In a pearl-shaped island south of the Philippines, Sardine Boy cheated death when fate took his side one morning. He lived to tell his tale of how a can of sardines became his key to life.
Sardine Boy, also known by his real name Benito Aclo, is now an 80-year-old man living in the foothills of Mt. Hibok Hibok in the island of Camiguin. Why he chose to build his home near the same volcano that could have ended his life more than 60 years ago, he didn't tell. What he chose to tell BBC instead was how he escaped the clutches of death while the volcano swept away his village and his family.
Aclo recounted how he was often sent by his mother on errands since he was the family's middle child. So just before dawn in December 1951, 12-year-old Aclo went down the mountain to buy sardines for the family. Just as he was off the path, the volcano decided to shake his destiny and take away the lives of the people in Ilihan village, including Aclo's entire family, making him the town's sole survivor, eventually known as Sardine Boy.
Sardine Boy wanted to return and save his family then but he was evacuated to Davao City, Southern Mindanao. About 500 to 3,000 of the population is believed to have been killed in the eruption. Since the bodies have been buried away under the layers of lava, the Ilihan crater has become the resting place of those killed.
Mt. Hibok Hibok has not erupted again since then but it still remains one of the Philippines' active volcanoes with Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ), according to Rappler. That means they can spew ash anytime within the designated area. Sardine Boy, just like most Filipinos, didn't flinch from death nor from life despite carrying a painful past. He had a wife of more than 60 years and raised seven children.