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Lest We Forget: The Mayon 1814 Eruption

On this day in 1814 happened the most destructive eruption of the Mayon Volcano in the province of Albay, Bicol Region, Philippines. According to Maria Hannah Mirabueno in her published thesis from the University of Caterbury in 2001, “Mayan Volcano's eruption on 01 February 1814 is considered as the volcano's most violent eruption episode, devastating five towns in the southern slopes of the volcano and killing at least 1,200 people. The deposits of the 1814 eruption are mainly distributed on the southern slopes of the volcano. The primary volcanic succession consists of, from bottom to top, tephra fall deposit, lower ignimbrite, pyroclastic surge deposit and upper ignimbrite.”

The Philippine Inquirer shared the eyewitness of Fedor Jagor, a German ethnologist and naturalist who covered most of Asia in the 19th Century, in his Reisen in Den Philippinen published in 1873 (Travel in the Philippines), in which he accounted:

“At about 8 o’clock that morning, the volcano suddenly belched forth a thick column of rocks, sand and ashes which rapidly rose to a great height… the slopes of the volcano were covered and disappeared from our sight. A river of fire appeared below, threatening to engulf us. People fled in search of higher land. The darkness increased… the fugitives were subjected to falling rocks…. There was no security in the houses because the heated rocks caused fire. Thus were converted into ashes the richest towns of Camarines.

About 10 o’clock the rain of large stones ceased, substituted by a rain of sand; and (by) 1:30 the noise somewhat diminished and the sky began clearing up. The ground was covered with cadavers and the seriously wounded; in the church of Budiao were 200 persons and in a house of that same town were 35 people.

Five towns of Camarines were completely destroyed and the major part of the villa of Albay. Some 12,000 people died, very many were seriously wounded, and those who survived lost all their property. The volcano had a sad and horrendous aspect; its slopes previously so picturesque and cultivated, could be seen covered with sand; the blanket of rocks and sand had a thickness of from 10 to 12 yards. In the area where Budiao was located, the coconut trees were buried up to their crown…The most beautiful parts of Camarines, the most fertile regions of the province, had been converted into an arid desert of sand.”

At least six towns in the southern portion of Mayon were devastated during the 01 February 1814 eruptive event. (Mirabueno, 2001). The affected areas were established settlements in the province of Albay, namely, Cagsawa, Daraga, Budiao, half of Albay (now Legazpi City) and Guinobatan (Mirabueno, 2001).



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