How the Taal brouhaha started
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - October 25, 2011 - 12:00am

What do you think of a giant sign that spells Batangas on the slope of Taal Volcano a la Hollywood in California?

Even I am not for it.

But I’ve learned not to quickly pass judgment on issues. At least, not until I’ve studied the rationale behind the entire scenario.

It is with interest that I followed this most recent controversy (very minor though) concerning Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto and her governance.

First of all, it is about Vilma and what Pinoy is not interested in the Star For All Seasons? And then it also concerns a volcano and I’ve made it no secret that I am fascinated with these unpredictable creations of nature.

The Philippines is an archipelago dotted with volcanoes. But the two most famous will always be Taal and Mayon.

Mayon is majestic  with its near-perfect cone. It is the most beautiful  the Shamcey Supsup of volcanoes.

But its beauty  geologically speaking  has no permanency. One day (it may or may not occur in our time), during a really violent eruption (heaven forbid!), its summit may just collapse. If that happens  and hopefully it doesn’t  there goes the pride of Bicolandia. A piece of me will die since I trace some roots to Sorsogon.

Too bad, Imelda Marcos is not in power anymore to have that rebuilt in the eventuality.

In the case of Taal, which has almost 50 cones and craters, that volcano island may change shape, as it had in past major eruptions, but that spot in the middle of the lake will always remain scenic.

Taal, the volcano and the lake, is full of mysteries. There was a theory in the past claiming that the Tagaytay Ridge is part of the volcano’s mouth and that the foot lies actually in Metro Manila. No one bothered to pursue that study anymore. But this only proves that there is so much more to learn about Taal.

That most photographed and postcard-pretty crater, called Binintiang Malaki, is actually dormant. That is where the huge Batangas sign patterned after the one on Hollywood Hills is supposed to be erected. Oops, let’s go back to that supposed to be part.

When I eventually checked on this matter and had it confirmed by no less than Gov. Vi, the very origins of this brouhaha that erupted more violently than Taal’s killer 1911 eruption turned out to be a mere spec of dust as tiny as one of those nestling on the volcano’s many slopes.

It was just a germ of an idea being tossed around that leaked out  no thanks to an interview given by Batangas Vice Gov. Marc Leviste. How that came out of Leviste’s mouth is the latest addition to Taal Volcano’s numerous mysteries.

Well, in due fairness to the vice governor, he had enough gentlemanly manners to defend Gov. Vi and tried to make a clarification that she had nothing to do with the Inquirer interview he gave earlier about putting up that Batangas sign on Taal.

He had, in fact, apologized to the good governor, who unfairly got the brunt of public opinion, especially on the Internet, because  well  she is Vilma Santos. Understandably, she will always be an easy target since she is a famous movie actress.

So what is that Batangas sign issue all about? Gov. Vi in a private conversation confided to me that it was just part of a study. There was nothing concrete about it. And definitely, no budget yet, which will always be the go signal for every government project.

This was another classic case of so much ado about nothing.

Honestly, even I formed my own ideas in my head, but I did not immediately put this down to print for other people to read.

The controversy made me analyze the territorial issue between Batangas and Tagaytay City. Batangas owns Taal Volcano and the lake. However, it is Tagaytay that had always benefited from this panoramic view.

A tourist will always go to Tagaytay, which is more accessible  and with cooler climes to boot  for a better view of the volcano and the lake. That has generated so much income for Tagaytay not only in terms of tourism, but also in real estate.

It’s lonely at the top, but, hey  what a view!

I can understand where the government of Batangas is coming from. The volcano belongs to them. When Taal goes on a temper tantrum that is going to be their problem. Think of disasters, evacuations, relief goods and all the possible danger to lives and properties.

And Tagaytay? The coffers of this city on a ridge will get fatter as tourists flock there to have a better  and safer  view of a restive Taal giving a spectacular show of fireworks.

While Batangas does the expensive and tedious mopping up operations in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, Tagaytay will merrily be counting its income generated from tourism.

I can only hope no one ever suggests that a barrier  this time a la Great Wall of China  be built to block Taal’s view from Tagaytay!

The Batangueños actually have something to gripe about this geographical twist of nature. Who says that life is fair? Even topography plays favorites.

So what will the Batangas government do to further promote tourism in the province? Gov. Vi admits wanting to push Taal Volcano and the lake as a tourism project to be beneficial to her constituents. (There are ruins under its waters that could be developed into dive sites.)

Without necessarily being an ecological menace  since the governor is basically an environmentalist  what the Batangas government wants is to provide more jobs for Batangueños in that area.

In the process, boosting local tourism may also rid its famous lake of those fish pens. Yes, the very cause of that infamous fish kill that plagued the province not so long ago.

What swept over Batangas the past week was no fish kill, but an overkill  of views and opinions regarding what is actually a non-issue.

It was a mere proposal that would have been shot in mid-air eventually after a series of serious discussion among the members of the provincial council.

In spite of the mountain of criticisms unfairly heaped her way, Vilma says that she is smiling her way through it all  confident of the fact that in the hearts of the Batangueños, they are aware that their governor will always be after their best interests.

Reviewing her 14 years as a public official  as a mayor first (of Lipa) and now as Batangas governor  I am sure even those who ridiculed her for this “mere study” regarding Taal Volcano will agree that her record has yet to be tainted by talks of massive corruption and other charges being thrown at every other politician even in the barangay level.

And now that the air hopefully had been cleared, I can only pray that we all return to our normal activities, forget about this “mere suggestion” with regard to Taal Volcano, but in the process remember all the good deeds Gov. Vi had done for her beloved Batangas province.   

  

ALWAYS BATANGAS BATANGAS AND TAGAYTAY CITY BATANGAS GOV BATANGUE TAAL TAAL VOLCANO TAGAYTAY VOLCANO
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