Published on

POV Philippines by Jon Joaquin

A volcanic eruption and a wedding

by Jon Joaquin

Like many of my age and older, when Taal Volcano started erupting on January 12, the ash fall reminded me of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 15, 1991. I was still living in Malabon at the time, and on that afternoon the skies turned prematurely dark. When I looked at one of our home’s windowsills, I noticed it was covered with powdery stuff that we would all find out later was the ash that Pinatubo had unleashed. For a while we were afraid that the ash would be so thick it would suffocate us; fortunately we could still breathe, but many people suffered respiratory illnesses and allergies.

I know it was no laughing matter, but one of the funny things I remember was listening to the radio and hearing one reporter saying the “ash hole” was falling thick in the area he was reporting from. “Ash fall ba ‘kamo (Did you say ash fall)?” the anchor asked, apparently hoping to subtly correct the reporter who was unknowingly using an expletive. “Roger, ash hole, ash hole,” the reporter replied, too caught up in the moment to notice what he was actually saying.

Happening hundreds of kilometers from Mindanao, the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas still affected the island in many ways. The ash fall on the first few days, while not as heavy as that from Pinatubo, was still more than enough to disrupt flights in and out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Hundreds of people, if not thousands, not only suffered cancelled flights but also had to pay for their rebooking because the airlines were not obliged to do it for free since the eruption was an “act of God.” Several of my friends got stranded at the airport as their flights got cancelled or were moved repeatedly.

Even a week after the eruption, airports all over the country still had to deal with delays as airlines scrambled to accommodate those who lost their flights earlier and at the same time keep the schedules of unaffected ones. My own mother and siblings, who were traveling to Davao for my son’s wedding on January 20, suffered hours of delay as the backlog continued to disrupt schedules. There are no data yet on this but I imagine Mindanao – and Luzon for that matter – have lost a considerable amount due to the disruption.

For my wife and me, the eruption brought back memories of our own wedding in 1992 when a strike by air traffic controllers brought flights to a standstill. My mother and aunt were supposed to fly on the weekend before the wedding, but their trip kept being moved. After days of waiting (and being driven back and forth to the airport) they were finally able to fly – landing in Davao City about an hour after the wedding ceremony had already been performed. This time around the “jinx” did not happen and my side of the family happily made it to the wedding.

Aside from Taal’s eruption, other things seemed set to disrupt our son’s wedding, the biggest of which was the death of an uncle-in-law on December 20 – exactly a month ahead. For a while we were afraid that someone would suggest we put off the ceremony. Fortunately the thought never came up and we proceeded as planned. As an “unofficial officiant” (I performed a large part of the ceremony but had to leave the legal parts to a pastor-friend who actually had a license to officiate), I started the ceremony with Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, where King Solomon famously wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.” I continued that the same passage also says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” While the time to mourn our loved ones never really ends, the time had also come to laugh and dance.

As a father officiating his son’s wedding, I think I was expected to give some advice to my son and his bride. I did the opposite: I told them I actually had no words of wisdom to impart to them. Everything I needed to say, I told them, I had already said over the years not just by words but, more importantly, by action. The two of them saw how much I love my wife, and while it was never perfect, it was always earnest and true. In the end, my actions spoke louder than any message or sermon I could have given on their wedding day.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the original author, and do not necessarily represent those of the Pilipino Express publishers.

Jon Joaquin is the Editor-In- Chief of the Davao City-based Mindanao Daily Mirror. E-mail Jon at

Have a comment on this article? Send us your feedback