The Cagsawa Ruins and the Beautiful Mayon Volcano

She’s so beautiful. The moment we emerged from the tree canopies and the clouds lifted, there she was, the perfect cone volcano that we’ve only read about. We’ve seen the photos. We’ve  heard the stories. But nothing prepared us for this moment. We were in awe upon seeing Mount Mayon. To use the more current language, OMG, she rocks, big time! That’s literally figuratively speaking.

[See also The Majestic Mayon Volcano: Philippine Travel Stories]

Lava, lahar and volcanic boulders flowed down Mayon Volcano on 1 February 1814, the most destructive recorded eruption of Mr. Volcano. The people from the town of Cagsawa, found at the foot of the volcano, sought refuge in the church. The pyroclastic flow unfortunately destroyed the whole town, including the church and the adjoining convent. Only the church tower survived. Some 1,200 people perished in Cagsawa during that eruption.

An eruption in 1993, the last major eruption, resulted to the death of 70 people. It’s ironic that something this beautiful also caused, and will most probably cause, great destruction.

Mt. Mayon is one of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes, with 49 eruptions since the first documented activity in 1616. The worst recorded eruption resulted to the tourist attraction that we now know as the Cagsawa ruins. Another irony.

What we see today is the remains of the belfry, the scattered walls of the old convent, and the volcanic boulders that rolled down the volcano.Tip: We arrived around lunchtime, so the volcano was already covered by clients. We were told by the locals that Mt. Mayon is fully visible, without cloud cover, early in the morning, preferably between 6-8 a.m. We made sure to drop by early on our return trip to Manila. The locals were right. Success.

Mount Mayon, which rises 2,462 meters (8,189 feet), is a stratovolcano known for its almost perfect symmetrical triangle shape. It’s located right in the center of the Albay Province, almost four kilometers before reaching Legaspi City. It’s 460 kilometers south of Manila, around 10 hours of leisurely driving. It’s less than an hour drive if you’re spending summer vacation in Pili, wakeboarding at the CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC) or around an hour if you’re watching the butanding in Donsol.

The Mayon Volcano is considered as one of the natural wonders of the world. It’s a sight to behold. The beauty of Mayon is reflected even in its name. “Mayon” is derived from the Bicolano word “magayon”, which means “beautiful.” Yet, it’s just another mountain for many of us. Just another feature of the landscape. Perhaps we cease to appreciate what’s always there. And that’s probably why clouds usually cover Mt. Mayon.

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