Bicol Bulletin - August 2006

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The Bicol Bulletin

August 2006


What is the difference between vacation and evacuation?  If you were as astute as my five year old son, your answer would be, “Only two letters, dad!”  I have had the opportunity to go on many vacations in my life—some were memorable because of the wonderful time that we had and some were memorable because we did not!  But for the first time in my life, I find myself not vacationing, but evacuating.

On July 15, 2006, Mount Mayon became “restive” in the words of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.  The volcano, the most active in the country, began a slow eruption that consisted primarily of lava flow that provided local residents of the province of Albay a beautiful “fireworks” display nightly.  As days became weeks, the nightly show began to intensify.  Tourists from all over the world arrived toting cameras and tripods—all hoping to get that perfect shot.  I joined in the nightly watch too.  Armed with my huge tripod and my tiny little camera, I made a nightly trek to the top of a neighboring building to take in the sights. 

Why was there so much fascination for our volcano?  Well, it could be because Mount Mayon is considered to be the most perfect cone-shaped volcano in the world—towering over 8,000 feet above the Albay Gulf.  Or it could be a result of the Legazpi City Tourism campaign inviting people to “Come experience Eruption 2006!  Featuring nightly viewing of Mount Mayon, beach resorts, diving, great restaurants and shopping!”  Whatever the reason, many friends and family heard about our local excitement and were alarmed!

The local government enforced the 6 kilometer Permanent Danger Zone which was expanded to an 8 kilometer Extended Danger Zone on August 7th.  There were forced evacuations for people living inside these areas.  Now for people who are unfamiliar with “active” volcanoes, it might seem strange that an evacuation must be forced upon those in harms way, but for those who have lived their entire lives on the slopes of this gentle giant, the mandate to leave your home can be even more traumatic.  Our house is located 12 kilometers from the summit.  This is considered to be a safe area, “far, far away” from the volcano, but for some reason, most of our friends and family did not agree that 7 ½ miles was a safe distance.  We were asked repeatedly when we planned to evacuate.  Our answer remained, “When we are told to leave, we will leave.”

On August 7th, the alert level was raised to “Level 4 – Hazardous Eruption Imminent”, indicating that there was intense unrest and that a hazardous eruption is possible within hours or days.  It was at this point that we were advised by the United States Embassy in Manila that American citizens in the Philippines should avoid the Mayon Volcano area.  Fortunately for us, our “evacuation” was coinciding with our “vacation.”

Every year about this time, our family and the Robert Murphy family celebrate the anniversary of our arrival in the Philippines by having a few days to “get away.”  This vacation get away was planned for August 8-11 this year—so our vacation became our evacuation.

Our vacation with the Murphy family was wonderful yet again.  We decided that since our children are growing older and more mature, we might even be able to make the next joint vacation for four days instead of just three!  But now, vacation is over and the doldrums of evacuation have set in.  We are making it, but constantly wondering, “When are we going to be able to go home?”

 Please pray for us during this time.  We are not in any danger from the eruption!  We are currently staying in Metro Manila which is located almost 200 miles away from Mount Mayon, but most of our friends and co-workers still remain in Albay.  Please pray for:

·         Safety for all those in harms way if a hazardous eruption takes place.

·         Swift conclusion to this “slow” eruption.

·         Good health for the more than 44,000 evacuees who have been forced to leave their homes to live in public schools and government buildings.

·         Adequate physical and financial provisions for evacuees by the local, regional and national government and the proper distribution of these provisions.

·         Peace and order in the area surrounding Mayon.  Many troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been brought in to restrict entry into the Extended Danger Zone, but many of these areas are controlled by communist militant groups.

·         Opportunities to minister to those who are displaced by the forced evacuation—especially those from our mission church in Barangay Fidel Sortida, Sto. Domingo, Albay.

·         Safety of all the mission workers and members still in Legazpi City.

·         Wisdom in discerning God’s timing for our return home from vacation—I mean our evacuation.


Wow, what a difference two letters can make!


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