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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Sawa for Cagsawa

Standing in front of the Cagsawa Church ruins. The cloud enshrouded mountain behind us is Mayon Volcano
Getting off to an early start, our day began with a 5 AM check in at the Naia 3 Airport. We were, all 3 of us, flying out to Legaspi City in Bicol. This was to be the staging point of our bucket list trip to Donsol, a mere as 45 minutes away by car, and also the Whale Shark Capital of the World.

Up and at 'em for our latest adventure

The flight was quite uneventful, except for our 2 year old MAX's refusal to put on his seat belt. It wasn't his first time to be strapped in a vehicle, but it was his first plane ride.

As our plane closed in on Bicol, I was quite fascinated by the view from above. The deep greens, alternating with the various shades of browns and yellows in the terrain, the hills and the nipa huts, the morning sun casting a glow into the cumulus clouds in the deep blue sky...it somehow reminded me of Fernando Amorsolo's landscape paintings of the Philippine countryside. For a city girl like me, this was an awe-inspiring sight!
hakuna matata in an airport?! only in Bicol

As we disembarked from the plane, into the small local airport, I noticed an unhurried gait among the locals and those getting off the plane. There was just something immediately familiar and comforting with our surroundings. It also probably  helps to have the view of the near perfect cone of Mayon as the backdrop to our arrival.

Parking area upon entering the site. There was a 10 peso/person entrance fee to the place.

Our tour guide / driver from Eco Donsol Travel and Tours met us promptly right after we collected our luggage. As agreed upon earlier, we were to take a half day tour of Cagsawa, Daraga, Mayon and Legaspi. We skipped a visit to the Mayon View Deck as we were told  that it opens at 8, which was still an hour away. we didn't bother to wait, as clouds had already descended on Mayon's peak, making it difficult to see it anyway.

So off we went to see the famous Cagsaua Ruins. There is no visible boundary dividing Legaspi and Daraga, which is like, 15 minutes away from each other. The University of Bicol actually lies in both these towns, making it an inside joke to it's students that going from one building to another, you would have to travel to another town.
dressed in white, we were sooo ready for the summer heat...pleasantly surprising though, it was a cool morning when we got there
It was the perfect time to visit the ruins as the early morning sun wasn't that hot, but pleasantly warm. There was a cool breeze blowing that morning as well, which made walking around the area enjoyable. It was also a plus that we were the only tourists at that time, making our explorations of the place, our very own.
our local guide, Edward had a few non-photoshopped tricks up his sleeve
Expect kids or teenage locals to approach you as you start snapping pictures. I assure, they will give you historically accurate facts of the place and help you create cool fun pics with any camera! We were so impressed with our local guide Edward, that for 15 minutes of his time, I think we tipped him P200 and still felt like we were shortchanging him.

super guide Edward

the pathway leading into the ruins of the seminary that stood beside the Cagsawa Church

back in the day, before the modern day cement was invented,  builder's lime and egg whites were used to construct this church

MAX, Phil and I got to check out the picture perfect  Cagsawa. Though we had a lot of fun getting our pics taken, one couldnt help but think of the tragedy that unfolded in this area. 

a reminder of the tragedy that took place in the area almost 300 years ago
In 1814, Mt. Mayon, in the province of Albay, the Philippines, erupted and devastated the surrounding communities. This is what remained of the Cagsawa church, whose bellfry has remained standing as a mute testimony of the enormous disaster caused by flowing lava. Some 1,200 people sought sanctuary in the church, thinking that they would be saved from the fury of Mayon volcano. All of them died. One could imagine that, in their last moment, they struggled to climb to this bellfry as others below tried to pull them down.  (source: Wikipedia)

What's left of Fray Francisco Blanco's room.  According to our guide, he was the priest officiating the Mass when Mayon erupted in 1814
A window at the seminary ruins
volcanic rock thrown out by Mayon
Resort right smack beside Cagsawa Park
As fun as our visit to Cagsawa Park was, we had a date with the whalesharks at Donsol. Taking a quick peek at the Daraga Church (a church built by the womenfolk of the area), it was time to pass by the nearest BPI atm and the closest Jollibee for a quick breakfast, prior to the next step of our voyage, the 45 minute ride to Sorsogon.

Daraga Church
Overall, our Bicol Vacay was the highlight of our 2010 escapades. Beautiful, educational and more, we hope to come back once again and check out the other points of interest of the place. With all the sights and activities in the area, not to mention the food (try the endemic Pili nuts...they're the bomb!), we truly will never be sawa (grow tired of) with Cagsawa and Bicol :)
On cloud 9 from visiting Bicol
Oh, and just in case you miss out on taking pictures of Mayon Volcano in all it's glory, don't fret. The waiting area  for departures at the Legaspi Airport gives you a really great view of it.
A Room With A View
View of Mayon from the plane

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!!!

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