Breaking news: Mt. Bulusan in my hometown of Sorsogon erupted today. First pic from my Sorsogon-based HS classmate, DaddyLloyd. Full story later.
I spent my childhood in a home with a sea for a backyard. Our house was in an elevated portion of an area then recently reclaimed from Sorsogon Bay. In rainy weather, with leaden skies and gusty winds, the briny water would creep inch by inch over the sloping, marshy patch of land that separated us from the sea.
Even then it was already a polluted bay. That didn't stop us from swimming in it, especially on hot summer afternoons with the elders off to work and we kids pretty much left on our own. We swam with the flotsam and jetsam of a rural seaside town--plastics, slop, sewage, ruined fishnets, dead cats. It was a miracle no one got scurvy. [Update: scabies, not scurvy. Thanks, Mitz.]
Across this watery expanse was Mt. Bulusan. Every morning I woke up to the same vision outside my window: the placid bay, gleaming like a mirror, reflecting on its surface the green sliver of Pinakulan Island and the blue hulk of Mt. Bulusan. It wasn't the most shapely of volcanoes, with a lopsided grin for a crater, but it towered above everything else in my small town. What lay behind it, to a boy lost in thought quite early, was nothing less than the edge of the world. The mountain held it all together--the bay, the sky, our house lapped by water. The giant sentinel in one's sleep.
When it erupted, which was often, the entire province stood still to gawk at the spectacle. You felt the earth move, heard the muffled boom. Then the cloud of ash rising over the horizon--always different with every eruption. The first time I saw one the volcano had belched out a single roiling black column straight up into the sky. It fell over Irosin town, situated at the foot of the volcano, like a flagpole crashing down in slow-motion. The next one took the form of a gigantic abaniko, spreading downwards and smothering the slopes. Sometimes the volcano rumbled for days, only to let out wisps of steam. It could tease as much as terrify.
We were never in danger of being harmed by Mt. Bulusan. The bay separating us provided that assurance. We could enjoy the fireworks across the sea but never worry that fire, mud or pumice would rain down on us. I lived with an active volcano for a neighbor for 19 years, but felt the sting of volcano ash on my skin only in Manila, on that apocalyptic afternoon when an approaching storm choked on Mt. Pinatubo's globe-spanning discharge and spat it out on the city.
My father's SMS was brief: “Nagtuga an Bulusan” (Bulusan just erupted). I was back in Sorsogon after that, a kid again, chin on a window sill, eyes unblinking.
PLUS: Video clips of the eruption here.