Sunday, September 30, 2007
By Ephraim Aguilar
BEHIND MT. MAYON, rising 2,462 meters above Bicol, is a legend telling people that at the core of this magnificent and world-famous volcano, which has been restless since 1999, is the heart of a woman longing to be free.
Mayon was derived from the Bicol word magayon, which means “beautiful,” and was used to name one of the most active volcanoes in the country and one of the natural wonders of the world for its near-perfect cone shape.
According to folklore, Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden), the only daughter of tribal chief Makusog (Strong), grew up to be so beautiful and lovely that men from other tribes vied for her affection.
But she was indifferent to all her suitors. Not even Datu Pagtuga (Eruption), a powerful chief and great hunter, could win her heart even if he showered her father with gifts.
One day, Ulap (Cloud) came after a long walk to see for himself the celebrated beauty of the maiden. Unlike other suitors, Ulap waited patiently until love blossomed between them.
Sensing that his daughter was in love, Makusog did not object to the betrothal and asked his people to prepare a wedding feast.
The news enraged Pagtuga, who abducted Makusog and sent word to Magayon that unless she married him, her beloved father would die and that war would be waged against her tribe.
Magayon could not do anything but give in to Pagtuga’s demand.
Informed about the unhappy turn of events, Ulap, along with his warriors, arrived in time for the wedding rites and killed Pagtuga.
This was not the tale’s happy ending, though. As Magayon rushed to embrace Ulap, she was hit by an arrow and fell to Ulap’s arms. A follower of Pagtuga hurled a spear at Ulap’s back, killing him instantly.
The tragic lovers were buried in one grave which, as time passed, was transformed into a hill. Rumblings, quakes and huge boulders sprouted from the top of what is now Mt. Mayon.
Dr. Juliet Borres, a literature professor and assistant dean at the Bicol University College of Arts and Letters, said folk legends were created by early natives to explain phenomena around them.
The story of Daragang Magayon has different versions, but in each of them, she always died—from an arrow aimed at her or her lover.
According to Borres, the story portrays how women were treated in ancient times—like those of the lower class—their lives determined by men around them and without freedom to speak for themselves.
In the early 1990s, a significant twist in the myth arose after Bicolana poet Merlinda Bobis redefined the character of Daragang Magayon, from being a victim to a woman who bravely battled against oppression. She was transformed into a woman guerrilla.
Bobis has received various prestigious awards, such as the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1987 and 1989, and the Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines for Literature in 1990.
In her graduate thesis that analyzed Bobis’ Bicol epic “Cantata of the Warrior Woman Daragang Magayon,” Borres stated that in the early part of the narrative, Magayon was presented as well-loved, pampered and adored by people around her.
She was a typical girl who feared blood, was weak and vulnerable. She suffered rejection not only by other people in the tribe but also by her own father.
“The elders in their tribe, who took advantage of the weakness of her aging father Makusog, planned that Magayon be forced to marry Pagtuga as more of a political strategy for the benefit of the tribe. When Magayon learned of that, she decided to transform herself into a warrior to the delight of his father who told her, ‘Indeed you are of my own blood,’ ” Borres said.
Unlike in the traditional legend where Magayon decided to marry Pagtuga in exchange for the freedom of her father, in Bobis’ version, she asked for guidance from the goddess Maguindara.
“The women in the tribe did not want Magayon to marry Pagtuga because they thought he was an enemy, a symbol of oppression against women during their time. When Magayon inquired from Maguindara, she answered her question with another question: ‘Anong sira an dai nagsasabat sa sulong (What is the fish that doesn’t go against the current)? Magayon knew the answer, ‘Tigbak na sira’ (Dead fish),” Borres said.
“What Magayon is trying to portray in her character redefined by Bobis is that, ‘I am not just beautiful. I am not just a weak and typical princess but I am more than that,’ ” she added.
The maiden decided to fight for her father’s freedom. as well as her freedom to love. She was no longer a victim who depended on her tribesmen and Ulap to be rescued.
“In the end of the epic though, it was implied that both Magayon and Ulap died in the battle. But Magayon here died in unsurrendered struggle. She was fighting till the end,” said Borres.
Mayon Volcano has been on a “mild and quiet” eruption for more than a month now, keeping nearly 40,000 villagers confined in government-run shelters away from its shadow.
Knowing the behavior of Mayon now, Borres remembered what Bobis said: “Just like Daragang Magayon, she appears to be gloriously beautiful, calm, and placid but when you listen closely, you will hear murmurs of stories untold about her endless struggle.”
By Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—SIXTY PERCENT of the country’s wood needs is being imported because of the worsening condition and denudation of our forests, local foresters said at the 58th anniversary celebration and national convention of the Society of Filipino Foresters Inc. (SFFI) held here last week.
Ricardo Umali, SFFI national council president, said it would take the government “hundreds of years and trillions of pesos” to rehabilitate the barren forests but if the people contributed to the effort, this could be shortened by up to 50 years.
Eriberto Agete, director for policy planning at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources central office, said the country’s forest area had widened from 5.5-million hectares to 7.2-million-ha in five years – between 2001 and 2006 – through the reforestation and forest management efforts of the government and other sectors.
In 1930, the country had 17-million-ha of forests.
Agete said SFFI, in cooperation with the DENR and local government units (LGUs), was aiming for “sustainable forest management,” more than just rehabilitation.
“We can work with the LGUs by sharing our knowledge in forest land use planning. We could help determine which forests could be used for production and commercial purposes and which for environmental considerations like protecting biodiversity and water,” Umali said.
Agete said SFFI was seeking the support of the private sector to establish a massive tree plantation since the government had scarce funds for the initiative.
He said the 800,000 trees planted on Aug. 25 for the green highways campaign showed the people’s concern for the environment.
The foresters are still waiting for the Senate to pass the Sustainable Forest Management Act, which has been under deliberation for 12 years.
“We need a new law that is more comprehensive. We currently rely on executive orders which do not allocate regular resources for forest management,” Umali said.
He said one of the factors that was delaying the passage of the bill was the debate on whether the law should advocate a total or a selective log ban.
On the controversial land use conflict going on at the La Mesa watershed because of a planned housing project, Agete said the SFFI did not have much to say about it since the watershed was a titled property owned by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.
“The question now is, will the MWSS allow the DENR to make it a protected area even if it is a titled property? Society, though, would want it proclaimed a protected area since we want to preserve our watersheds,” he said.
There are some 8,000 licensed foresters in the country who are members of the SFFI, the main forestry service provider for the national and local governments, communities and the private sector.
The SFFI said it would continue to find ways and strategies to maximize its professional manpower.
It said it also supports the efforts of forestry schools to come up with a more relevant curriculum that would produce quality foresters who would save the forests from total denudation for the benefit of future generations.
By Ephraim Aguilar
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—Jaime Grefalde, 45, left behind his wife and three children in Negros Oriental, to join Task Force Kapatid, Balik-Ilaw Albay. Kapatid’s task: to help restore power in hard-hit Albay province.
The task force consists of 158 linemen and electrical engineers from electric cooperatives in Catanduanes, Negros Oriental, Bohol, Bantayan Island and Cebu City; they arrived here yesterday.
“Though our period of stay here is still uncertain, I am willing to do everything for the team,” said Grefalde, who is visiting Bicol for the first time.
Typhoon “Milenyo” caused a massive power blackout in the Bicol region. Power has been restored in five towns and two cities in Albay, but residents in 11 towns and another city remain without electricity supply.
Grefalde said members of the task force will be working for 12 hours every day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m, to bring Albay’s power supply back to normal.
Dante Bermudo, 31, had to leave his two-year-old daughter to his mother-in-law in Negros Oriental so he could be part of the task force.
“I am starting to miss my daughter but I know my special purpose of being here in Albay. It is my first time to be involved in a mission like this and it will be a big responsibility since the devastation brought by the typoon was great,” he said.
Supply restoration in Tabaco City, was up to 85 percent; Legazpi City, 80%; Tiwi, 50%; Malinao, 40%; Malilipot, 85%; Bacacay, 50%; and Daraga, 20%.
But Camalig, Guinobatan, Jovellar, Oas, Polangui, Libon, Manito, Pio Duran, Rapu-rapu and Ligao City remained without any power supply.
According to engineer Alex Realozo, general manager of a local utility, Milenyo damaged 1,330 wooden, concrete, and steel poles; 394 transformers; and 50,000 meters of wires.
He said every damaged pole had to be replaced with a steel pole worth around P7,000; the process takes about three hours, using a seven-man team and one service truck.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said Malacañang has alloted P159 million for power restoration in the Bicol region and P55 million for Albay.
05 October 2006
LEGAZPI CITY—THERE ARE VOICES HAUNTing Alicia Dalde, 44, of Barangay Baybay this city and these were not from her imagination or dreams. They were those of her neighbors who cried out for help as huge waves slammed their coastal community at the height of Typhoon “Milenyo.”
“I heard my neighbors, those who were trapped inside their homes, scream for help,” said Dalde, whose neighborhood of at least 285 families sat near this city’s port and faced the Albay Gulf.
