The Grays and Golds of the Taal Volcano Eruption

The grays of ashes brought us down but the golds in our hearts will lift us again. For me, this is one of the clearest message this natural phenomenon has delivered to the Filipinos.

About two weeks before the surprising January 12 Taal Volcano eruption in Batangas, Philippines, my wife and I were driving our motorcycle along Tagaytay-Nasugbu road, then the Diokno Highway traversing the towns of Laurel, Agoncillo and Laurel, the Palico-Balayan-Batangas road passing by the towns of Taal and Santa Teresita, and the National Highway connecting Alitagtag, Cuenca and Lipa City. All of these areas were devastated by the unprecedented explosion of ashes from the popular Taal volcano-island. The eruption just happens, without any sign or warning from the volcano itself that it would be that catastrophic.

Taal Volcano eruption in the afternoon of January 12, 2020.
(Credit to owner of the photo - a college classmate)

The Instagram-mable Eruption of Taal Volcano
Calamity strikes the lovely province of Batangas, even the neighboring province of Cavite where we live experienced the havoc of a tiny yet unpredictable volcano of Taal. Famous for its panoramic scenery viewed from the highlands of Tagaytay City, Taal island-volcano this time shows the Batangueños a different color of nature - gray and black.

Picturesque photo of the Taal Volcano eruption on January 12, 2020.
Taal Volcano is an island-volcano located at the center of Taal Lake in Batangas province.
(Credit to the owner of the photo - a college classmate)
Emitting molten magma and thick smoke, for some, is nature’s wonder. However, for many, it is a disaster waiting to happen on the surrounding towns of Taal lake.

Picturesque, instagram-mable as they say; maybe, this photo is enough to describe it.

The Legendary Taal Volcano - A Look Back
Who will not enjoy seeing the beautiful Taal volcano? We keep on coming back to Tagaytay because engraved in our hearts and minds is the scenic beauty of Taal lake, the green mountains of Batangas and Cavite, and the volcano-island. In fact, because I’m really amazed by the view and cold climate, I have written interesting blogs about Tagaytay. I’ve been here many times and like you, I want to come back over and over again.

View of Taal Volcano in the middle of Taal Lake from Tagaytay City highlands

In the lake you will see fish cages erected by villagers. This is their source of income. The popular “tawilis” fish is harvested here and it tastes so good. Named after the town of Taal, the volcano has been there for centuries.

A post in FB showing books and photos about the legendary Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines
(Credit to the owner of the photo - a college classmate and Facebook friend)

And I can still remember the song “HIMNO NG BATANGAN” where the Taal volcano was a part of. Here is a portion of that song.

Batangas, bukal ng kadakilaan
Ang pinakapuso ay Bulkang Taal
Kaygandang malasin, payapa’t marangal
Ngunit nagngangalit kapag nilapastangan

Batangas, hiyas sa katagalugan
May barong tagalog at bayaning tunay
Mabini, Laurel, Recto, Diokno, Kalaw
Agoncillo, Malvar sa bayan ay dangal.

Batangas kong mahal, ngayon at kailanman

The song tells about the richness of our province in terms of people, places and history and the depth of our culture. And if I may share, Batangas is known for this one-of-kind Christian wedding tradition the “Baysanan”. A day before this event, people of the barrio, mostly relatives and friends, attends the "Tulungan" or "Manulungan" where the share a hand without asking any in return. How people of Batangas act as a community, as neighborhood, as brothers and sisters in the spirit of BAYANIHAN during this kind of occasion is one that we're truly proud of.

This volcanic eruption proves that BAYANIHAN is very much alive in this province. It is a common practice everyday, if I may add.

An Unusual Wonder in Tagaytay
Old friends who were near the surrounding towns of Taal lake share their photos of the rumbling volcano. It is breathtaking but at the same time a nerve-wracking scene not everybody is experiencing in their lifetime. But it is up to you to describe it on your own.

Captured explosion of volcanic ashes seen from a town near the Taal Volcano
(Credit to the owner of the photo - a college classmate)

A week before the eruption, I captured this amazing beauty of the volcano. The sun shines brightly on its top one Sunday morning, as if all is fine and peaceful. Nothing to worry about because it’s the start of a brand new day. We were in Twin Lakes, one of the popular spots along Tagaytay-Nasugbu road. A few hours later, from a coffee shop in the city, I then captured another magnificent photo of Taal Lake showing all the beauty of life, nature and earth. Undoubtedly, this cinematic view is very well-known to the world for many decades.

