ALBAY, Philippines (UPDATED) – What do you think about illuminating Mayon Volcano and then naming its lit version as "Aurora Bicolaris"?
A Facebook page called Majestic Mayon had posted a video that broached this idea on June 21. It was peddled as a “a sure game-changer to Philippine tourism and economy,” which will contribute to the national target of 40 million tourist arrivals, generate P30 billion revenues in the next 5 years, and create 6 million new jobs.
The video, which had 46,000 views as of last week, was no longer available as of posting. There was a poll on the same Facebook page, asking netizens whether one preferred normal light or dancing lights to brighten the volcano, which was also no longer available.
What remained of the proposal is a petition on change.org called "Light Up Mayon Volcano" tracing the idea to Ako Bicol party list and Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara.
It is addressed to the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, and the Tourism Promotion Board.
The petition said: "MAJESTIC MAYON LIGHTING PROJECT is envisioned by Ako Bicol Partylist and Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara which is in line with the Duterte Administration’s national goal in providing more jobs and sources of livelihood for all Filipinos especially for all Bicolanos,” through tourism.
Bichara's spokesperson, Danny Garcia, clarified that the project was solely Ako Bicol's idea, and that the governor's office did not endorse it in any way.
"That information in the petition linking the governor's office to the project idea is not true," Garcia said.
To petition has drawn over 200 signatures, to date.
Provincial Tourism Officer Dorothy Colle said they had yet to receive any directives in relation to the proposal.
She also said that on June 25, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) invited AKO Bicol to present the project but it didn’t push through due to short notice. The presentation may take place during the next PAMB meeting on August 14, she added.
Legazpi resident volcanologist Eduardo Laguerta said that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Albay recommended to AKO Bicol, in writing, that such a plan should involve public consultation and a consideration of its environmental impact, especially as the volcano is a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law.
Netizens who watched the video on the project before it was taken down had mostly negative reactions to the proposal.
While there were those who said the proposal deserved a chance, there were practical ones who cited the effect of lighting up Mayon on nocturnal animals in the area, the amount of energy it would consume, and how volcanic activity would destroy the light fixtures and waste taxpayers' money.
Instead of illuminating Mayon Volcano, they suggested lighting up streets and isolated areas that still had no electricity. They also couldn't help but ask how lighting a more than 5,000-hectare landmark could happen when the province had power supply issues.
Why not astrophotography?
While the Mayon illumination project remainedjust an idea, some travelers suggested promoting astrophotography in Bicol region to attract more tourists.
Joms Santos, a traveler who is into astrophotography, believed there was a big market for it.
“A lot are fascinated with astrophotography and Mayon is a perfect subject,” Santos said.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Mae Gucilatar
“If there are easier ways in Albay to do the Milky Way shots via tours, I’d definitely join,” he said.
Santos said commuting posed a challenge because public transportation was not available 24/7.
A photography hobbyist who had been to Bicol several times was able to capture a Milky Way shot with Mayon in Tabaco City, thanks to a relatively remote farm that offered lodging.
Laurie Gucilatar, the person who took the photo, said the proposed illumination of Mayon would make capturing the Milky Way more challenging but still possible.
Dos Ocampo, a Manila-based video producer, liked the idea of lighting up the volcano for photography, but if it would disturb animals and consume a lot of electricity, he would rather keep it naturally lit. – Rappler.com