“That was... when the wind was already blowing violently and the level of seawater flooding our house reached up to my neck,” Dalde said as she washed donated clothes beside the rubble of what was once their neighborhood.
The scene after the storm devastated her.
“All our clothes and belongings were gone. None was left. The house that my husband and I worked hard for to build in years vanished in just one night,” she said.
It was a house built on savings that Dalde said she put together “at the expense of my health.”
“Now, I am sick, my intestines need to be operated on... but I do not have money for that. Worse is, we are now homeless,” Dalde added.
Reality, the painful one, was difficult to accept for Dalde. She thought the house could withstand the impact of the storm so when the waves started rising, the family simply left, thinking only of saving their lives.
Her husband, Henry, 39, was left behind to safeguard their belongings, but it would be a futile effort.
He watched helplessly as the waves washed other houses in the village into the sea and went on saving other neighbors when he had the chance to.
“I was trying to push our wall against the waves,” Henry said.
He heard a cry for help from neighbors and saw an entire family submerged in water. He was able to save them.
“I saw my friend being carried by the waves as he held on to the floating table that smashed him. I was able to save his life,” Henry recalled.
Hipolito Toledo, village chief of Baybay, said Milenyo had brought the worst damage to infrastructure in Barangay Baybay in the last 20 years.
He listed the damage—a basketball court, a day care center, a stage, lamp posts, and street lights that he said were worth some P1 million all in all.
At least 38 families either lost homes or suffered severe damage to their houses. They are now in an evacuation center at a school in the port.
Toledo said what they need urgently are food, medicines and clothes, stuff that Milenyo washed away as it struck.
Village officials were set to meet with Mayor Noel Rosal to discuss the possibility of relocating the neighborhood to a safer place.
They had heard of plans to relocate them, especially people living about 50 meters from the shore. The Daldes were among those strongly supporting the plan. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—Former beauty queen and television host Miriam Quiambao recently visited children displaced by the Mayon Volcano eruption in shelters here in Albay and read story books to them.
Quiambao, runner-up in the Miss Universe 1999 tilt, is an advocate of World Vision, a child-focused relief and development international organization.
World Vision has helped more than 200,000 children, according to WV-Philippines. Kris Aquino has over 50 sponsored children. Other participating celebs are Karen Davila, WV’s main ambassador of goodwill in the country; Christian Bautista, Lynn Sherman and Kristine Bersola. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
13 September 2006
LEGAZPI CITY—AFTER OVER A month of taking shelter in an evacuation center at the San Roque Elementary School, Veronica Mirandilla, 49, a weaver and farmer from Barangay Mabinit, is set to return to her farm on Saturday since the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) had already lowered Mt. Mayon’s alert status to level three late Monday afternoon.
More than 30,000 displaced villagers, who had to rely on government relief assistance and endure sleeping in crowded shelters, could not contain their excitement when told of the news.
Speaking in the local dialect, Mirandilla said “The first thing I will do when my family goes back home is to clean our house which we have not seen for a long time. I will plant new crops again since the ash fall destroyed our “petchay” and “pipino” which we were unable to harvest.”
Aside from planting vegetables and weaving, Mirandilla also raises livestock just like most of the villagers in Mabinit, which is 8.25 kilometers away from the 2-462-meter volcano.
Consolacion Viñas, 49, of the same village, also said she was unable to harvest anything because of the eruption.
“Our plants were scorched which left us empty-handed but despite the loss we would be buying seeds so we could start anew when we return home,” she said.
There were around 4,256 farmers planting at Mt. Mayon’s fertile footlands, said the Provincial Agricultural Services. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—DISASTER OFficials expect thousands of evacuees to be sent back home and resume their livelihood in their villages “anytime this week” as Mayon continued to cool down.
Only six volcanic earthquakes were detected in the past 24-hour observation period, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported yesterday.
Mayon’s last small explosion was recorded on Sept. 2 while lava flow was reported to have decreased in volume last Aug. 28.
Mayon’s swelling grew smaller, indicating less magma coming up, Phivolcs added.
Cedric Daep, Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council executive officer, said even after the alert level status of Mayon had been lowered by the Phivolcs, villagers are still advised to keep off a 7-km extended danger zone.
Mayon spewed around 52 million cubic meters of hot lava, creating its longest lava trail in 30 years.
Volcanologists earlier warned of possible life-threatening pyroclastic flows that could be generated upon the collapse of these lava deposits.
“We have already informed (the evacuees) since two weeks ago of the hazards they may face as villagers residing near the foot of Mayon even after the alert level status has been lowered,” Daep said.
