Beauty and Destruction of Taal Volcano

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Last January 12, we witnessed the fury of Taal volcano. We were about to go to the new resort somewhere in Lipa to celebrate the birthday of my eldest. But we cancelled it due to news of Taal volcano’s eruption. I looked outside and yes, a cloud of smoke rose above the sky. We attended Sunday mass to ask for God’s protection and we thought that it will end there. But no, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS-DOST) raised alert status of Taal from Alert Level 1 since March 2019 to Alert Level 2, 3 and then 4 that same day. That night I couldn’t sleep because of the loud thunder that follows the lightning bolt. Alert Level 4, as I checked, means intense eruption is possible within days. My anxiety increased, the worst is yet to come.

Inside the Taal Volcano Main Crater taken on January 12, 2020. The eruption was captured by PHIVOLCS IP camera at 5-minute interval from 1 PM to 3 PM #TaalEruption2020
Loud thunder that follows the lightning bolt, #TaalVolcanoEruption2020
#TaalVolcanoEruption2020

The next morning, PHIVOLCS reported lava flow at Taal volcano’s main crater. Evacuees covered in mud flooded the news. They can only stay at neighboring towns outside the 14km danger zone. For those without any place to go, went to public schools, basketball courts, evacuation centers and temporary shelters provided by the local government.

#TaalVolcanoEruption2020

Bayanihan Spirit Among Batangueños and Filipinos

Help came! Manila bulletin featured “The first signs of bayanihan (unity and cooperation) literally became visible when residents along the highways took it upon themselves to help motorists caught in the middle of the ashfall to have better visibility. Meanwhile, as more people wandered around or simply sat in their vehicles stranded in traffic, concerned residents passed on food and water to anyone. Many concerned people had started handing out face masks—from surgical to more expensive N95—to anyone they saw. Using shovels, residents took the initiative to scrape the mud off portions of the slippery Talisay-Tanauan Road, which was causing cars to skid. Relief goods poured in for evacuees.”

The overflowing “malasakit and bayanihan” flooded social media platforms. A call to act, to share, to give, to provide, to help in any way possible was even stronger than Taal volcano’s eruption. Organizations, social groups and private groups started their own drive and it’s so overwhelming!

In our own little ways, we tried to help and witnessed firsthand the heartbreaking situation of our own kababayans. We used the money we collected to buy relief goods, medicines and toiletries. We saw residents from San Nicolas at evacuation center in Banay Banay 2nd with babies 4-day old and 2-week old. And after seeing tons of help received at evacuation centers, we looked for families outside the temporary shelters. We saw 100 individuals under the care of Ate Goreng. She allowed them to stay in her two houses. She used to live in their town in Looc, near the lake. They insisted that we part ways after a prayer, and my vision became blurry. Because it was a prayer full of hope and gratitude, still, despite of what they’ve been through.

Taal Volcano’s eruption, the aftermath

During the sleepless nights, I did a lot of research, read the news and honestly, cannot decide if we’ll stay or go even if we’re out of 14km danger zone and somehow covered by Mt. Maculot. For the first time, I heard terms like base surge, tephra fall and ballistic projectiles. Read about the ancient Taal volcano and its eruption records, its history. Learned about local folklore from elders who survived the 1965 eruption. Watched videos from geologists explaining the complexities of Taal volcano. I became restless, just like the thousands of evacuees who can’t wait to come back home and restart their lives again.

#TaalVolcanoEruption2020

The daily report from PHIVOLCS are informative but alarming. They mapped out the fissures related to the Taal volcano eruptive activity. As of this morning’s January 25 bulletin, they plotted seven hundred forty-four (744) volcanic earthquakes since 1:00 PM, January 12. And Alert Level 4 still remains in effect over Taal Volcano.

It’s been almost two weeks. PHIVOLCS showed documented impacts of Taal Volcano eruption. Water advanced landward in Brgy. Subic Ilaya, Agoncillo, Batangas.

From the drone survey of areas affected with ash-fall in Brgy. Boso-Boso, Laurel, Batangas, ashfall covered the barangay and damaged the roofs. It killed hundreds of animals and destroyed livelihood of families living near the lake.

Taal Volcano’s Beauty and Destructive Force of Nature

I know it’s an active volcano that’s why I kept postponing our plan to go to the crater. It almost happened last time when we went to Laurel Batangas. It’s so saddening that it may take decades for it to restore its beauty and we may never have the chance to see it. Even the government proposed it must be a no man’s land.

Taal lake view
Calinisan Hotel and Resort

I will just remember Taal volcano the way it was before. Calm, beautiful, magnificent and awe-inspiring. The most memorable visit, at least from a distance, was during my birthday last year at Alitagtag, Batangas.

Tierra Cuta Private Rest House

My kids, fans of Moana, even told me that maybe Maui stole the heart of Taal Volcano. A colleague mentioned that if someone’s trying to excavate the gold near the volcano, it explodes. Abuse of a sacred place like Taal, according to the elders, angers the immortal who is looking after the lake and wakes the volcano. Religious groups claimed the end of the world is near, we must repent.

But according to science from BBC.com, “Earthquakes and volcanic activity are not uncommon in the Philippines, which lies along the Ring of Fire – a zone of major seismic activity, which has one of the world’s most active fault lines.” Taal volcano erupts once or twice per lifetime. My father saw it twice. Hopefully it’ll just be once for me and my husband, but it will probably be twice for my kids too.

An Invitation to Pray

Let me end this by quoting Bo Sanchez, “When volcanoes erupt (and other calamities happen), we’re reminded of a brutal fact. Humans control so little of our universe. Facing what we cannot control is an invitation to be humble, to trust, to serve. It forces us to bend our knees and pray in trust. At the end of the day, when I’m faced with something I can’t control or understand, my prayer is a declaration that I’m not God, that He is God. And these calamities–and all my problems–will not have the last say. God will have the last Say. And it will be good.”

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