Throughout the Philippines you’ll find 37 distinct volcanoes, 18 of which are still considered active. The definition of an active volcano is one that has had an eruption in the past 10 years and is expected to erupt again in the future.
The others, categorized as either dead or sleeping, are believed to be unlikely to experience future eruptions. So where exactly are some of the most active existing volcanoes in the Philippines?
5. Mount Bulusan
Mount Bulusan, also referred to as Bulusan Volcano, can be found on Luzon Island and is considered an active stratovolcano – one with several layers of hardened lava, volcanic ash, and tephra. The mountain is surrounded by craters and has four active hot springs around it as well. Mount Bulusan has erupted approximately 15 times since it was discovered and documented in 1886 and is known for its unique steam-powered explosions.
The most recent eruptions at Mount Bulusan occurred between July and October of 2009. In July, a loud explosion startled locals and was immediately followed by an eruption of steam and hot ash. Several small earthquakes were recorded in October of 2007, as well as two additional ash explosions that could be heard but were not seen due to thick cloud cover. Scientists had recorded a total of 40 volcanic earthquakes in the 24 hour preceding the explosions. No activity has been noted in Mount Bulusan since 2007.
4. Babuyan Claro
Located in the Babuyan Islands, not far from Luzon Island in the Philippines, you’ll find Babuyan Claro. Since its discovery, the volcano has erupted only 4 times – in 1831, 1860, 1913, and 1917. While there have been earthquakes and reports of steam clouds in the area as recent as 2004, scientists do not believe that this particular volcano poses any immediate threat.
3. Taal Volcano
The Taal Volcano is situated between the towns of San Nicholas and Talisay on the island of Luzon. Taal Volcano is considered one of a chain that exists beneath what is known as the Philippine Mobile Belt. There have been more than 33 eruptions at Taal Volcano since the late 1500’s. One of the most deadly, taking over 1,000 lives, occurred in 1911. The volcano is believed to have killed more than 6,000 people since it was discovered.
Taal Volcano is one of the most active and is currently being carefully monitored on a daily basis. Considered a “Decade Volcano,” Taal Volcano is used in studies that scientists hope will one day allow them to prevent natural disasters from destroying the human race. Taal Volcano was placed on a level 1 alert as of June/July 2009 due to significantly increased activity.
2. Mount Pinatubo
Mount Pinatubo, located in the southern section of Luzon, is one of the Philippines’ largest volcanoes. Mount Pinatubo had been relatively quiet until 1991, when it suddenly became one of the most visible volcanoes in the world.
On June 15th, 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted violently, causing the summit of the mountain to collapse into itself. The eruption began with a series of small earthquakes followed by several smaller explosions. The final explosion occurred after two months of activity and lasted for more than 15 hours. The ash plumes covered more than 400 square kilometers of land and the volcanic ash traveled more than 11,000 kilometers – far into Central Africa and Southeast Asia. The eruption killed over 700 people.
1. Mount Mayon
Considered to be the absolute most active, Mount Mayon has erupted at least 47 times since the early 1600’s. The volcano has killed more than 1,300 people and has left hundreds upon thousands of others homeless. Standing more than 2,462 meters above sea level, Mount Mayon is known as a stratovolcano, with steep sides made out of layers of hardened lava and volcanic ash.
The most recent eruptions at Mount Mayon, occurring within the past 60-70 years, include those in 1947, 1984, and most recently in 1993. The eruption in 1993 began with a series of small explosions and within only 30 minutes the volcano was spewing lava and pyroclastic material. More than 60,000 people were evacuated from the region and 68 were killed.
Volcanoes are beautiful, powerful, and unpredictable. If you should ever happen to book a hotel in the Philippines you’ll want to find out if you’re in the vicinity of an active volcano and find out if you’re close enough to catch a glimpse. Otherwise, it may be best to just let these sleeping beasts lie undisturbed.