Taal Volcano, The Philippine Islands
Lots of aspects of both colonial cultures endure to this day, whether it be the overt Catholicism, or the US chains that populate from bygone times, like Kenny Rogers Roasters or Wendy’s. The Philippines has its own take on these: try Jollibee for the nation’s favourite fried chicken, for example, or the public ‘Jeepney’ buses which are modified Jeep front ends with the cab elongated to take passengers, usually with a new Japanese engine, and covered with religious iconography.
Within the Metro Manila area, I was interested in seeing Intramuros, the walled historic part of the original city, strategically important and which literally means ‘within the walls’ in Spanish. It was originally inhabited by just 600 Spanish families, walled away from the rest of the city. Whilst a lot of it was destroyed in World War Two, what remained was authentically rebuilt around the San Augustin Church – just about the only intact building left.
A “Philippine Lamborghini”
The city is the perfect place to stage a trip out to Taal Volcano, a unique place on Earth, being both the smallest volcano and the largest third-order island in the world. That is to say, there are three tiers, being: an island within a lake, within an island within a lake, within an island (itself in the Pacific Ocean). After a 20 minute boat crossing of Taal Lake, our guide Elmer takes on a trek up the side of the crater within Volcano Island, which takes about an hour. He is wearing only flip flops, but does the trek 2 or 3 times a day – and has done so for over twenty years. He takes us on a little known route (he says ‘secret’), which I initially take with a pinch of salt. After the trail all but disappears into the undergrowth, and we fail to see another soul on the whole island, I revise this opinion. After the lip of the crater, there is a final descent down to Main Crater Lake crossing the boiling and barren atmosphere of the volcano. From the edge, you can swim in the hot sulphuric water and see out to Vulcan Point, the final island. We walk a short way around, catch our breath, and take photos. It is an amazing atmosphere, watching such abundance of flora and fauna, together with the fountains of steam, charred wood, and boiling water jetting out of cracks in the rock. All you can hear is birdsong and silence, cattle grazing, as you watch the dense untouched jungle sway in the wind.
Tour of Intramuros via Bambike: https://www.bambike.com
More info on Taal Volcano can be found at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/philippines/tagaytay-lake-taal/activities/taal-volcano/a/poi-act/1449894/1318424