Mt. Isarog: A volcano with literary significance

NAGA CITY---Despite the possibility of its eruption after hundreds of years of dormancy, Mount Isarog has played a significant role in Bicol culture, especially in literature.

Isarog, rich in resources and beauty, reportedly slept after its last eruption 900 years ago based from the result of radiometric dating implemented by the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The objects used for carbon dating were numerous pieces of volcanic stone found in the towns surrounding Mt. Isarog.

However, Dr. Paul Karson Alanis, Phivolcs senior science specialist said Mt. Isarog is an active volcano and included as one of the four major volcanoes in the region, including Albay’s Mayon Volcano, Rinconada’s Mt. Asog, and Sorsogon’s Bulusan Volcano.

Phivolcs considers a volcano as active if the land form, like Mt. Isarog, remains dormant within 10,000 years, despite the absence of volcanic activities such as volcanic tremors.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jesus Cyril M. Conde, Ph,D., chairperson of the Department of Literature and Language Studies of the Ateneo de Naga University confirmed Mt. Isarog’s cultural importance.

Conde said in the cities we have huge influence of Christianity but when we go up to the foot of Mt. Isarog, we can see something different. For instance, some indigenous people of Villaflorida in Ocampo town spent more time in rituals related to nature spirits than attending masses.

He said, these exercises mean Bicol culture is a hybrid culture as it is very varied.

Based from his research concerning strong practice of oral literature in Villaflorida, the people there still practice oral tradition in telling stories of their old beliefs and it is more powerful than television shows.

Conde, as a researcher, discovered the old narrative about Isarog where the tree of Sadab was planted by the Creator to protect the springs, spilling water supplies downwards.

The narrative described the tree as the largest among the trees in the forest of Isarog, which branches spread one square meter wide.

The tree is a venomous tree, killing everyone, including animals, who will walk through its shadows. The locals admitted the presence of numerous skeletons under its branches.

They believe that this tree protects the springs from desecrating humans because once these water sources are abused, people living around the mountain will die by flooding.

A large bird called lunggawe is the only bird that can perch above its branches.

Based from the story, the bird snatches calves and stallions for food, using its claws which reportedly looked like the peeled outer cover of coconut.

The ancient tale is contrary to the facts describing nature and its importance although, both serve as an awareness in promoting cultural and environmental preservation.