September 26, 2023

The tragedy of the Taal Volcano eruption continues to mount. It may take weeks, if not months, for it to unravel, although many will be scarred for life by the experience. In the meantime, it is difficult to fathom the cost the event has inflicted, and will continue to inflict, on our countrymen in the area, their families, crops, economy, animals, both domesticated and wild, the environment, climate, etc.
The truth of the matter is that no one is exactly sure if the worst is already over. Some say the danger of a big, or bigger, bang still remains.
Sometimes we wonder and worry about how people of Baguio and Benguet can weather a similar catastrophe. Our people are known for their extraordinary resilience. Our fortitude was tested to the extreme during the July 1990 earthquake. Thereafter, with some unfortunate loss of lives and limbs, we weathered many typhoons, storms, landslides, garbage slides, and the like.
We never thought Baguio would suffer from floods. But we were dead wrong. Today we suffer weekly from a tsunami of traffic, vehicles, tourists and all that come with them.
But how would we fare if confronted with a volcanic eruption the likes of Taal or Pinatubo? Many of the older Baguio generation would not easily forget the Pinatubo eruption, because the city was even affected by the ashfall that it caused.
For many centuries, Taal, and even Pinatubo, were sleeping giants. No one knew when they would wake up and what havoc they would inflict. Then one day, perhaps when the people living at the foot of the volcanoes least expected it, their beautiful mountain suddenly turned into an ugly threat and became a menace to the lives of the people who used to view it with pride and awe, if not reverence.
Taal is what is called a “stratovolcano” or a composite volcano, conical and built up by many layers of hardened lava and other volcanic materials. Two of the strongest recorded historic “stratovolcanic eruptions” that claimed thousands of lives, were those of Krakatoa, in Indonesia, in 1883, and Vesuvius in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy in 79 A.D.
Baguio rests peacefully at the foot of Mt. Sto. Tomas. It is a mountain we have learned to love and be proud of. When we were younger, many of us climbed its slopes. In recent years it became popular and spurred economic activity because of a TV love story series. We sometimes joke that Baguio is cold because on the side of Mt. Sto. Tomas, facing Baguio, are two very visible electric fan-like structures. They are actually supposed to be “radars.”
Mt. Sto. Tomas, which rises some 2,252 meters above sea level, like Taal is also a “stratovolcano,” with various volcanic vents and fissures. It is considered and listed as “potentially active,” although its last recorded eruption, or what they call “displacement,” happened more than three centuries ago, on Jan. 4, 1641.
No one remembers just exactly what happened in 1641, and how major the Mt. Sto. Tomas “activity” was. Present-day Baguio did not yet exist in 1641. Perhaps only the ancestors of the Cariños, the Caranteses, and other Ibaloys were peacefully scattered over what was perhaps, not even known yet as “Bag-iw.”
And it was perhaps also because the Mt. Sto. Tomas event was overshadowed by the eruption of Mt. Parker in southern Mindanao, which also took place on exactly the same date as the Mt. Sto. Tomas eruption – Jan. 4, 1641. It seems that the Mt. Parker stratovolcano eruption was a major eruption compared to that of Mt. Sto. Tomas.
Is Mt. Sto. Tomas also a sleeping giant that has the potential of suddenly waking up one day when, in our complacence, we least expect it? How well will we be prepared for it?
The people of Taal volcano island have accepted the “painful” and bitter reality that they may no longer return to their villages, as they have been declared “no man’s land.” After Pinatubo erupted, the Americans left Clark, never more to return. Can you imagine leaving Baguio, for good, if it should also be declared “no man’s land”? A friend of mine says: “Baka sublaten ton ah ti squatters.”
Incidentally, in the Cordillera, there are also several other volcanos. There is Mt. Binuluan (in the Ambalatungan cluster of volcanoes which includes Bumabag and Podakan) in Kalinga, which is classified as an active volcano.
Another is Mt. Patocis located north of Bontoc, Mountain Province
It is said that Mt. Daclan in Benguet is also volcanic.
They are supposed to be only “thermally active,” whatever that means.
Of course, the famous Mt. Pulag, the pride of the Ibaloys, and the highest peak in Luzon at 9,600 ft., is also a volcano. It is, however, listed as a “dormant” volcano. Does that automatically make it harmless?

The new decade begins with the Year of the Pig. But the decade itself will be known as the “Decade of the YOLD.” Meaning the Decade of the “Young Old.”
The “YOLDs” or “young old” are those aged 65 to 75. They were the Baby Boomers born right after the Second World War from 1955 to 1960.
The usual age of retirement is 65. The baby boomers will turn 65 with the entry of the year 2020. But the YOLDs are different from the senior citizens that came before them. They act young than their age.
While the seniors that came before the YOLDs would retire and slow down at 65, the YOLDs are not retiring. The YOLDs are more in number, they are healthier than ever, more active and even more financially well to do than those who came before them. This is especially true in first world and richer countries.
In the next decade, the YOLDS will not easily go away. They will continue to be socially active and engaged. They will be busier and will continue to work. Forget the previous expectation that those who reach 65 are supposed to stay quietly in the background, or are just assigned to take care of their grandchildren. We intend to stay active for many more years to come, and will give you a run for your money.
Welcome to the Decade of the YOLD!