Philippines Volcanoes: 

Peak Attractions.

Ask travellers why they choose the Philippines and most will trot out the usual platitudes: the sun, the sea, the friendly people, the prices. Maybe some will show more thought and note: the beaches, the forests, the waterfalls. And there is no doubt that all these features have their merits.
But what about another one of the Philippines definitive features – its volcanoes? Why do so few people get excited about them? They are one of the most dramatic elements of the country’s landscape, with over 200 of them randomly popping up in all parts of the country, so that even the least intrepid of travellers are likely to see a few of them?
Admittedly, they are fairly unobtrusive most of the time, quietly adding impressive beauty to the horizon for sure, but otherwise marginal. Unless, of course, you are of an energetic, hiker frame of mind, in which case they offer a wonderful opportunity to see untrammelled nature up close – to ford remote, meandering streams, to rub shoulders with and study strange flora and fauna; and, if you have the stamina to reach the top, to savour spectacular views.
Either way, it is worth noting that they often pose serious dangers as well. Over 20 Philippines volcanoes are still active and several of them rank as among the most deadly volcanoes in the world. Ah, that gets your attention, doesn’t it?
What is the truth about them? Are the country’s volcanoes a blessing or a menace?
First a few simple facts: The name “volcano” stems from the Roman’s mythological god of fire, known as Vulcan, and they are aptly  described as “ruptures” sudden breaks – in the earth’s surface, big gaping holes which open to allow various unpleasant underground products – namely hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases – to escape from fiery magma chambers deep below.
More than 600 volcanoes around the world have erupted during the last 2,000 years, often with disastrous results. Every traveller will have heard some details of the world’s most famous eruptions, from Mt Vesuvius, which buried Pompeii, sited on the Gulf of Naples, Italy (which buried the city of Pompeii, killing 3,500, in AD 79) to Mt Krakatau, in the Sunda Strait, Indonesia (which laid waste to a staggering 36,000 in the surrounding area in 1883),
Today the vast majority of the world’s volcanoes are inert and of no more concern to travellers than any non-volcanic mountain. But there are still some 50-70 volcanoes active each year, with an average of 20 volcanoes erupting at any given time.
Eruptions most often occur where the earth’s marvellous tectonic plates start moving restlessly about so it is no surprise to find that a vast number of volcanoes, including many of the most deadly, are situated on the so-called “Ring of Fire” which runs from New Zealand north through Indonesia and the Philippines up to Japan, then east across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska and southwards down to Chile.
On this ring, Indonesia is even more “blessed” with volcanoes than the Philippines and fully 5 of the 10 most deadly eruptions in history have occurred on its islands.
Among the most important volcanoes in the Philippines are two monsters: the 3,000 metre (10,000 ft) Mt Apo, which is the highest peak in the country, located some 30 miles outside Davao city and designated a national park (it is home to 272 species of birds included the critically endangered Philippines eagle); and the slightly shorter Mt Kanlaon, (2,500 metres / 8,000 ft), boasting the third greatest number of eruptions – 26 – in the heart of Negros island.
But for many travellers it is three smaller volcanoes which are most likely to feature in their itineraries, starting with the magnificent Mt. Mayon, famous for its perfect cone shape, right next to Legazpi city airport; Mt Taal, a hour south of Manila, which is unique for being a volcano in the centre of a lake which itself fills a volcanic crater; and Mt Hibok-Hibok, on tiny Camiguin island, which has 8 volcanoes in total, more per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world.
But all three of these picturesque volcanoes are still active and can wreck havoc – led by that same sublime Mt. Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines, erupting over 50 times in the past 400 years, with a single eruption in 1814 killing 1,200 people; Mt Taal, boasting 33 eruptions, including one in 1911 that left 1,335 dead; and Mt Hibok-Hibok, which erupted and killed 500 people in 1951.
The most recent deadly eruption in the Philippines occurred in 1991, when Mt Pinatubo exploded near Angeles City, an hour north of Manila, and killed 800 people.
Today the Philippines study of volcanoes is centralised in the agency known as PHILVOLCS, the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, which has greatly helped to reduce the the impact and damage of the eruptions.
But the fires rumble on across the land, with concerns about possible eruptions being regularly reported, making the Philippines wonderful volcanoes both a joy to behold and a cause for some concern for travellers.