Sun shines over the Taal Volcano, an amazing wonder from Twin Lakes place located along Nasugbu-Tagaytay road

View from the deck of a Coffee Shop of the Taal Lake and Taal Volcano

Indeed, Taal Volcano and Taal Lake made it not only to the books of both adventurers and wanderers, but also to the scholarly papers of many scientists and volcanologists of the planet.

What Just Happened is a Blow from Nature
Whenever typhoon hits the land, people of the Philippines are badly affected. Filipinos are used to this kind of situation year-in, year-out. On the average, at least 20 typhoons visit the Philippines each year. That’s unbelievable! Earthquakes rumbling the crust of the country several times a month is not at all a surprise to many. We were shaken, and will be shaken more because we’re on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

Beyond the cries of the children, panic of the adults, and mourning of those whose family members were taken of life, is that spirit of standing up again from getting stumbled. We will survive! What a culture! Filipinos are there for their brothers and sisters during tough times. Probably a loud noise that reaches the many corners of the world, this catastrophic volcanic eruption is one that sends a different message about humanity.

Close-up view of Taal Volcano eruption that occurred on January 12, 2020
(Credit to the owner of the photo - a college classmate)

The earth is round and it is dangerous. That’s the natural, the normal. That’s nature. But that danger is no match to the hands reaching out after each other! This natural phenomenon reveals the kind side of the Filipinos.

A Reaction that is Natural
In the afternoon of January 12, 2020, I started seeing live pictures of Taal Volcano erupting tons of ashes. Facebook walls by this time are certainly overfeeding with news about the unusual activity of the mountain. As time passes by, television channels begin airing updates of the on-going smoke activity of Taal volcano.

Ashes filling the sky of northern Batangas province and nearby Cavite province
(Credit to the owner of the photo - a college classmate)

And the fear of many just happened in an instant. Those towns where we drove by our motorcycle felt the rain consisting not of water but of volcanic ashes. With alert level 4 declared by PHIVOLCS (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology), the call for immediate evacuation quickly reaches the ears of local town officials and of the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). At the height of eruption that evening of January 12 to January 13, thousands of Batangueños migrated to nearby towns outside the 17 kilometers danger zone.

From 11:00 PM of January 12 to around 5:00 AM of January 13, we’ve witnessed the ashes falling on our rooftops, streets and garden for the very first time. In the morning, the surrounding is completely grayed-out.

(Credit to the owner of the photo - a Facebook friend/connection)

Social media or the internet is literally flooded with photos and videos of the erupting Taal Volcano. But then photos of evacuees airing their concerns, worries and wishes unfortunately followed that. A day or two after the explosion, help, aids and donations captured the attention of many netizens. Posts about the coming of relief goods, medical assistance, rescue trucks, military personnel, private organizations, and volunteers from all over the country filled Facebook with such enormous contents.

It’s unusual that an obvious calamity turned-on the eccentric side of the Filipinos, that urge to help no matter what.

I took some screenshots of those care-for-humanity efforts of people from the Philippines nation. Credits are to the owner and poster of these photos whom are my connection in Facebook.

(Credit to the owner of the photo - a Facebook friend/connection)

(Credit to the owner of the photo - a Facebook friend/connection)

(Credit to the owner of the photo - a Facebook friend/connection)

BAYANIHAN is What Will Save Us All
As a long-time blogger about Filipinos and our beautiful country Philippines, I was struck with this unbelievable human effort to care and save humanity; and of the animal kingdom too. I always discuss Philippines as beautiful but many of the Filipinos living here are characterized with habits that has negative effect or influence to Filipinos themselves. For instance, many Filipinos tend to not care about the cleanliness of the environment, about the traffic rules and regulations, and about the well-being of the constituents of elected-officers-of-the-land if talk about politics.

(Credit to the owner of the photo - a Facebook friend/connection)
But who am I to judge anyone? Nobody knows how kind or stupid one is, until you’ve seen him or her in action. What we just saw, heard and felt during the tough times brought by the Taal volcano disaster is that true and undying spirit of BAYANIHAN. You can jump for a while to blog I wrote about this:


Let this be a pattern for continuous change in the country. Why not? BAYANIHAN should be practiced not only during disasters, but everyday.

