LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Kenneth Jesalva, a 21-year-old tour guide and mountaineer, promised never to set foot on Mayon volcano again.
“Never!” said Jesalva following yesterday’s explosion that resulted in the death of four Germans and a fellow guide.
Jesalva, a fourth-year criminology student, has been a part-time guide for three years. But he learned the hard way that Mayon could indeed be very unpredictable and treacherous.
Killed were four German nationals identified as Joan Edosa, Roland Tieze, Farah Frances and Furian Stelfer. Also killed was his fellow mountain guide Jerome Berin, a nurse from Malilipot town who his parents said was to be married in June.
Jesalva suffered burns on his back and left foot, which he said were hit by burning rocks.
“I heard a sound similar to a sudden drop of coconuts. Then I heard noise of cascading rocks. But the thick fog clouding us that time blinded us from seeing the falling debris,” Jesalva told The STAR on his hospital bed.
Jesalva said they were eight in the company, five Germans and three tour guides when they left Camp 2 located 1,200 meters above sea level at around 5:45 a.m. yesterday.
When they reached about 1,600 meters, Jesalva said the foreigners had already requested him to go back down to Camp 2 due to difficulty in climbing because of the thick fog.
“But we had merely gone down a few meters in a very slow, careful pace due to the thick fog, the burning rocks as big as our backpacks hit us. I managed to hide from the rocks but was still hit on my back and left foot,” he said.
Jesalva said he saw the foreigners and his fellow local guide hit by rocks.
“Because of the Germans’ big build, they failed to hide as the burning rocks came very fast,” he said.
Jesalva said he really wanted to go back and bring the foreigners down with him.
“But I was also injured and could hardly lift my right arm because of my injured shoulder and back,” he said.
Jesalva said he was still in shock and belatedly realized how dangerous Mayon volcano is.
“I was about to let go, my hands clinging to a rocky slope due to my injured shoulder, only then I realized how dangerous indeed to climb Mayon. I was cursing Mayon volcano as I told myself never again to set foot here,” he said.
On Feb. 2, 1993, Mayon also exploded without any previous signs of abnormal behavior. The explosion killed at least 77 farmers tending to their farms on the upper slope of the volcano.