The Philippines’ Mt. Mayon, the most active volcano in the island has once again shown the world her legendary beauty albeit dangerously during the past few days. But I can only watch the colorful but deadly spectacle on the videos available in the Internet having been left the Bicol region a couple of years ago and now living half a world away from my hometown of Tiwi in Albay.
Mayon, which rises at 2462 feet above sea level, is one of several active volcanoes in the Philippines (the Country being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire) and one of the most destructive wherein in 1814 buried the town of Cagsawa, killing an estimated 1,000 residents where the only reminder of that fateful day is the famous Church ruins and its Belfry which is now a National Park that attracts thousands of tourists year round.
The volcano, which is famous for its almost perfect cone, was named after the tragic maiden in the Bicolano legend of Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden in the local Bicol dialect) is always a beauty to watch from near or afar; its near perfect cone always elicited aahs and oohs from natives and tourists alike whether in her peaceful slumber or fiery grumblings. Her towering splendor whether in her moment of silence or in her fiery outbursts is beyond compare.
Bicolanos especially Albayanos takes pride in Mayon’s unique place in Albay’s landscape and their daily lives; her predilection of erupting every now and then have only added to her mystique and people have grown accustomed either by choice or necessity to her legendary fickleness.
She is a beauty- a tempest like no other. A wonderful work of nature and God’s miracle and gift to the pliant spirit of the Albayanos hardened by their daily struggle; battered by typhoons and other elements that came their way year- in and year- out but always have a ready smile for everyone. The Mayon and the Bicolanos have co- existed for thousand of years and their lives and fate will forever be intertwined in happy times and tragedies.
I remember when I was growing up in the sleepy town of Tiwi, we were fortunate enough to have seen and watched her dazzling show of ferocious pyroclastic explosions from afar, the unique spectacle you can appreciate more after dark and far away from the dangers of lava flows and sufferings of some of our fellow Albayanos for Tiwi is far enough for her destructive powers to reach. All we got is a shower of ash falls once in a while that was usually evident in the leaves of every plant and tree in one’s backyard in the morning and that also usually depends on the direction of where the wind blows.
I also remember being asked by our teachers in school to bring whatever we could give in the form of food and used clothing to our less fortunate brothers and sisters who were evacuated to school buildings and other evacuation centers to escape Mayon’s wrath and fury that left countless lives lost and destructions in livelihood through the many years of her unexplained destructive behavior.
It is always bittersweet whenever the beautiful Mayon erupts- it is always a delight to watch her magical fireworks especially at night time and at the same time be in awe at nature's power but you can also feel sadness deep inside your heart just thinking of the people who were displaced from their homes as well as the peril that she brought to your fellowmen in her moment of anger.
Such is the drama in the age- old relationship between the native Albayanos and the beautiful but dangerous Daragang Magayon