Alex Baloloy, science research analyst at Phivolcs-Bicol, said they had already sent data to the Phivolcs central office in Manila to determine if it was now safe for the villagers to return home.
Since alert level 4 was raised over Mayon for the past 33 days, more than 40,000 villagers have been evacuated from five municipalities and three cities in Albay.
Most of these villagers relied on farming, weaving, and livestock raising as their main sources of living.
The Provincial Agricultural Services reported last week that the eruption brought P1.1 million in damages to crops.
Livestock left behind in the villages suffered from severe malnutrition. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—Volcanologists yesterday said they are studying the possibility of lowering the alert level status of Mayon Volcano from 4 to 3 as the the deflation of ground swelling and absence of explosions over the past days may indicate a slowdown in volcanic activity.
“We are confident we would be able to provide a report to the public on the results of the study we are conducting within 15 days,” said Julio Sabit, supervising science research specialist from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs)-Manila.
Phivolcs is studying if the downtrend in volcanic activity would be consistent in the succeeding days, he said.
Aside from the measurable parameters such as the sulfur dioxide emission rate, number of volcanic tremors and earthquakes, and the measurement of ground deformation, volcanologists are also studying visual observations of the volcano and their variations over a period of time.
Since alert level 4 was raised over Mayon for the past 33 days, at least 30,000 villagers had been evacuated from five municipalities and three cities in Albay. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—AGRICULTURists have estimated the damage wrought by the slow eruption of Mayon volcano at P1.1 million.
“Our damage assessment is still ongoing. There are agricultural areas we are still not able to visit because of the risks caused by the eruption,” according to provincial agriculturist Archimedes Reynoso.
Damages to crops in Sto. Domingo, Albay have reached P275,000 and in Malilipot, Albay, at least P859,000 in crops were reported destroyed by the municipal disaster coordinating council.
The towns of Malilipot and Sto. Domingo are within the southeast sector of the volcano, which is the most critical since the crater rim is lowest in this sector.
Reynoso said ash falls and lava flow did the most damage.
“Small quantities of ash can be good for the plants as it drives insects and pests away. The sulfur in the ash can also be a good source of micro-nutrients but when it covers the plants in excessive quantities it destroys them,” Reynoso said.
The soil at the foot of Mt. Mayon is believed to be fertile as micro-nutrients from organic materials from the volcano, when washed away by rainfall, are spread to the ground.
Volcanologists at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology observatory at the Lignon Hill in Daraga, Albay yesterday said Mayon was cooling down.
There were 10 volcanic earthquakes recorded while alert level 4 remains raised.
Farming is the most common form of livelihood among affected villagers, most of them still in evacuation centers.
Agricultural areas surrounding Mt. Mayon are planted to root crops, vegetables and fruits but mostly to abaca and coconut.
In the five municipalities and three cities affected by the eruption, around 924 hectares of land are planted to rice; around 700 ha are planted to fruits, vegetable, and root crops; while 2,525 ha are planted to coconut and abaca. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
06 September 2006
LEGAZPI CITY—Evacuated residents will have to wait for two more weeks of “significant decline” in Mayon Volcano's activity before they could return to their homes which have been tagged as Extended Danger Zones by authorities.
Last Monday was the first time the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded no instance of volcanic earthquakes since the alert level was raised to 4 on August 7.
On Sunday, Phivolcs said it recorded the occurrence of 11 volcanic quakes which determine the movement of magma inside the volcano.
Julio Sabit, supervising science research specialist of Phivolcs-Manila, said the observation last Monday was too short a period of time to be able to establish a trend.
“A couple of weeks is our stand-down procedure. If the decline continues, then we will lower the alert level but if a fluctuation in volcanic activity shows up in the succeeding days then we will have to maintain the heightened level of unrest,” Sabit said.
The sulfur dioxide emission rate also decreased to 1,447 tons daily from the previous 2,961 tons daily.
The baseline S02 measurement of Mt. Mayon is 500 tons daily. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—MAYON EVAcuees in the San Andres resettlement site in Sto. Domingo, Albay have been transferred from their old shanties made of wood and nipa to the newly built and safer prefabricated shelters even if they have to bear too much heat inside.
The prefabricated shelters made of galvanized iron sheets, steel framing, and plywood were built last week through the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol.
There are now three units being occupied by nine families there but there are 18 more prefabricated shelters to be built.
Romeo Cabria, action officer of the Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council in Sto. Domingo, said that though the prefab shelters were safer, the evacuees complained of too much heat inside during the day.
“The temperature inside these shelters reaches 34 degrees Celsius starting 10 a.m. But the evacuees do not have any other choice as we had to demolish the shanties they had made,” Cabria said.
