IN the middle of Bombon Lake (longitude 120° 59’ east and latitude 14° 2’ north) is the active crater of the Taal volcano, whose eruption on January 30, 1911 took 1,400 lives, “devastating the country to the west.” [Frank C. Gates, “The Pioneer Vegetation Of Taal Volcano,” The Philippine Journal of Science, Vol. IX, No. 5, September 1914]
Picture-pretty, sure; but deadly. “In the morning we woke to find ourselves steaming past the fine scenery of southern Luzon, with the volcano of Taal in the distance. Several times during the Spanish occupation this volcano dealt death and destruction, and as late as 1911 it claimed many victims.” [Isabel Anderson. The Spell of the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines. Boston: The Page Company, 1916, p. 297]
Its first Western discovery happened 450 years ago. “The praus went forward, in company with one of the Moros belonging to the town of Balayan, who had offered their friendship.
These Moros pointed out to Captain Juan de Salcedo, who went with the oared praus, the mouth of a river which led inland to a lake, called Bombon. All the praus entered this river, and came upon an uninhabited town.” [“May eight, 1570.” “Relation of the discovery of the island of Luçon, one of the western islands”]
“This lake, about seventeen miles long, is the second largest lake in Luzón. It is also named Taal, after the celebrated volcano in its midst. Its outlet is the river Pansipit.” [The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803. Volume III, 1569-1576. Edited and annotated by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson with historical introduction and additional notes by Edward Gaylord Bourne. March, 1903]
Bombon is Taal = disaster. “In the centre of Bombon lake is an active volcano called Taal, which is no less famed in the history of the colony than is Vesuvius in the history of Naples.
It has had many celebrated eruptions, some very destructive. In 1754 several towns were overwhelmed by a flood of burning lava, which was thrown as far as fifteen miles from the crater, causing great damage, even at that distance. It is said that cinders fell in Manila, 34 miles away. There was a smell of sulfur in the air for months; the lake was full of dead fish; and the earth, for miles, was heaped with burning lava and ashes. This eruption lasted nearly six months. The town of Taal was entirely destroyed, and most of the inhabitants perished. On that day darkness hung over the whole sky, and the air was full of cries and lamentations. It seemed as if the end of the world had come.” [Ramon Reyes Lala. The Philippine Islands. NY: Continental Publishing Company, 1898, p. 148]
Not only Tagaytay, but Manila itself has always been in the path. “The city is badly situated, being placed between two intercommunicating volcanoes, and of which the interiors, being always active, are evidently preparing its ruin. These two volcanoes are those of the Lagonne-ed-Taal and of Monte Albay, When one burns, the other smokes. I shall speak later on of the former of these volcanoes, which, to me at least, appeared a most singular one.”
“Until the shocks from the volcanoes shall decide its fate, Manilla remains the capital of the Spanish establishments in the Philippines.” [Crozet’s Voyage to Tasmania, New Zealand the Ladrone Islands, and the Philippines in the Years 1771-1772. London: Truslove & Shirley, 143, Oxford Street, W., 1891]
The threat remains: “Phreatic (or steam-blast) eruptions are driven by explosive expanding steam resulting from cold ground or surface water coming into contact with hot rock or magma. The distinguishing feature of phreatic explosions is that they only blast out fragments of preexisting solid rock from the volcanic conduit; no new magma is erupted.
Phreatic activity is generally weak, but can be quite violent in some cases, such as the 1965 eruption of Taal Volcano, Philippines, and the 1975-76 activity at La Soufrière, Guadeloupe (Lesser Antilles).” [Robert I. Tilling. Volcanoes. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of the Interior and U. S. Geological Survey, 1996]