Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rediscovering Daraga, Albay: Cagsawa Ruins

       A visit to Albay would not be complete without a stopover at the Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, Albay. It is a church that was destroyed by the eruption of Mayon Volcano some 200  years ago and for some reasons, only the belfry survived even up to this day. The Municipality of Daraga is located in the south-west portion of Albay Province along the Maharlika Highway, making it accessible from Manila and the Visayas, as well as the other municipalities of eastern Bicol Peninsula. It is bounded on the north and east by Legazpi City, on the south by the Province of Sorsogon (particularly the municipality of Pilar), and on the west by the Municipalities of Camalig and Jovellar. This is one of the top attraction in the province. It is a mute witness to many calamities that the Albay province had endured. It's a proof of the province's resiliency.

       In February 1, 1814, Mt. Mayon began its most violent and deadly eruption to date. During the eruption, some 1,200 people took refuge in the stone church of Cagsawa. Unfortunately, all perished when lahar and pyroclastic flows engulfed the church. Only the belfry of the Cagsawa church remains as a grim and silent reminder of that fateful day. For almost two hundred years, it has withstood the test of time and the elements to become one of the most recognizable landmarks of Albay Province. This landmark landed a spot in the country's new 100 peso bill.

       Parts of the actual church aside from the belfry are still visible up to this day. These ruins has so many stories to tell. Albay's vulnerability to typhoons prompted the local government to  become a model to disaster management. Albay was lauded both in the national and international level for its approach to different calamities. And did you know that the province even put up a Climate Change Academy? Yes, there is! It's the first of its kind in the country, located inside the Bicol University in nearby Legazpi City.

Cagsawa Church belfry
       The site of the Cagsawa ruins is a park managed by the municipal government of Daraga. It is actually the most visited tourist spot in the town. Visitors from Albay and the "bakasyunistas" can enjoy the classic postcard view of Mayon Volcano with the Cagsawa belfry in front. Aside from the ruined belfry and the huge volcanic boulders around the area, visitors can also find several souvenir shops offering a colorful assortment of native products such as handbags, mats, shirts and handicraft made from indigenous materials like abaca. Exotic flowers and orchids are also on sale. There are some local photographers in the area which offered some creative shots for a minimal fee. And the place is a perfect spot for a close up view of the Mayon Volcano. Entrance fee to the park is PHP10.00.

Mayon Volcano
How to get there?
       From Legazpi City, Cagsawa is approximately eight kilometers away from the Legazpi central business district. Take a jeepney (preferably the ones going to the third district (Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao, Libon, Polangui, Oas) and ask the driver to drop you off at the junction of the highway and the road going to Cagsawa in Barangay Busay, Daraga. Look for the large Cagsawa signage at the right side of the road. There are tricycle drivers just beside the Cagsawa signage and tell them to drop you off at the ruins. The fare is PHP 10.00 each but it may depend on how many are you in the tricycle.

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