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Face to face with a volcanic wonder

Daydream By Diana G. Mendoza

Manila– There is always something delightful living in an archipelago. But I only got to know about this in grade school, when our history and geology teachers taught us about our country, which has strings of islands, islets and land masses scattered beautifully over the vast sea, all alone with no immediate land neighbor.

Many of my foreign friends have explored the islands. I envy them because they have visited places in my own country that I have never been to. They were fascinated by the mountains and hills, beaches, caves and caverns, thousands of flowering plants and hundreds of species of mammals and birds.

Some tourists are awe-struck when they learn that a mountain they are about to climb is a dormant volcano. But they are reminded that the world’s second-largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century was from Mount Pinatubo in Zambales, north of Manila. Pinatubo never had any previous volcanic activity prior to its 1991 eruption.

Along with a few other countries with similar characteristics, the Philippines sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a tectonic setting of earthquake and volcanic activities.

There are around 300 volcanoes here. About 20 are active, which means they are on the list of seismologists’ sensors for volcanic activities such as lava and lahar flow, ash and plume emissions, rockfall and the most destructive activity – an eruption.

I just traveled to the place with the most picturesque volcano and the most active in the Philippines – Mayon Volcano – located in the province of Albay in the region of Bicol, south of Manila. It is also renowned as the world’s perfect cone because of its symmetrical shape.

As it is the most active volcano, Mayon is regularly monitored by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, which has its own quarters about 12 kilometers from the volcano’s summit.  

Geographically, Mayon is shared by eight towns and cities in Albay province, which is why, when you’re landing at one of its airports, security personnel are present to cordon off passengers who take time to snap photos of the volcano upon their arrival. The same thing happens with departing passengers who can slow down the boarding process because of photo-taking with the volcano.

Everywhere you go by land travel, the volcano never leaves your eyesight. Its beauty is there to behold. You can stare at it with wonder because it seems so close. Yet it can transform from its undisturbed posture under the sky to a danger zone.

On any given day, Mayon looks peaceful but it’s been reported that it has erupted over 52 times in the past 500 years. Its most recent recorded activities were a crater glow, volcanic earthquakes, rockfall and magmatic and phreatic eruptions from 2020 to early this year.


People in the Bicol region call the volcano Daragang Magayon (beautiful lady), a heroine and princess. Some believe it is a sacred place. People hold rituals and festivals to honor its name.

My mother was born in a town at the foot of the volcano. It must have been a thrill living amid such beauty. I wished that I lived close by and looked at it every day while writing in peaceful solitude, but I know it can be deadly. I have been to the areas close to the volcano more than five times but I always wonder how something so wonderful can cause death and destruction.

Diana Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to








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