MAYON VOLCANO: Dangerous and beautiful

Linus Guardian Escandor II is an Independent Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer currently living in Manila, Philippines. He focuses on themes of environment, health, social and human rights issues.

Admired for its near-perfect symmetrical cone shape, and regarded as the most beautiful in the world, the 8,077-foot high Mount Mayon in Albay province, Bicol region, continues to rumble, spewing ash and lava that endanger the lives and health of residents as well as properties and livelihood in surrounding communities.

 

The rumbling prompted the government to evacuate 60,000 residents from three cities and five municipalities - Legazpi City, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao city, Tabaco City, Malilipot and Santo Domingo – that encompass it. Seismologists suggest an imminent hazardous eruption of the volcano within the coming days or weeks, based on its active lava flows and intermittent explosions.

 

Mayon Volcano is the country’s most active volcano with a recorded eruption of 50 times within a span of 400 years, comparable to Italy’s Mount Vesuvius of Pompeii fame which also erupted 50 times. Its first major eruption was in February 1616 as chronicled by Dutch explorer Joris van Spilbergen. The February 1, 1814 eruption was the most destructive, burying the town of Cagsawa in Albay with hot stones, sand and ashes. The Cagsawa ruins, including the church belfry, are now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region widely known for coconut and pili nut farming. It is said that rocks around the volcano are more than 20 million years old.

 

Despite the iconic volcano’s ongoing activity and unmindful of the danger it poses, both local and foreign visitors and tourists flock to watch the magical “fountaining” and pyroclastic flows that accompany every explosion. The magnificent shape is still visible, unaltered by the month-long rumbling and volcanic ash. It is still the majestic Bulkang Magayon (beautiful volcano), named after the legendary heroine Daragang Magayon or Beautiful Lady.

 

Mayon-watching has resulted in an increase in tourist arrivals, according to the local tourism office. Camera bugs and day-trippers dare for an up-close shot of the volcano for posterity; they can vividly photograph the volcano’s fury, but most enthusiasts want to take the magical “fountaining” shots at night. Local and foreign tourists stay helping boost tourism and economic opportunities.