Reminiscing childhood and growing up with Volcanoes

Back in my hometown

I felt suddenly homesick and reminded me of my hometown. It´s been a long time and I am planning to fly back and visit soon.I felt excited to show to my daughter my hometown and where I used to play before, even the kindergarten that I went to. I was born and raised in a place where a giant volcano is. For a fact, my hometown lies within the Bicol Arc where 12 more active volcanoes lies! Yes, we area also included in the Pacific rim of fire.

Before desert, and now pristine alpine peaks and lakes that I constantly sees, a sight of volcano is my everyday backdrop.When I wake up in the morning and looked outside, this is the view that I am seeing—the majestic Mayon Volcano.

Cagsawa ruins in Albay

Reminiscing my old town with its lush green landscape and old barouque churches. Totally different from my current life today. Life before seemed so simple. Watching the volcano with the display of white cumulus clouds is one happy memory for me. So many things have changed and I felt that I´ve changed a lot but many things still remains the same. I won´t probably recognize the other street names and many parts of the city changed but I knew this place by heart. Its warmth of the local Bicolanos, the weekend markets, the grazing carabao in the ricefields, the crazy traffic and yes, the delicious local foods that I truly missed.Before we knew everyone in the neighbourhood and it seemed normal.

Mayon volcano and the typical landscape in my region, the ricefields

Mayon Volcano is an active stratovolcano but a very beautiful one.In my own native language, we call her “Daragang Magayon“. I find it quite funny cause the gender of Mayon is a woman! …probably because of her temperamental eruptions?! It´s beauty is unparallel.It´s like a painting in front of me with it´s unique azure, blue, grey colors. I loved to gaze upon it especially on a clear sunny day where it´s perfect cone is cloud free. It´s also magical during sunsets.It says you are lucky when you see the volcano in it´s full beauty cuz most of the times it is covered with clouds hovering up to it´s mouth.

Mayon Volcano with the view of the lake surrounded with Birds of Paradise, one of my favourite tropical plant

In 1814, Mayon erupted violently; it buried and destroyed the whole town of Cagsawa, including the Cagsawa church. Amazingly, the church’s belfry survived that later on became a tourist attraction.We´ve been to this park many many times and each time, it still holds many fond memories to me. I wan´st born yet on the time of the historical and very destructive eruption but whenever I see the Cagsawa Ruins, I am reminded of the tragic incident.Just imagine the whole town buried down in lava and volcanic ashes…!

The present Sumlang Lake with the view of the Mayon Volcano

In 1814, when Mayon exploded, it sent ash several miles into the sky, killing 1,200 people. Many of Mayon’s eruptions have involved spraying out lava that collects at the rim. As it sputters over the top, it builds up over time, causing the steep slopes that have made it famous.Growing up with spontaneous eruption and volcanic spew of ashes became such a norm for me or to us. It never surprises me anymore. Its like we´ve learned to live with it. I remember watching the lava of fire being spewed from it´s mouth and we are watching it from a far, like fireworks display. It´s dangerous and life threatening but during those times, we are accustomed to the moody eruptions of Mayon.I remember one time, we wear hats and umbrellas because of the ashfall. The plants were ruined because of the sulphur content of the ashfall.

Memories from my childhood

It is such a majestic wonder of nature–yet very life threatening.It´s only now that I´ve learned that my hometown is declared Unesco for World Heritage Site and the whole area is a natural park with the volcano in it´s centerpiece since 1938.

The Cagsawa ruins are located roughly 2.2 km (1.4 mi) from the town of Daraga and are approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) from the city of Legazpi. Imagine living less than 10kms away from this volcano?

Aside from always being hit by monsoon rains and typhoons, growing up as a child made me resilient enough because we were always explosed to natural disasters.Whether its earthquakes, flooding, and storms with strong winds that destroys our house.I have seen it all.It doesn´t mean that I am not scared, it´s just that we´ve weathered it all.I haven´t recalled being able to evacuate our homes but we were always under the warnings and advisory to stay alert.

When Mayon is calm, it is a beauty to behold, but when it is angry, it is scary.

It is actually not a joke living within the proximity of this sleeping moody volcano. Living situated roughly 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) away from the volcano means a strong eruption with heavy lava & lahar flow can flood and erase a town in minutes.So whenever I see the ruins of Cagsawa, I am reminded of the thousands of people buried here because of the heavy lava flow caused by the eruption. They thought it´s a place of refuge but then it became their grave.

I am adventurous but hiking Mayon Volcano never crossed my mind. But instead I tried climbing through a crater of another volcano that is nearby to us. The Taal Volcano.Taal Volcano is another wonder so when I went back home years ago, I decided to do a hike through it´s crater which sits on a lake. So actually, it´s a boat trip on the lake where the crater is and hiking through its surroundings.

