Living in the Shadow of Deadly Volcanoes

The 1944 eruption of Vesuvius in Italy
The Vesuvius from the Naples to Salerno Expressway
Backdrop view of the Vesuvius from Monte Faito showing how densely populated the areas surrounding Mount Vesuvius are

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.

15 thoughts on “Living in the Shadow of Deadly Volcanoes

  1. Might sound weird saying this! But looking at Taal Volcano now that it’s about to erupt I find it even more beautiful! It’s crazy how nature can look so beautiful and terrifying at the same time!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nakatira ka ba malapit sa bulkan? I was there (in Tagaytay and Talisay) a few years ago and it looked amazing kahit kalmado siya.
      I agree: nature is at its most beautiful kapag nagagalit siya. It’s weird but true at the same time…

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      1. No I do not live anywhere close to where it is po but I’ve seen photos and videos of it looking so beautiful and mighty! I hope one day I get to see it up close and personal. Pero sana kalmado sya by that time😅

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sana….medyo galit siya ngayon pero kakalma siya. Hindi naman pwede manatili galit forever…at ito ay kumakapit din sa pag-aasawa….kung minsan gustong sumabog din ang mga may-asawa

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  2. My father’s family has always lived in Alitagtag which is very close to Taal Lake, about a mile walk through fields and jungle. Taal Volcano has erupted so many times and the people at my town has a strong faith that the Holy Cross is protecting them as you can see from the news. However, on the other side of the lake is a different story. I hope your friend in Talisay is ok. Alitagtag fared better than most towns.

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    1. The ashes reached San Ildefonso Bulacan where my wife’s house is. i can’t imagine what must have happened in Talisay or Alitagtag. It’s a strange feeling to think that I was there not too long ago. My friends in Talisay managed to get away safe and now they are somewhere in Laguna. Let’s hope that the Volcano has ceased its activity and that people can go back to their everyday affairs. The Philippines is already plagued by many problems and I really hope that nature stops adding to the misery of the population. Here in Italy hundreds of Batanguenos are deeply concerned and so are we because my son in law’s girlfriend and her entire family is from Batangas and so are most of our friends

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  3. I had the chance to visit Taal volcano, a few months before it errupted. I had no idea that it would errupt very soon and would affect the surrounding areas as it was in the middle of a huge lake. It made me reflect as well regarding priorities in life. Most of the houses around Taal were huge and took a lot of hardwork and resources to build but were gone in an instant. I totally agree with what you said that the best way to go through life is by pursuing spiritual and inner fulfillment rather than external gratification. 🙂 Vesuvius is on my bucket list. I’m planning to visit it one day. I’m actually watching a documentary the other day about the ancient erruption of Mt. Vesuvius. As much as I’m very fascinated with volcanoes, I guess I’m grateful that I didn’t grew in a place with a volcano nearby. Imagine the fear people feel whenever there’s a news of a pending erruption and even those crazy premonitions which some gullible Filipinos believe.

    By the way, nice blog. I also applaud you for trying to learn Tagalog as most people who were married to Filipinos won’t even bother learning their better-half’s native language.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salamat nang marami! Dito maraming Batangueno ay napakalungkot dahil sinira ng Taal ang kanilang mga mansion na nangailangan ng malaking sakripisyo. Mabuti at ang bahay namin sa Pinas ay medyo malayo sa mga bulkan

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  4. I had the chance to visit Taal volcano, a few months before it erupted. I had no idea that it would erupt very soon and would affect the surrounding areas as it was in the middle of a huge lake. It made me reflect as well regarding priorities in life. Most of the houses around Taal were huge and took a lot of hardwork and resources to build but were gone in an instant. I totally agree with what you said that the best way to go through life is by pursuing spiritual and inner fulfillment rather than external gratification. 🙂 Vesuvius is on my bucket list. I’m planning to visit it one day. I’m actually watching a documentary the other day about the ancient erruption of Mt. Vesuvius. As much as I’m very fascinated with volcanoes, I guess I’m grateful that I didn’t grew in a place with a volcano nearby. Imagine the fear people feel whenever there’s a news of a pending eruption and even those crazy premonitions which some gullible Filipinos believe.

    By the way, nice blog. I also applaud you for trying to learn Tagalog as most people who were married to Filipinos won’t even bother learning their better-half’s native language.

    Like

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