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Cuernos de Negros: The Sleeping Giant

Merell Lystra L. Recta | Feature Writer

Have you ever climbed the dangerous pathway to the magnificent Cuernos de Negros or locally known as Mount Talinis? Have you ever wondered what it would feel like and what the view would look like from the mountain top?

Despite all the beauty that it brings, have you ever thought of this majestic beauty to be the cause of havoc on the peaceful nearby cities?

Being the favorite trek for mountaineers in Negros Island and the second highest mountain in Negros next to Mount Kanlaon, the current physical condition of Mount Talinis caught the attention of Prof. Francisco E. Ablong Jr, chairman of the Silliman University Physics Department.

This huge volcano located only 20 km from Dumaguete City is said to be potentially active, according to the international scientific agency United States Geological Survey and our local scientific agency Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS).

In a lecture by Prof. Ablong last Aug. 23 at Science Complex 110, he emphasized that this potentially active volcano is showing signs of an impending eruption.

In the recent temperature test that he did last Aug. 20, he found out that the area is exhibiting an unusual change in temperature.

Moana, a young student who lives in Valencia, also observed that a lake within the area dried up—another sign that the magma is approaching the surface causing the increase of soil’s temperature explained by Prof. Ablong in his lecture. Also, photos taken by Prof. Ablong of Mount Talinis revealed that there are already some parts without trees which only indicate the gradual death of plants near the peak due to the increase of temperature.

Prof Ablong further explained that Mount Talinis is categorized as a stratovolcano which can give off more viscous lava and has much explosive debris emitted from a central vent. A fluid that has a high viscosity has a higher resistance to flow—thus, lava will silently move out. Also, our very own Mount Talinis has a similar feature to that of Mount Vesuvius, the infamous volcano that destroyed and buried the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In PHILVOCS’ recent data, Mount Talinis exhibits a solfataric activity wherein there is a quiet escape of hot, sulphur-rich gases from the bottom to the surface of the soil.

Prof. Ablong stressed the importance of why we must be aware of what is happening around our environment.

For many years now, Mount Talinis has remained dormant and has not released any signal of volcanic activity. In reference to a widely accepted scientific fact, this ‘resting’ period is only accumulating pressure which could result to a greater destruction.  The more the volcano rests, the more energy it can accumulate and the more destructive it can be given that there are also residents living in the nearby towns.

In addition, tremors were detected within the area but not ones that are alarmingly high. There are also not much release of volcanic gases.

Prof. Ablong stressed that earthquakes are not always due to the movement of tectonic plates but it can be due to volcanic quakes as well. However, volcanic quakes are usually undetectable if instruments are far from the mountain such as in the case of Mount Pinatubo where only when the instrument was brought on the peak did they discover the numerous quakes happening deep inside.

On the other hand, Prof. Ablong pointed out more tests are needed in order to precisely verify the current status of this sleeping giant volcano.

If ever the inevitable happens sooner, we can still lessen the damage through equipping ourselves with knowledge about how to prepare ourselves whenever a disaster comes, especially those who live near disastrous areas such as volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and beaches.

“No construction of structures or buildings near the peak,” advised Prof. Ablong.  He added that as much as possible, the government should take into consideration the geophysical nature of a proposed location of a building or establishment.

Will the operation of the Energy Development Corporation(EDC) help in avoiding the actual eruption from happening?

“It is helping but in terms of percentage, maybe only about 1 percent,” explained Prof. Ablong.

The magma inside our own Mount Talinis is voluminous that even though there is an exhaustion of heat gathered by EDC’s power plants, which is then converted to electricity used by the community, it is not the magma itself that is reduced in this process. Perhaps, if you lay wondering and might feel secured that Mount Talinis is unlikely to erupt because of EDC’s operation, think again.

Because our country’s technology is still not at par with other economically rich country’s high-end technology, even our most brilliant scientists cannot pin point the exact time a volcano erupts yet, only predict. Although pieces of information about Mount Talinis’ possible eruption are quite alarming, there is no need to panic and be paranoid. We must take note that citizens who are fully equipped with knowledge cannot be easily defeated.

This sleeping giant might be our generation’s greatest possession because of its captivating beauty and power-producing capability yet it can also be our generation’s greatest threat leading to our destruction.

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