Mt. Hibok-Hibok at Camiguin Philippines

Mt. Hibok-Hibok is the lone active volcano in the island of Camiguin Philippines. After its last eruption, the Philippine Government created the Commission on Volcanology known as PHIVOLCS (Philippine Institute of Volcanology & Seismology) and a PHIVOLCS Observatory Station was established on this fiery resident in order to monitor any unusual seismic activities for the safety of visitors and residents of the island.

camiguin

photo by benny_yap

The furrowed flank of Mt. Hibok-Hibok rises majestically behind the capital town of Mambajao. The sharp-edged ridges, down whose sides run deeply cut channels from past magma flows, pose a great challenge to mountain climbers. One has to be seasoned enough to climb and manoeuvre over loose rocks and boulders in order to reach the volcano’s peak and be rewarded with the sight of its crater lake and a spectacular vista of the entire island of Camiguin. On a clear day, one can see on the horizon the silhouette of its neighbours, the island of Bohol, Cebu and Negros.

Around the summit of Mt. Hibok-Hibok are several small craters filled with water. These craters were small cracks in the volcano’s peak, where once lava flowed, and which hardened into bowl shapes and eventually filled with water and formed shallow lakes. Being active, numerous steam vents and outlets are at the sides and apex of the volcano.

camiguin

photo by benny_yap

The volcano can be approached from its base in Barangay Esperanza in the municipality of Mambajao. Climbers have to traverse dense forests and springs that bubble out of the ground. Different varieties of plants, especially ferns, grow under the cool shade of the trees. The sides of Mt. Hibok-Hibok, which were deposited with volcanic ash and other volcanic materials, were rendered very fertile. The famed sweetest lanzones of Mambajao and other crops are cultivated on these rich slopes.

Past Eruptions

The 1st recorded eruption was in 1827 and caused damaged to crops and properties. In 1862, Mt. Hibok-Hibok again erupted and its subsequent flows of lava damaged crops and properties and the death toll reached 326. The lava flowed out swiftly towards the sea and some people drowned trying to escape its fiery path.

camiguin

photo by benny_yap

After a period of restful sleep, Mt. Hibok-Hibok again showed signs of seismic activity. In January of 1871, subterranean rumbling sounds were heard and earthquakes occurred at the northern end of the island. The earthquakes resulted to landslides destroying trees and plantations; fissuring on the earth’s surface swallowed up more trees and crops and forever changed the contour of the land.

Earthquakes ceased in April of 1871 and so the residents were lulled into believing that everything was now ok. Most of the local residents though have fled the area during the onset of the tremors brought by the earthquakes. But to the utter dismay of the remaining residents, the side of Mt. Hibok-Hibok exploded!

camiguin

photo by benny_yap

Blasts of smoke belched out from the vent bringing with it a shower of rocks, dust and ashes. Magma flowed out, boiling down the mountainside and destroyed everything on its path up to 3 kilometers away. For a week, the spewing of lava continued from the vent and slowly a new volcanic dome was formed. The dome was 2.17 miles or 3.5 kilometers from Mt. Hibok-Hibok and it was called Vulcan. After four years of seismic activity, the dome reached a height of 1,500 feet or 457 meters with a base of nearly 0.93 miles or 1.5 kilometers in diameter.

In 1897, after 26 years of inactivity, Mt. Hibok-Hibok again exploded and this time emitted sulphurous vapours which ruined all nearby crops. This emissions and seismic activity continued until 1902 when an explosion again occurred and a new vent was created opposite the crest. Subterranean rumbling sounds continued for 10 days and again the volcano rested.

camiguin

photo by benny_yap

46 years later, Mt. Hibok-Hibok again erupted. The eruption was minor and caused little damage. Yet, in 1949 of the following year, it erupted again and subsequent earth movements caused landslides and the death toll reached 79.

The last recorded major eruption and so far the most violent, happened in the morning of December 4, 1951. It was deemed a Peleean type of volcanic activity, named after the ferocious explosion of Mt. Pelee in the island of Martinique in the Carribean. A cloud of gas billowed out from the crater accompanied with rocks, dust and ash while boiling lava viciously rolled down the slopes with a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius, inundating everything on their path: trees, houses, animals and people.

More than 2000 lives were lost and damage to property and structures amounted to millions of pesos. Many were found as though they were asleep and others were covered in volcanic ash and were preserved or mummified. Some died by asphyxiation when oxygen was consumed by the billow of gas and carried high up in the air leaving the people without air to breathe in.

Destroying many villages on its path, the lava flowed out and covered almost 10 square kilometers of land. You can view these lava flows from the road between Mambajao and Yumbing.

After this fatal eruption, the population of the island dropped to about 34,000 from 69,000 before the eruption occurred. For fear of further eruptions, many left the island and settle somewhere else. The PHIVOLCS station was then installed on Mt. Hibok-Hibok to monitor its activities. Slowly life on the island regained its normal pace. Population grew and the provincial government are now into developing Camiguin’s resources for tourism pursuits.

photo by benny_yap

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