Taal Volcano Eruption: A Journal of Day One and Two

Taal Volcano erupts as folks look to observe

The following account was based on this writer's log, informal interviews, observations, and social media posts. For official information about the 2020 Taal Volcano Eruption, you may coordinate with your respective front line civil service disaster risk reduction management and local government units (LGUs), and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).

Day 1: 12 January 2020

12 January 2020, Noontime: Taal Volcano initially erupted. It spewed steam and ash as a phreatic eruption. News was spreading like wildfire on social media.

12 January 2020, 2:00PM: The eruption escalated quickly, PHIVOLCS declared Alert Level 4 from 2 in less than 12 hours. Earthquakes rumble every now and then near Tagaytay. At my home in Imus, Cavite Province, a towering massive pyrocumulus (cumulus cloud made by a volcanic eruption) towered the southern horizon. Brief strokes of lightning were noted. The cloud was a sight to behold! Take note, we are around 30 kilometers from Tagaytay City, and additional 10 kilometers towards the main crater of the volcano where it came.

The large anvilhead was spreading from the south.

12 January 2020, 5:00PM: The sky is darkening at home. The lingering odor of rotten eggs linger. The ash from Taal was starting to fall here. It was itchy and irritating. While my mother and her friends have their masks, I made a makeshift one out of wet hanky to cover my face. The ash plume is still visible and looks menacing. The fireworks of lightning emanating from it was spectacular yet horrifying.

Ash plume of Taal Volcano as seen from Imus, Cavite
12 January 2020, 7:00PM: Ash fall gets heavier. No rain but just ash. Windows were shut. Evacuated the condo unit of our dogs to safety. Covered our small fish pond with cloth to prevent the ash from going to the water. I decided to go to our neighborhood pharmacy to get the suggested N91 masks. It was out of stock. A lot of people bought it by afternoon! Even surgical masks were not available! I guess I have to make use of my makeshift mask made of wet hankie.

12 January 2020, 10:00PM: I could not get to sleep. Sulfur odor is very strong! Ash fall continues. I was browsing my 2014 photos of me heading towards the main crater of Taal Volcano when it was peaceful. I reminisced taking a bath at the lake and even accidentally fell into the fissures in which my right foot was burned by the searing heat of the ground. I remember how hard it was to go back up because of the boulders.

Day 2: 13 January 2020

13 January 2020, morning: I woke up with the ash plume gone and the ash fall has stopped. It was everywhere. The car was dirty and the surrounding areas were like peppered in grey dust. Ang dumi at ang baho!

13 January 2020, 10:00AM: Decided to go to UPLB to bring some goods to a center. However, the curiosity in me was stronger. Impulsive. Let's go back to Tagaytay and I might have lomi for lunch!

Gentri-Amadeo-Tagaytay Road was dusty. There was heavy ash fall in this area the day before.

13 January 2020, 11:30AM: The road heading to Tagaytay has light traffic flow. Dusty at most from General Trias-PasCam to the border with Amadeo. It is in Amadeo that the sky started to become gloomy. Hala! All these ashes will turn into mud! Poor car! Good thing I did not pass an area with heavy rain.

This usually busy area in Tagaytay City is desolated. No restaurants or stores opened!

A mall in Tagaytay Rotunda

13 January 2020, Noontime: Tagaytay lays like a ghost city. No shops were open. Even the gas stations were closed. I saw an open 7-11 store near the junction and that was it. Not even the famed bulaluhan were opened. Even our simple lomi house that we were a day ago, was also closed. I was hungry but...

Taal Volcano erupts. This was in Day 2. If we count the hours it has been erupting, it has been around 24 hours when we took the photo.

13 January 2020, 12:30PM: I finally saw the ash cloud rising from Pulo or Volcano Island of Taal! It was my first time seeing a volcanic eruption up close! It was a sight of magnificence of nature yet the horror it has brought immediately in its surroundings quickly diminished that inspiring shock. Powerful it was. I was not expecting to see Taal Volcano erupt in my lifetime--and I did! The last time it made an eruption was sometime in the 1970s. I was not even born yet.

