OUR ISLANDS AND THEIR PEOPLE.
The mountain is remarkable for the perfection of its conic form. Owing to the perpendicular walls of lava formed on the slopes all around, it is not possible to reach the crater. The elevation of the peak has been computed at between 8,200 and 8,400 feet. A good view can be had around the base on the east and south sides, but the grandest is to be obtained from Cagsaua (Daraga). On a clear night, when the moon is hidden, a stream of fire is distinctly seen to flow from the crest.
Taal Volcano is on the island of Bombon Lake. The journey to this locality by the ordinary route from the capital would be about sixty miles. This volcano has been in an active state from time immemorial, and many eruptions have taken place with more or less effect. The first one of historical importance appears
to have occurred in 1641; again, in I7A 9 crater vomited fire with a deafening noise; on the 21st of September, 1716, it threw out burning stones and lava over the whole island from which it rises, but so far, no harm had befallen the villages in its vicinity. In 1731, from the waters of the lake, three tall columns of earth and sand arose in a few days, eventually subsiding into the form of an island about a mile in circumference. In 1749 there was a famous outburst which dilacerated the coniform peak of the volcano, leaving the crater disclosed as it now is
The last and most desolating of all the eruptions of importance occurred in the year 1754, when the stones, lava, ashes, and waves of the lake, caused by volcanic action, contributed tv the utter destruction of the towns of Taal, Tanauan, Sala and Lipa,
and seriously damaged property in Balayan, fifteen miles away, while cinders are said to have reached Manila, thirty-four miles distant in a straight line. One writer says in his manuscript, compiled thirty-six years after the occurrence, that people in Manila dined with lighted candles at midday and walked about the streets confounded and thunderstruck, clamoring for confession during the eight days that the calamity was visible. The author adds that the smell of the sulphur and fire lasted six months after the event, and was followed by malignant fever, to which half the inhabitants of the province fell victims. Moreover, adds the writer, the lake waters threw up dead alligators and fish, including sharks.
The best detailed account extant is that of the parish priest of Sala at the time of the event. He says that about 11:00 oa clock at
night, on the nth of August, 1749, he saw a strong light on the top of the Volcano Island, but did not take further notice. He went to sleep, and at 3:00 oa clock the next morning he heard a gradually increasing noise like artillery firing, which he supposed proceeded from the guns of the galleon expected in Manila from Mexico, saluting the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cagsaysay while passing. He only became anxious when the number of shots he heard far exceeded the royal salute, for he had already counted a hundred times, and still it continued. So he arose, and it occurred to him that there might be a naval engagement off the coast. He was soon undeceived, for four old natives suddenly called out, a Father, let us flee!a and on his inquiry they informed him that the island had burst, hence the noise. Daylight came and exposed to view an immense column of smoke gushing from the summit of the volcano, and here and there, from its sides, smaller streams arose like plumes. He was amazed at the spectacle, which interested him so profoundly that he did not heed the exhortations of the natives to escape from the grand but awful scene. It was a magnificent sight to watch mountains of sand hurled from the lake into the air in the form of erect pyramids and then fall again like the stream from a fountain jet. While contemplating this imposing phenomenon with tranquil light, a strong earthquake came and upset everything in the convent. Then he reflected that it might be time to go; pillars of sand ascended out of the water nearer to the shore of the town and remained erect, until, by a second earthquake, they, with the trees on the islet, were violently thrown down and submerged in the lake. The earth opened out here and there as far as the shores of the Laguna de Bay, and the lands of Sala and Tanauan shifted. Streams found new beds and took other courses, while in several places trees were engulfed in the fissures made in the soil. Houses, which one used to get up into, one now had to go down into, but the natives continued to inhabit them without the least concern or manifestation of fear.
The volcano, on this occasion, was in activity for three weeks; the first three days ashes fell like rain. After this incident the natives extracted sulphur from the open crater, and continued to do so until the year 1754.
In that year, the same chronicler continues, between 9:00 and 10:00 oa clock at night, on the 15th day of May, the volcano ejected boiling lava, which ran down its sides in such quantities that only the waters of the lake saved the people on shore from being burnt. Toward the north, stones reached the shore and fell in a place called Bayoyongan, in the jurisdiction of Taal. Stones and fire incessantly came from the crater until the 2d of June, when a volume of smoke arose which seemed to meet the skies. It was clearly seen from Bauan, which is on a low level about four leagues
The native women of the lower orders have an unpleasant cast of countenance, indicating a surly disposition; but this is due largely to their Malayan features, for they are not as bad as they look.