Opinion

We Should Stop Calling Taal the World's Smallest Volcano

It could very well be one of the world's largest volcanoes.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Generations of Filipinos have been misled by postcards, textbooks, and geography curriculum that propagated the idea that the smallest volcano can be found in the Philippines, and it is called Taal Volcano. Most of these show Binintiang Malaki, one of the volcano’s 47 craters. What is currently erupting is Taal's main crater. 

Taal Volcano is a complex volcano system, which means the volcano does not have only one main vent, but multiple vents through which ash, lava, or magma can come out. The picturesque Binintiang Malaki has erupted multiple times in recorded history: First in 1707, then in 1715, 1749, and 1754. 

Here is Binintiang Malaki, photographed from Tagaytay:

 

Photo by therealbrute | Flickr | Wikimedia Commons.
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And here is an aerial photograph of Taal Volcano’s main crater, with the much smaller Binintiang Malaki below it.

The real Taal Volcano is everything inside the caldera surrounding the entire Taal Lake 

After the initial eruption of Taal Volcano on January 12, people began posting pictures identifying the main crater as the real Taal Volcano, and not Binintiang Malaki. These memes and supposed trivia are false, because Binintiang Malaki is also Taal Volcano, along with every other magma vent that may manifest or become a crater in Taal Lake.

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According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), Taal Volcano is not only composed of the volcano island inside Taal Lake, but also includes the entire caldera surrounding Taal Lake. This means that we have been fooled: Taal Volcano is hardly the smallest volcano in the world, it could very well be one of the largest.

The Taal Lake has an area of 23,420 hectares, making it the third largest lake in the Philippines after Laguna de Bay (93,000 hectares) and Lake Lanao (34,000 hectares).

How large is Taal Volcano compared with other volcanoes in the Philippines?

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In this diagram circulating on social media, a size comparison between the actual Taal Volcano and Mayon Volcano is shown. The present volcano in Taal Lake is not as tall as Mayon, but is much wider. Taal’s caldera measures 25 kilometers across, while Mayon’s base measures roughly 17 kilometers across. Mount Pinatubo’s caldera measures 2.5 kilometers across. 

With such a compelling epiphany on geography that we should have had in grade school, we concede that we don't have the world's smallest volcano. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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