Mayon Volcano (or Mount Mayon) has recently made its existence felt when it began erupting last January 13 and still continues to act up. As of the moment, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has raised the Alert Level to 4 but there may be a likelihood it could go up to 5 (the highest level) as they predict a more dangerous eruption coming soon. This would be the 50th time in the past 500 years that the volcano has erupted based on recorded accounts.
What Is Mayon Volcano?
Located in Albay Province in the Bicol Region (Region V), Mayon is a stratovolcano with a height of 2,463 meters (or 8,081 feet) above sea level. Its very distinct feature is its near-perfect conical shape that is symmetrical on all sides. Because of this, the volcano has attracted tourists from here and abroad. Because of this, it has become part of the Albay Biosphere Reserve as declared by UNESCO in 2016.
The volcano’s name is derived from the Bicolano word “Magayon” that means “beautiful.” According to local legends, there was a maiden called Daraga Magayon (Beautful Woman). To cut a long story short, she had an ill-starred lovelife that led to her untimely death. Soon after, a mountain began to form from her grave becoming what is now Mayon Volcano.
Mayon is an active volcano. Since the Philippines sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are expected to happen. This is because Mayon, along with other volcanoes in the Philippines is near the Philippine Trench where the Philippine Sea Plate meets up with the Philippine Mobile Belt. The former sinks beneath the latter (through subduction) releasing water that lowers the melting point of the Earth’s mantle which in turn generates magma. The magma needs an outlet to escape and volcanoes serve as these outlets. When magma escapes, it becomes lava.
Besides lava, volcanoes like Mayon can also spew out ash, mud, and tephra (lava bombs). When it rains, the mud becomes lahar. It can also emit pyroclastic materials which is a combination of the above-mentioned objects.
The earliest recorded eruption of Mayon dates back to 1766 when the Philippines was then a Spanish colony. Its most violent and deadliest eruption took place on February 1, 1814. 1,200 people died, mostly from the town of Cagsawa which was buried in ash and tephra. Only the bell tower of the church was left, a grim reminder of the destructiveness of the volcano.
Mayon also had a destructive eruption in 1897 that ravaged the villages of Bacacay, Sto. Domingo, San Roque, Misercordia and Santo Nino. Over 500 people were killed.
After the formation of PHIVOLCS, they have been monitoring all active volcanoes in the country. One measure they implemented is the establishment of “Danger Zones.” All concerned authorities have crafted contingency plans on what to do should volcanoes erupt ranging from evacuating residents to cordoning off the danger zones. These measures have worked and resulted in minimal to no casualties.
Mayon continues to be restive as of the moment. PHIVOLCS cannot draw a conclusion if the volcano is going to calm down. There could be a possibility a bigger eruption may occur that would raise the Alert Level to 5.
Featured Image Source: HKPinoy TV News