Evacuees continue to decrease in number as around 3,222 persons from the villages of Salvacion, Miisi, and Busay in Daraga, Albay have been decamped since Sunday.
Now there are only around 27,412 persons in evacuation centers.
The decrease in the number of evacuees had also lessened the occurrence of diseases among the evacuees, said Dr. Luis Mendoza, provincial health officer.
“The cases of acute respiratory infection has decreased to only 19; diarrhea to only one; hypertension, 2; asthma, 6, but we will still continue our disease surveillance to prevent any outbreak,” Mendoza said.
Volcanologists yesterday said lava flow from Mt. Mayon remained unabated in this quiet eruption while other parameters still indicated a high level of unrest so the alert level status of 4 could not be lifted.
There were 305 tremor episodes and 11 volcanic earthquakes during the past 24-hour observation period.
The sulfur dioxide emission rate slightly increased to 2,961 tons daily from Sunday’s 2,021 tons daily, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology yesterday.
The normal S02 emission rate of Mt. Mayon is 500 tons daily. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—FEWER VOLCANIC earthquakes and a decrease in sulfur dioxide emission rate during the past 24 hours did not necessarily mean a decline in the activity of Mayon volcano as sudden changes in its behavior really happen from time to time, volcanologists said yesterday.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded nine volcanic earthquakes compared to the previous day’s 31, while sulfur dioxide emission rate was 2,021 tons per day compared to the previous 6,585.
Tremor episodes remained high and indicated the continuous flow of glowing lava and detaching lava blocks from the main lava flow.
These were observed rolling and cascading towards the southeast sector of the volcano, Phivolcs said.
Alert level 4 has remained hoisted as the probability of explosion was still high, it added. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
LEGAZPI CITY—Volcanologists yesterday said the series of ash explosions reported to have been occurring since Sunday could be one of the reasons for the stronger rumblings lately heard over Mt. Mayon.
On Thursday, the volcano exploded four times causing slight ashfalls over Barangay Maninila in Guinobatan, Albay and Barangay Buang in Tabaco City.
“The strong rumblings that can be heard may be associated with the ash explosions, the movement of magma inside the volcano or the collapse of lava fragments at the volcano’s slopes,” said Lesty Saquilon, science research specialist from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology-Manila.
Because there had been no declining trend in volcanic activity, Phivolcs could not lift the alert level 4 status of the volcano, he said.
Phivolcs recorded continuous lava extrusion and a total of 277 tremor and 25 volcanic earthquakes during the same period.
Meanwhile, a new measuring device called “fly spec” arrived at Phivolcs-Bicol from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory through the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program of the United States Geological Survey. It measures the volcano’s sulfur dioxide emission rate with greater flxibility, said Phivolcs. Ephraim Aguilar,Inquirer Southern Luzon
31 August 2006
LEGAZPI CITY—The sulfur dioxide (S02) emission rate at Mayon Volcano abruptly increased to 9,733 tons yesterday from Tuesday’s 3,864 tons.
The volcano’s S02 emission is one of the parameters being monitored by volcanologists to establish a potential eruption.
Mayon’s normal S02 emission rate is pegged at 500 tons daily.
The abrupt increase in the S02 emission rate was due to the degassing of magma after the two series of explosions recorded during the 24-hour observation period, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
The two explosions that occurred at 8:58 a.m. and 1:47 p.m. on Tuesday produced grayish 500-meter-high ash clouds from the summit, which drifted west-northwest.
Phivolcs said 16 volcanic earthquakes indicated the continuous movement of magma up the volcano.
Meanwhile, the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council said the number of people at the evacuation centers in the province dropped by 25 percent.
As of yesterday, evacuees numbered 32,758 persons from Friday’s 43,676, the agency said. Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
Saturday, September 01, 2007
LEGAZPI CITY—Continuous flow of lava out of Mayon’s summit crater was relatively quiet and non-explosive during the past 24-hour observation period, said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in a bulletin issued yesterday morning.
Lava flow has advanced by some 200 meters downslope and has reached the 600-meter elevation, Phivolcs explained.
Alert level 3 remained in effect so that residents within the 6-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) and just beyond the PDZ in the southeast sector facing Bonga Gully—especially Barangays Mabinit, Bonga, Matanag and Buyuan in the southeast—and Miisi to the south have been advised to be vigilant.
Phivolcs warned that rockfalls, lava flows and small rock avalanches or pyroclastic flows may affect these areas.
Residents near areas facing the south-southeast portion of the volcano and within 7 km of the crater have been advised to be prepared for evacuation. Ephraim Aguilar, PDI Southern Luzon Bureau