Wedding takes place against eruption backdrop
Story by, BBC News
13 January 2020
A major volcanic emergency is taking place in the Philippines, but one couple decided not to let it get in the way of their wedding plans.
Chino Vaflor and Kat Bautista Palomar were booked to get married on Sunday at a wedding venue only a short distance from Taal, one of the country's most active volcanoes.
As the ceremony was about to get under way, it was clear that Taal was also coming to life, belching steam and ash many kilometres into the air.
Wedding photographer Randolf Evan told the BBC they had "no prior notice at all" that something was about to happen.
"We noticed white smoke coming out of Taal during preparations around 2pm and from then on we knew something unusual was already going on with the volcano," he said.
'Everyone was calm and relaxed'
Later on Sunday, Philippine authorities raised their alert to the second-highest level, warning an "explosive eruption" could taken place in "hours to days".
People within a 14km radius of the volcano were told to leave. An estimated 450,000 live within that zone.
The wedding venue was only about 10km from the volcano, but Mr Evan said they all felt they were "definitely safe as the venue was on higher ground and not directly around the volcano's vicinity".
Not only did the wedding go ahead, but the after party as well. Guests have shared photos on social media of people casually digging into the buffet under a marquee draped in lights, with the growing cloud of steam in the background.
Some of their videos show lighting strikes inside the vast plume looming over the venue.
"We could feel the ash raining on our clothes," said Mr Evan. "But it didn't feel alarming until night time came when it became a bit heavier and mud-like."
Despite that, no-one decided to skip the celebrations and head to safe territory, he said.
"Surprisingly everyone was calm and relaxed. It was an intimate wedding so guests were mostly the couple's family and close friends, and thus nobody really left."
On Monday, the nature of the eruption changed and became even more dangerous, as fountains of lava were seen spewing from it.
Mr Evan told the BBC that everyone was now safely out of the danger zone.
He said he had been a professional wedding photographer for eight years, and "this one is definitely a story to tell".
"It's a mixture of thrill and sheer amazement on how it has unfolded for us. In the end, I'm just grateful to have experienced such a unique moment in my career."