As of this writing, people of Batangas specifically of the directly affected towns are still out of their homes that are covered by thick ashes. Evacuation operations are still on-going. Several towns are under lockdown and entry of local folks is either restricted or conditional due to the possible threat of another explosion. Many houses collapsed, some were badly cracked due to volcanic earthquakes, and trees are heavily devastated by the weight of the ashes covering them. Even the neighboring province of Cavite declared State of Calamity.

(Credit to the owner of the photo - a Facebook friend/connection)

Dogs, cats, horses, chickens, pigs, ducks, birds and other kinds of domesticated animals are still being rescued by several animal rights groups. Government officers, volunteers from private groups and amazingly, Batangueños not affected by the eruption, are present in many evacuation centers doing what they can to ease the fear, worries and discomfort of many of our "kababayan". Help is coming all over the place, so to speak.

In no time, given the camaraderie and the true BAYANIHAN effort, all will go back to normal, hopefully.

A Campaign for Help and Support
May this blog help the Batangueños in any way possible.

Mushroom of clouds composed of volcanic ashes from Taal Volcano
(Credit to the owner of the photo - a college classmate) 
I am a Batangueño, a native of Batangas province, and I know what life is in this province. I speak our dialect (also known as Batangueño) and I eat our native dishes. I love my home province and if I can help, I will. But at the moment, this piece of writing is the immediate help I can contribute.

May people of the Philippines and the world be reached by this message, that this story be heard, and then help be given to our people in need. The struggle is still on-going and even the experts cannot say the eruption will be over. What is confirmed is that in the meantime, people will stay in evacuation centers.

This is why they need your help and support, in whatever kind.

In weeks or months time, affected Batangueños would want to start all over again. They will rebuild their broken houses, fix their damaged barangays, and be back on cultivating their land and livestock once again. It would be difficult for sure. They will need financial assistance and may their plea for help reaches groups and individuals who has the capacity to help when that time comes. While help keeps on coming for evacuees, may long-term plans for their quick recovery be put into place as soon as possible.

The Help We Could Share
To end this post, on behalf of the Batangueños, allow me to give you this message in our local dialect. What I'm saying here is “Thank you very much for your care, help and support”. If it so happens that you can’t understand it, please approach a Batangueño and he or she will surely translate it for you.

Tunay nga bagang kamiy hinabok nareng bulkang Taal. Wari’y bagay kami’y sinusubok kung talagang buo ang loob.

Kamiy karibok nay patikar pa e sa pagmamadaling makalikas. Kainaman na areng bulkang are, ala ay asbok maigi e. Sadyang kainaman na, ay kahit ang taguriy kamiy matatapang ay lasa koy dini sa naranasang arey medyo ika ngay nahagingan ng kaba’t takot. Lambot ang tuhod e sa tutuo laang.

Pakiwariy kahit ang maalamat na si Mamay ay bahagyang napalupage sa pambubulabog ng bulkan. Ay pero paaanhin pay nangyari na, ay di maigiy bumaligwas na laat kahit gapang e tuloy ang buhay.

A sya, salamat ng marami sa inyong mga nagrasyon ng tulong. Kahit sa hindi rin, ay alam ko namang kamiy ipinagdadasal ninyo, di ba ga. Ay sadyang kamiy tuloy ang tanggap ay walang-wala eh. Ay arimuhanan na pag gay-un. Di kung ano laang mayron ay di pagkakasyahin.

Kako bagay di ito malimit maranasan (harinawa nga namay wag ng maulit) pero yang minsang yaay tunay na maigi kesa wala. Pasasaan at kamiy makakabawi din sa inyo, piho yun. Kami pa. Pag kamiy nakabawi naman, ay paano, ay di kayo naman ang aming pupuntahan kung kayo ika ngay nalagay din sa alanganin. Sa lagay na arey baka hindi muna makapagsabong, ay nadale ng sabog e.

Kapatid, kaibigan, kapuso, kapamilya, saan istasyong ka man, koh po, ay salamat sa iyo mula sa kaibutaran ng aming puso. Pagpalain ka ng Panginoon iho, iha. Narine laang kami sa mga evacuation center ha. Iintayin ka namin kahit ang dala moy kapit asukal ay huhusto na yan. Miski nga wala, di kahit ikiy lumipon laang ay malaking bagay. Sadya naman.

Ala e, parine na’t tayo’y makapagkape. Magandahan pay may pandesal din sa ating lipon at huntahan. Salamat uli.

The grays of ashes brought us down but the golds in our hearts will lift us again.

God helps the Batangueños. God guides the Filipinos. God saves the Philippines. God bless us all.


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