Fascinating and frightening - that's how I will describe this book. I love how Thomas Hargrove detailed all his diving expeditions in Batangas, how he dug through historical records and how he pieced together the puzzle of Batangas' old history. I have many realizations through this book.
1. Many have underestimated the fury of this volcano. In 1754, Fr. Francisco Bencuchillo wrote, "We left the town [of Taal], fleeing from this living picture of Sodom, with incessant fear lest the raging waters of the lake overtake us." Taal Volcano has changed the landscape of the province. Case in point, what was once a portion of Pansipit River became a part of the town of Lemery.
2. There are solid evidences of the 'Lost Towns.' What were once thriving towns of Lumang Lipa, Bauan, Tanauan and Taal sunk underwater and forced the inhabitants of these towns to relocate to their present site. Hargrove and his fellow divers found the fort, the [church] wall, the site of the miraculous Alitagtag cross. In the forest of Bauan, they found church ruins and the artillery room used by the Spanish. The town of Sala was never found.
3. The young generation of Filipinos should learn about our history and protect it. Hargrove worries about the human destruction that can come to the historical sites they found. To date, the sunken church of Taal is below fish pens. I wonder how the sites are now. I hope they are in good condition. By the way, Hargrove also hinted that in Paoay, Ilocos, there is also a sunken town.
4. There are treasures in Philippine literature. Hargrove first got the hint of the sunken ruins through a Batangueno legend. They found the site of old Tanauan through a song used in the dance subli. Wow, just wow.
I read this book through to the last page. Hargrove's writing is detailed and at times, humorous. He partnered with an archeologist, a music historian, a diver and many more scholars. He did not mention a linguist, that would have been helpful to him since a number of his discoveries were from the hints from the toponyms. I also think that if he were alive today, he would have marveled at this untamed volcano.