LEGAZPI CITY – Pushing forward up unto a heap of volcanic rocks left there by Mount Mayon’s latest big eruptions in the 1990s and early 2000, Swedish seaman Ted Litens, 44, scaled the ‘lava wall’ again in Legazpi City, Albay to get a closer look at the perfect cone in the distance. Litens regularly enters Mount Mayon’s six-kilometer permanent danger zone.
Litens, who is married to Marian Hernandez-Litens, 45, a native of Donsol, Sorsogon, comes home two to three times each year for two to three months when he is off from work to an apartment they rented in Rawis, Albay for his son Bruce, 10, and Mount Mayon.
“Look at that,” he said with admiration on his face while pointing to the perfect cone of Mayon. “How could you not love that?”
Sweating from his exhaustion and wet with rain, Litens traveled on a motorcycle to the lava wall from Ligñon Hill in Legazpi City, some three to five kilometers deep into the permanent danger zone, before climbing up the steep wall made of volcanic rocks.
Love at first sight. Litens intends to fulfill his long-time wish of seeing a volcanic eruption live. He said he wants a front seat view for the spectacular natural calamity by entering the 6-km danger zone in barangay Mabinit, Legazpi City.
He said he first saw the majestic volcano when he landed in Albay in 2004 on his way to Donsol, Sorsogon to snorkel with the whale sharks (butanding) as a licensed advanced open water diver with an international firm.
“It was love at first sight,” he sighed.
He said it was his first time to see a volcano, something that his native Sweden does not have.
“We don’t have disasters like yours in Sweden, only floods. Our hurricanes are not as strong as your typhoons. I’ve always been interested in nature, its power. You realize how small you really are, you are powerless compared to what nature can do,” he said.
It was also around this time when he met his wife, becoming friends with her for some years before they got married in 2008.
“When she took my hand in Manila while she was helping me work for the extension of my visa, I just knew right then and there that she was a nice girl and that I wanted to marry her,” he said.
After their wedding, they established a home in Donsol, Sorsogon and bought a piece of land which they converted into a resort, he said. Daredevil Whenever he comes home to Bicol, he never misses a chance to visit Ligñon Hill Nature Park and the lava wall at the foot of Mayon. “I want to see an eruption. I want to see it live,” he said.
He said he found the route in Mabinit when he decided to follow the path that the ‘lahar’ or the mudflow from the slopes of the volcano which usually occur after heavy rains take.
Litens said he missed both the eruptions in 2006 and 2009 by just days. “I missed the 2006 eruption by a week and the 2009 eruption by a day because I was at work in the ship,” he said.
He said he once planned to climb the volcano but changed his mind after the phreatic eruption in 2013 killed five tourist mountaineers. He said it upset him that the volcano erupted without his presence. He is not taking any chances this time. He said he hopes to see lava flowing down the volcano soon.
“I hope when she erupts it would not be so explosively because it would affect many lives,” he said. Despite the danger and his wife’s admonitions, he said he still often climbs the lava wall to sit on the helipad at the top there. He also takes motorcycle rides on the roads hugging the base of Mayon.
“I do not have a death wish. I have a family to take care of. I just want to see it,” he said.
He admitted that he does not take any precaution and does not carry protective gear with him whenever he makes his trips to see Mayon.
He said all he has for an escape plan in case the volcano erupts while he is at the lava wall is to “ride like hell” on his motorcycle. Now that Mayon is having a prolonged ‘gestating period’,
Litens admits that he feels bit frustrated. “I am afraid I might miss the eruption a third time,” he added.
Becoming Bicolano. Litens said he plans to apply for Filipino citizenship after he retires from his work as seaman. He plans to retire in Bicol, particularly in Sorsogon, with his wife after his son is already able to finish school and finds work to sustain himself. He said other than Mayon and his wife, he loves the Philippines for the friendly and helpful people he came to love.
“I say, Filipinas are good women. They make good caring wives,” he said.