Up and close to the crater of Taal Volacano

The hike was easy as I expected. I contacted the tour company and meet on to discuss our itinerary. We had an hour drive going to Talisay in Batangas and then we´ve got to go with a guide and have a boat trip. The hike itself is only roughly 1 hour. A tour guide is assigned to us for the hike. Taal volcano is only 311 meters high, so the hike would only be around 45 minutes to an hour. You can also ride a horse to the summit and when descending so we decided to try everything. So on this trip, we went by a car, then ride a boat, then ride a horse, then a hike.I felt sorry for the horses though because they looked so weary and thin. I think this is not the best place for them to lived and used as a source of income.

The iconic boat we used to cross the lake surrounding the crater of Taal Volacano

Tagaytay is one of the places that I loved to visit whenever I am in the Philippines. The main sight is the view of the Taal Lake and Volcano. The weather is cool and being outdoors is enjoyable.This time I wanted to do something else and explore a bit of the off beaten paths.

Our guide for the day hike to Taal Volcano

Taal has an island within a lake, that is also on an island within a lake, that is on an island which basically means that on the Philippine Island of Luzon is Taal which has the Volcano Island within the crater lake called as Taal Lake — and within this Volcano Island is yet another lake called as the Main Crater Lake. That doesn’t stop there because this latter lake even has an island within it named Vulcan Point Island. Either way, nature is confusing and complicated but seeing a volcano this close is already a thrill for me.

The closest I´ve got to see the crater of the Taal volcano (Taal Caldera)

Don´t get me wrong, I did not see lava or vast of sulphur on the ground but I can somewhat see some points ( where it is actually prohibited to cross!) where water bubbles are present.Swimming on this lake is not a good idea.One can even swim inside the Crater Lake but the lake”s water is a very diluted form of sulfuric acid with high concentration of boron, magnesium, aluminum and sodium in salt form.

At the time of my visit, Taal was calm, so trips are allowed but normally when there is an active vocanic activity, it´s common sense not to engage in this type of activity.

Like I said with Mayon Volcano, there are livelyhood and people living within the vicinity of Volcano despite it´s a permanent danger zone. Just like with Taal, I saw houses right there, children playing, people selling this and that for the tourists, there is actually a life in the radius of a volcanic crater.

Believe it or not, I find it really disturbing and crazy. What would certainly happen if worst came that this sleeping volacano suddenly erupts again?The lake seemed so serene and peaceful, the landscape is beautiful, the mountain is green and imposing. But knowing that beneath me is a silent gateway of fire and lava, that made me shudder as I remember that I set my foot on this Decade volcanic crater.

Taal Volcano is also the 2nd most active volcano in the Philippines with 33 historical eruptions.I´ve heard that it has lots of unrest behavious last year so anything can really happen.

Unforgettable hike to Taal´s crater

The Spanish trail hike itself is rewarded with views, but here I felt different. I can smell sulphur anywhere because of the small cracks on the ground called “fumaroles“.It is hot and we are sweating the whole time.It is dusty because of the loose volcanic sand so if you are sensitive, you might want to wear a mask and sunscreen to protect yourself.There are other trails to take further close to the crater but I didn´t do that.If you rather want a challenge or a hardcore mountaineer, there are hikes via Alitagtag (18km) and Balete (8km).

Oh and I´ve just read that Taal Volcano now is listed as one of the dangerous volcano in the world because of it´s past and recent volcanic behaviour!

If you would ask me how is it growing up with volcanoes, I would say that it´s certainly a unique childhood, quite unique but actually very humbling since everything that is geological in nature is out of our control but the beauty is incomparable.Mother nature has it´s own way…so let it be.

Have you ever seen a volcano up close?

Until then, Tschüss.

7 thoughts on “Reminiscing childhood and growing up with Volcanoes

  1. What an interesting read and beautiful pictures! A wonderful landscape you grew up in! The tallest volcano I was close to was Fuji San in Japan. The day was clear enough to see the top, a classic sight, wich was a luck! In my country, as you know, we don’t have volcano’s. The highest hills in my surroundings are molehills. The do reach a breathtaking 10 centimeters sometimes, so I’m happy I don’t suffer from vertigo. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating! And it does sound crazy having villages underneath volcanoes. And all the other natural elements! Your volcano looks very pretty in your pictures. I especially loved the one with rice fields because of the shadows of the volcano and the ox.
    I’ve hiked a dormant volcano in Hawaii and didn’t really think it could erupt. I’m not that adventurous as to go close to one with lava! It seems amazing that you used to watch the lava and experience the ashes!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Snow. Yes, not everyone can appreciate it and I think Ph is really exotic in so many ways. I am excited to see this place again with my daughter and show to her what is it like there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. She was only 1 when I brought her home so she doesn´t have any remembrance of it. Now she´s a little bit older I am sure she can enjoy it more. We will book soon…just waiting a bit for a good price for 3 people! :-)))

    Liked by 1 person

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