Manila: A couple getting married in the Philippines over the weekend witnessed a surprise guest at their wedding.
In what has made for dramatic shots that have since gone viral on social media, Chino and Kat Palomar exchanged vows in Cavite province on Sunday under a gigantic cloud of smoke and ash from Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes.
“The mood was surprisingly calm despite the large billows of smoke that were already prominently visible in the ceremony area,” said Randolf Evan, the wedding photographer.
Evan related how the volcano began spewing smoke an hour or two before the wedding started, and said ash began to fall on the party toward the end of the ceremony.
More than 24,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes from the volcanic island on which Taal is located south of central Manila, and in the area immediately around it — normally a popular tourist spot.
Social media users responded with amazement to the shots of the bride and groom and their party in a white canvas tent lit with fairy lights under billowing clouds streaked by lightning.
“Kudos to the wedding planner,” read one jokey comment. “This is going to be tough to top.”
Despite the alarming backdrop, Evan said the bridal couple were little affected.
“They were actually relaxed and collected throughout the whole wedding,” Evan said. “We later found out their wedding was eight years and two kids in the making, so this day they planned for was going to be special no matter what, with or without the Taal volcano’s intervention!”
Tens of thousands flee
The volcano near the Philippine capital spewed lava into the sky and trembled constantly on Tuesday, possibly portending a bigger and more dangerous eruption, as tens of thousands of people fled villages darkened and blanketed by heavy ash.
Government work was suspended and schools were closed in a number of towns and cities, including Manila, because of the health risks from the ash. Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.
The continuous restiveness of the Taal volcano and several new fissures cracking the ground nearby likely means magma is rising and may lead to further eruptive activity, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.
The volcano was spurting fountains of red-hot lava 800 meters into the sky, and the massive column of ash and volcanic debris at times lit up with streaks of lightning.
The alert level since the eruption began Sunday has been 4, indicating a hazardous eruption is possible in hours to days. Level 5, the highest, means such an eruption is underway.
About 50 volcanic earthquakes were detected over eight hours on Tuesday, indicating rising magma, the institute said. It also warned heavy and prolonged ash fall was possible in nearby villages.
“The speed in the rise of magma is important [in determining] when the volcano will have a strong eruption and if it will slow down and freeze,” said Renato Solidum, who heads the institute. “As of now, we don’t see activities slowing down and the earthquakes still continue.”
The picturesque volcano in the middle of a lake in Batangas province south of Manila rumbled to life on Sunday in a powerful explosion that blasted a 15km column of ash, steam and rock into the sky. Clouds of volcanic ash blowing over Manila, 65km to the north, closed the country’s main airport Sunday and part of Monday until the ash fall eased.
More than 500 international and domestic flights were cancelled or delayed due to the overnight airport closure, affecting about 80,000 passengers, airport manager Ed Monreal told The Associated Press.
“Hopefully wind direction does not change. As long as the ash fall does not reach us, then we can be back to normalcy,” Monreal said.