped bring over 30,000 masks to several towns in the area.

But with these masks only able to last a few days, and the eruptions and poor air quality are expected to linger, Matias expects this Mask Drive will be a marathon, hoping to give as many of his hometown friends as much of a breather as possible.

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