Locals were curious as to the situation of the eruption. Most of the people I encountered in this area were locals or from the neighboring towns like Alfonso, Amadeo, or Mendez--also affected by the eruption.

13 January 2020, 1:00PM: Hungry but my awe with the erupting volcano was not subsiding. I went near Mendez Junction and saw a small alley leading towards the ridge. There, I captured the volcano's magnificence and horror. Pulo was not the same island as I saw since my childhood. It was covered with grey ash. I wonder how the people there evacuated. Then to my right, I saw a seemingly smoldering foothills of Lemery, Batangas. It was covered in ash too. I guess that's somewhere near Barangay Payapa. Then Laurel. I remember passing by this small town at the western coast of the lake--then I wondered at that time how their ancestors lived in such precarious area.

A much zoomed in look of the main crater exploding.
 13 January 2020, 2:00PM: It started drizzling. I am hungry and cold. Decided to go to Los Banos NOT through Santa Rosa because of the heavy traffic congestion due to slippery mud, but through Casile-Canlubang Route. Here were my observations:
  • Dried ash from Mendez Junction to at least near Ayala Malls Serin and Rotunda.
  • Rotunda: There were a lot of people who seemingly look like bakwit or evacuees from Talisay. Bags, people, pets, all over.
  • From Rotunda to SVD Road, things started to get worse. The roofs were really covered in grey ash. People were removing hardened ash from the pavement and their roofs. Our favourite Starbucks was closed too!
This Starbucks Cafe in Tagaytay was closed as people were scraping off the heavy ash.
  •  From SVD Road to Santa Rosa Road. It started to deteriorate. Pineapple fields were covered with ash-laden mud. Trees leafless. Roads dusty but passable.
Development Academy of the Philippines, in front of Tagaytay Picnic Grove
  •  Santa Rosa Road to Iruhin-Sungay (Palace in the Sky): It was like a scene in a disaster flick. The rain induced by the phreatic explosion yesterday has created mud rain. It was ash mixed with water. According to a lady resident in Iruhin, "Ay parang umuulan ng semento nang magdamag!" ("It's like raining concrete through the night."). The road to Talisay was blocked by the police and they said that Talisay is a "no-go" zone. Even the ridge was not a good place to stay too. I saw the influx of evacuees/refugees and they walked towards an evacuation center or their relatives. I don't know.
Evacuees from Talisay were heading towards probably their relatives, friends. They said they were from Talisay.

Entrance to Barangay Iruhin Central. As we go deeper in Eastern Tagaytay, road conditions and the landscape deteriorates.
  •  Palace in the Sky-Tagaytay Highlands Junction to Casile, Cabuyao. Now this one look like a disaster. Since it is so far away from the urban center of Tagaytay, the road was still muddy but dried in the middle. The roofs were covered in mud. The pineapple groves were dead. The trees that used to line up this area look like from some nightmare! There were few people here and fewer houses. The coconut trees look like matchsticks with leaves bent down to earth. The landscape was gloomy and grey.
The road going to Casile, Canlubang at the foothills of Mount Sungay (Palace in the Sky/People's Park in the Sky)
  •  Casile, Cabuyao: Upon arriving the first community out of Tagaytay, the mood suddenly turned into that of hope. Yellow-shirted people from Cabuyao LGU, along with the community itself, were cleaning up the road--scrapping out the hardened mud. Despite the desolateness of the landscape, the people helping each other cleaning up their roofs and roads--old folks with children treating cleaning as some game, it was a cheerful disposition. 
The road to Casile was like straight from a dystopian, post-apocalyptic movie.
  •  Canlubang, Laguna to Los Banos. Three words: Dusty! Dusty, muddy and gloomy!
<End of Journal entry for Day One and Two>