PHILIPPINES — Camalig Mayor Carlos Baldo, Jr. said in a statement that he understands the importance of their Pinangat Festival, but his main responsibility is to ensure the safety and welfare of his fellow constituents.

Mayon, the Philippines’ most active volcano, situated in the southern part of the main island of Luzon, 500 kilometers south of Manila, began spewing ash and rocks on June 8 (Thursday), forcing thousands to flee their homes.

Albay province in southern Luzon suspended schools and offices after the volcano, known as the world’s perfect cone, erupted.  

The residents have been moved to classrooms and churches to escape the eruption.

“Soon after we heard a loud sound, everything turned dark and we saw ash everywhere,” said Glen Marquez, 39, a taxi driver in Albay province.

“I hope I can still remove the ash by sifting it. But still, this is an added work,” businessman Leonardo Dela Cruz, 34, told.

Philippine authorities were evacuating more than 2,000 cows and water buffaloes to minimize potential losses in case of a major eruption.

“It’s not only people that should be brought to safety but their farm animals too,” Albay provincial veterinarian Manny Victorino.

Amid Mayon Volcano’s unrest, more than 7,000 people across 2,169 families have been evacuated to designated public school buildings and evacuation centers in Albay as of Saturday, June 10, reported the state welfare bureau.

Forced evacuation began on Friday according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Alert Level 3 over Mayon.

“We’re not scared of it,” the 76-year-old said. “We’ve learned to live with it.”