Taal volcano’s apocalyptic eruptions in 1754, 1911

Could the apocalyptic Taal volcano eruptions in 1754 and 1911 repeat themselves this 2020? How did things went on during those times?

In the last 24 hours, Taal Volcano has been hugging mass and social media outlet headlines on its pending eruption as evidenced by think and highly dense smoke.

As of press time, Taal Volcano’s ash fall has reached nearby towns and city. Portions of Cavite and Batangas area, being the most proximate provinces, has been covered with ashes, dangerously reducing road visibility.

TV news channels have been reporting and showing images of people soaked in gray powder being evacuated as children frantically cling at their parents’ hand.

The images were emotionally and mentally disturbing. Fear hovers in the air, Taal Volcano hasn’t been this ferocious for a long time.

It’s been calm. And the community surrounding it has gotten used to its scenic serenity.

But it’s a different story now. Slowly, Taal volcano is drawing out pen kept deep in nature’s pocket to ink yet another drama and that will part of its long history of eruptions and disturbing behavior.

Let’s take a walk back then and see how Taal behaved in the past.

Year: 1754 and 1911

Taal volcano
Taal volcano spewing clouds of ashes on the night of January 12, 2020. Photo by StormChaserPH.

1754 Eruption

To date, 1754 eruption is the longest and the most devastating, lasting for almost seven (7) months from May 15 to December 1, 1754.

On May 15, 1754, at about 9 or 10 o’clock in the night, the volcano quite unexpectedly commenced to roar and emit, sky-high, burning flames intermixed with glowing rocks which, falling back upon the island and rolling down the slopes of the mountain, created the impression of a large river of fire. During the following days there appeared in the lake a large quantity of pumice stone which had been ejected by the volcano. Part of these ejecta had also reached the hamlet of Bayuyungan and completely destroyed it.

And there begins Fr. Buencuchillo’s story, the Augustinian Parish Priest assigned in Sala at that time.

For days, Taal volcano continued spewing black smoke, ashes, and fire. This continued until September 25 on which the volcano never ceased to eject fire and mud of such bad character that the best ink does not cause so black a stain.

Early September 26 day break, Fr. Buencuchillo and others decided to leave their house. The roof has been heavily weighted down by ashes and stone drooled out by Taal’s unforgiving crater.

The depth of the layer of ashes and stones exceeded two “cuartas” (45 centimeters), and the result was that there was neither tree nor other plant which it did not ruin or crush, giving to the whole region an aspect as if a devastating conflagration had swept over it“, he added.

The last four paragraphs of his account reads:

The first of December broke somewhat clear and our eyes contemplated everywhere ruins and destruction. The layer of ashes and mud was more than 5 spans [1.10 m] thick, and it was almost a miracle that the roof of the church and convento sustained so great a weight. We caused the bulk of the material to be removed, while new continued to fall on that day and the following, on which latter the direction of the wind changed, carrying the ejecta toward Balayan. On the 3rd and 4th we had a formidable typhoon, and thereafter the volcano quieted down.

Soon afterward I resolved to visit my town of Taal; nothing was left of it except the walls of the church and convento. All the rest, the government house, the walks of the rope factory, the warehouse, everything was buried beneath a layer of stones, mud, and ashes more than 10 spans [2.20 m] thick; only here and there could be seen an upright post, the only remnant of a comfortable dwelling. I went down to the river and found it completely filled up, with a boat belonging to the alcalde and many of private persons buried in the mud.

A KILLER volcano which has claimed the lives of thousands erupted in the Philippines today triggering spectacular lightning storms and terrifying tsunami fears. Source: The SUN.

After incredible efforts I finally succeeded in unearthing in what had once been the church and sacristy, the chests which contained the sacred vestments and vessels. Nearly all of them were demolished by the rocks and beams which had fallen upon them, and filled with foul-smelling mud that had ruined or disfigured their contents. With the aid of some natives of Bauang, I likewise recovered some property from among the ruins of the convento.

Twelve persons are known to have perished – some carried away by the waves of the lake, others crushed beneath their collapsing houses. Thus the beautiful town of Taal remains a deserted wilderness and reduced to the utmost misery, while once it was one of the richest and most flourishing places. In the villages to the west of the lake, which were the greater and better part, all the houses have either collapsed under the load of material which had been piled upon them or have disappeared completely, swept away by the waves which in these places were so violent that they dug three ditches or channels, too wide and deep to be forded, and thus rendered impassable the road which joins the town with Balayan.

In The News:

In other parts of the lake shore have likewise opened many cracks and occurred very extensive slides. The worst of all is, that, the mouth of the river Pansipit having been blocked, the lake is rising and invading the towns of Lipa and Tanauan, both being on the lowest level, and inundating their buildings. All the animals of whatever kind have perished, some by being buried, others by drowning, the rest by starving, as not a green blade remained anywhere.

The same fate as Taal has befallen the towns of Lipa, Tanauan, and so much of Sala as still existed. These towns, together with Taal, lay around the lake, being situated within easy reach of it, and less than one league (12 miles or 19 kilometres) from the volcano. The bulk of the population left this neighborhood and settled in more distant places. Thus out of 1200 taxpayers whom Taal contained formerly, hardly 150 remain in the poorest and least respectable villages, which suffered little from the rain of ashes.

The accounts of Augustinian priest Fr. Buencuchillo who witnessed the Taal’s armageddon was preserved by Miguel Saderra Maso’s in a book he published in 1911.

It is said to be the government’s biggest blunder for it has almost completely failed to relieve Batangas out of Taal’s brewed misery.

Related story: Ursula devours Oksi with vicious P974-M worth of devastation

1911 Eruption

What is considered as the most calamitous Taal volcano eruption was recorded in January 1911. Although Manila Observatory’s seismographs registered multiple distinct shocks between January 27 and 28, Manila refuse to worry considering the volcano’s distance.

But on comes January 30, Manila residents were shaken and awaken by rolling thunders and lightning strikes illuminating southern sky, followed by fan-shape cloud.

Later on, by 2:30am, Taal volcano has erupted.

The sound of detonation was heard as far as 600 miles in diameter. Six hours later, dust started descending, covering houses and furniture.

The process was completed. Records show 1,335 people perished, including 199 injured. Surrounding villages were burned totally gutting out livestock and crops. Seven existing barangays were also eradicated.

Post mortem examination of the victims showed signs they died by hot mud and hot steam scalding.

Cover photo from wikipedia.

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