Philippine Reflections: Taal Volcano’s Majestic View – But Beauty is Skin Deep

On February 2010, I went to the Philippines and I met a lot of people to network and potentially collaborate with to increase giving to the Philippines. I also joined several medical and surgical missions there.  I have tracked down over 21 medical and surgical missions from the US, New Zealand and other countries with over 200 Filipino and non-Filipino doctors and medical professionals joining these various missions in 15 different islands throughout the country.

I also went to Hong Kong and met with over 15 Filipino community leaders of various Filipino hometown associations based in Hong Kong.

I will be writing the next five blog entries regarding my personal reflections, insights and lessons that I’ve learned during that trip.


Dale Asis standing in front of the majestic view of Taal Volcano

On Jan 28, 2010, my aunt Mely and uncle Manny took me to visit  Taal Volcano, one the world’s deadliest volcanoes to peer down into its majestic view of multiple craters.  The ancient crater look so surreal like a set of Russian dolls, with the volcano encircled within its own little crater lake, itself containing a small island. We were standing on a high ridge above the volcano in Tagaytay, Cavite and I could feel the winds blowing from the South China Sea. They were cool and thoroughly refreshing.  The volcano was truly a wonderful sight to behold!

The volcano is located just 120 miles south of Manila so it was a short drive away. However, I noticed on our drive towards the Tagaytay ridge that the road was increasingly surrounded by upscale homes and condos that would not look out of place in San Diego, CA  or Vail, Colorado. Billboards touting upscale living also lined up the drive towards the volcano.

Several upscale residences lined up the highway towards Taal Volcano

Then my aunt Mely took me to a posh hotel for lunch but as soon as I walk inside the hotel door several touts where handing me brochures of upscale real estate for sale in the area. One of the pamphlets even mentioned: “This low-rise condominium community is inspired by the mountain resorts of Colorado region…” These homes were certainly being marketed for Filipinos in the US and in the diaspora and I looked like a primed target to buy one! I politely declined their sales offers.

But what’s really striking I could find shantytowns and squatters living right below the posh billboards that were touting luxury lifestyles. It seems that the facade of upscale living is only skin deep and if I scratch just below the surface, I could find poverty stills surrounds me in the Philippines.

Upscale lifestyle billboard along the highway to Taal Volcano

Slum dwellings underneath upscale lifestyle billboard

I’m sure that not everyone could afford the view of the volcano with the upscale surroundings of the posh hotel. So after lunch, I asked my aunt to take me to the public park where everyone else could enjoy the view of the volcano. I was shocked to see the public park in total disrepair!  The  roof of the park’s welcome center was going to be cave in anytime soon with the ceiling patched up all over with plastic tarp.

Lone cashier welcomes guests to Taal Volcano Public Park Center with falling ceiling in the background

I wasn’t expecting the public park to look like the Millennium Park in Chicago where the city of Chicago spent $450 million dollars to built it.  But the public park looked more like a war zone than a park to be enjoyed.  It had one dirt path that led you to the ridge to view the volcano.  The park was devoid of any patch of grass. Hundreds of families with their picnic coolers lined up every inch of the park.

I stood there comparing the two views that I just saw – the view from the posh hotel and the view from the public park.  At the posh hotel, I had a fantastic view with all the amenities but that beauty is skin-deep, only for those who could afford it.  For the poor, they have to settle at this dismal public park with no public facilities whatsoever.

However, despite the dismal conditions of the public park, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, the families relishing their picnics and exchanging laughter among their friends. I guess this is how most Filipinos cope and survive through the generations despite the tragic division of those could afford and those who are poor.

About daleasis

President of the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide
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2 Responses to Philippine Reflections: Taal Volcano’s Majestic View – But Beauty is Skin Deep

  1. Will says:

    A very interesting study in contrasts. I’m looking forward to your next posts about your trip!

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