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19 April 2018

Visit to Mount Mayon

Without a doubt Third Culture Kids (or TCKs) get life experiences most of us only hear about on documentaries. It has been said they are “citizens of everywhere and nowhere” and they often grow up with a love for travel.

In January this year, Mount Mayon was on the local and worldwide news as once it again it was erupting. Ben Rae, a TCK in the Philippines, had the opportunity to see it first hand and shares his experience:


Mount Mayon is a volcano that is far from Manila, near a town called Legazpi. Mayon is one of the most perfectly cone shaped volcanoes in the world.

On January 24th this year my Mum and I decided to make the 26 hour drive there and back to see the volcano. Because I am homeschooled my schedule is quite flexible. It was kind of a last minute idea to go – my parents’ friend actually suggested it but then they couldn’t go so my Mum decided to go anyway. We couldn’t book any hotels to stay in because we didn’t know how big the evacuation area was and it was really hard to get that kind of information on the internet. So we took a small tent and a change of clothes and left on a Tuesday afternoon. About 2 in the morning we pulled over to the side of the road and kind of snoozed for a few hours until the sun came up, not sure what we would see, if anything.

At first we really couldn’t see anything – we discovered later that it was because there had just been a fairly large eruption at 6am and all the ash was blowing west, right where we were. It was amazing to see everything covered in this white ash – buildings, plants, cars. You should have seen our black car – it was so hard to see out the windscreen. But then all of a sudden as we slowly drove on it cleared.

We then drove to Cagsawa ruins. There used to be a town there until the 1800’s when a really big eruption destroyed it all and now all you can see is the bell tower of the church. It was just outside the 8km evacuation zone and gave us a perfect view of the volcano.

The whole time we were there we could hear this noise that sounded like an aeroplane flying in the sky above, but it was actually the continual noise of Mayon rumbling under the ground. You could also feel it in the ground. About 10am we saw our first eruption and a huge ash cloud climbed into the sky as we watched. We talked to a lot of the local people living there and they told us that at that time there was an eruption every 6 or so hours. We also learned that all the ash clouds seem to blow west so everybody living on that side of the volcano gets covered in the ash, which can then get really dangerous when the rainy season comes and creates dangerous lahar that can bury houses, farms, villages etc.

Because one of my home school courses is photography, we also really wanted to stay until it was dark and see if we could get some photos of the lava erupting. You can’t see it during the day, even though it’s there. Only at night time can you see the red glow from the lava coming down the side of the mountain. There were so many reporters and professional photographers there and everyone was really friendly and had their own stories to tell. We even got interviewed by one of the reporters and mentioned in his article! I think at night it was really spectacular. Around 7pm there was another eruption and you could actually see the lava spurting out of the top, as well as the flow going down the mountainside. It really was amazing – and we got some shots we were happy with!

Less than 24 hours after arriving we decided just to get back in the car and head home overnight again to avoid traffic. Normally I hate being in the car for so long, but I think I slept most of it, and because it was just me and Mum it was alright. It was a really cool experience and I’m definitely glad we did it. I guess it’s not every day you get to see a volcano erupting in real life!

Will you pray for the Philippines?

  • For TCKs like Ben as they receive education which may be different from those available in their passport country.
  • For their parents to be sensitive to their children’s needs while being involved in their own ministry.
  • For the right peeople to join the dwindling staff at the two main international schools where many of our TCKs study in the Philippines.

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