Less than 10 km east of Naples, Mount Vesuvius is famous for its eruption in 79 C.E. that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Mount Vesuvius has erupted many times since, and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years.
My wife comes from a part of the Philippines that is relatively far from deadly volcanoes, yet, when Mount Pinatubo erupted, the ashes reached San Ildefonso Bulacan and even the recent eruption of Taal Volcano caused some ashfall in my wife’s area.
The city I live in, the city of Rome, is surrounded by plenty of extinct volcanoes (like lakes Bracciano, Vico, Martignano, Albano and Nemi), the Vesuvius (as well as the nearby Campi Flegrei) being the nearest (more than 200 km away though) active as well as dangerous volcano.
Yet my birthplace, the town of Massalubrense near Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, is relatively close to the Vesuvius, which can easily be seen from my parents’ village.
My birthplace is situated some 50 km away from the Vesuvius but between the cities of Naples and Castellammare di Stabia lies one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, which is situated in very and dangerously close proximity to the Vesuvius.
Some of my uncles still remember, quite vividly, the 1944 eruption because the ashes reached my hometown.
The Taal Volcano is situated close to heavily populated areas so is the Vesuvius here in Italy.
Millions of people live in the shadow of deadly volcanoes around the world, and, in much the same way as hundreds of Batanguenos who live in Rome have lost their beautiful homes, that took years of sacrifices to build, thousands who live in the shadow of the Vesuvius could lose their lives as well as their possessions.
Two things, two Fs, help Filipino people to cope with the many natural calamities that plague the country: F(requency) and F(atalism). Filipinos are used to natural calamities and deeply rooted in the Filipino culture is the bahala-na approach to life which in this context refers to an attitude of letting go and letting God.
Here in Italy we are much less used to deadly natural calamities, we do have our fair share of earthquakes, floodings and so on, but volcanic eruptions haven’t yet caused massive destruction (apart from what happened back in the first century C.E.).
What happened in Batangas should remind us how years of hard labor and sacrifices can be swept away in minutes because of the unpredictability of nature and, what this tells me is that, as I keep saying, the best way to go through life is by pursuing spiritual and inner fulfillment rather than external gratification.
Filipinos have two words for happiness being masaya (happiness that depends upon external things) and maligaya (happiness that derives from being internally grounded).
External things like houses, cars and even our physical appearance and our health can and will eventually leave us in one way or in another so, in my humble opinion at least, staking one’s life on the accumulation of material things and on any other external thing is really something that exposes a person to a great risk of losing everything, for if external things are everything we bank on for happiness than our happiness will constantly be threatened and we will never really achieve what Filipinos call kapanatagan or peace of mind.