This is the best word to describe how I felt when I first saw Mayon Volcano when I arrived in Legazpi City. My first glimpse of the famed beauty was through my window seat while we were taxiing along the city’s sole runway. The beauty that Mayon Volcano holds up close, when I de-planed, cannot even surpass the pictures and postcards that I have seen when I was younger. Her dominance on the Bicol landscape cannot compare to any beauty that I have seen.
It was a cool November morning when I boarded a Cebu Pacific flight for Legazpi City. I was full of anticipation and excitement because it was my first time in the city and that I have planned out the exploration/vacation a long time. I did my research and I had an itinerary to go through. It was a great opportunity for me to discover the city and the volcano that I had known only from the books that I have read.
Arriving in Legazpi City Airport, the first thing that greeted me was the dominance of Mayon Volcano. It is a sight to behold. I was in awe of her beauty and majestic landscape that looks over her domain – the Bicol region.
Legazpi City is the largest city and the regional center of the Bicol Region. It is the city closest to Mayon Volcano, famous for its symmetrical cone and the most active volcano in the country. The city is the center of trade, industry, education, and tourism in the region. The city is the kick-off point to many tourism spots in the Bicol Region.
Cagsawa Ruins is one of the famous images of Bicol. It is a testament of nature’s duplicity – that of beauty and of destruction. In the height of Mayon Volcano’s eruption in 1814, some 1200 townsfolk of Cagsawa sought refuge in the church, only to be buried in lava. On the site now stands the Cagsawa Park, a mute testament to nature’s fury, with the church’s belfry and exterior walls still standing.
The park is a major attraction since it also offers a great view of Mayon Volcano. Jon, my guide, gave a little trivia that the park actually stands only 10 kilometers away from the base of Mayon Volcano. He also said that the best time to view the volcano is during the early mornings when clouds do not cover the mouth of Mayon Volcano. He said that I was actually lucky that at the time that I was there (about 10 am), Mayon was still in full view because usually clouds will already start settling in. I think Mayon Volcano just wanted to give me a full welcome.
The people in the surrounding community are enterprising, as well, for within the vicinity of the park are various shops where one can find souvenir of different kinds. One can also find a selection of plants and abaca weaved products. You can also sit down for some snacks in the area.
One of the interesting enterprises in the park is the creativity of the younger ones whom you will get to meet as you enter the park. These young boys or girls will serve as your personal assistants and guides as they show you around the park. They will provide helpful information about the ruins and they will also volunteer to take your pictures. These pictures are “trick shots” and they are very creative on how they do it. I had my own share of posing as directed by my camera director, Jon. They do not charge for the assistance that they give but I recommend that you practice discretion on giving them tips – it is also their way of earning a little extra.
In the midst of the beauty lies a solitary wooden cross. I asked Jon what the wooden cross was about and he explained that the wooden cross was installed their in memory of the people who died in the area during the onslaught of typhoon Reming in 2006. He said that the park became a refuge for most residents during the lahar flows and flooding in the area.
He said that a lot of people lost their lives in 2006, some 300 are still unaccounted for.
Headed back to Legazpi City, I passed by the quaint town of Daraga, Albay. The town is the typical town where the center of trade and economy is found at the center of community. But this town holds a true gem – one that would forever captivate my heart, the Our Lady of Gate Parish Church.
Perched atop a hill, the Baroque structure captures a splendid view of the surrounding town of Daraga. From the church’s point, one can see a magnificent view of Mayon Volcano. It was unfortunate that the façade of the church was being refurbished during the time of my visit but still the whole picture was a sight to behold – it is a view that would capture the heart of any photographer.
Getting to the church is not easy, because the church is located a bit distant from the center of commerce and is partly hidden. One needs to ask for the direction towards the church. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to get to the church. But once you’ve reached the church steps, the view will make you feel like you are in a movie set.
The interior of the church is relatively simple. The front of the church is void of all fancy. A simple altar is found at the front and another sanctum houses the Saints where devotees can give their adoration.
Our Lady of Gate Parish Church is a beauty to behold with its Baroque architecture against the unadulterated view of the majestic Mayon Volcano. It is really one of the churches where the view and scenery is simply heavenly.
Old Albay District
The Old Albay District happens to be the center of politics in Albay Region. The town is adjacent to Legazpi City and it is about 3 minutes away from the city by public transport. Like any other town here in the Philippines, the main artery of the town is found at the town center. The Albay Provincial Capitol, Legazpi City Hall, and St. Gregory the Great Cathedral are located around Penaranda Park, the town center.
You would see a number of residents spending their quality time at Penaranda Park. The park has a great view of Mayon Volcano and it is ideal for an afternoon stroll or to just while away time on a lazy afternoon. The Liberty Bell is also located within the park premises.
Another landmark found at the town center is the St. Gregory the Great Cathedral. It is also called the Albay Cathedral and it is the Episcopal seat of the Diocese of Legazpi.
Similarly, the interior of the church is void of any fancy. A simple and yet elegant altar is located at the front while a different sanctuary can be located on the sides of the church where the other images of saints are stationed. During my visit, a throng of young Bicolanos were all preparing for their First Holy Communion. You could really feel the devotion and excitement of the young ones and their parents as the young ones anticipate another coming of age.
Sto. Domingo Black Sand Beach
When I plan my exploration vacations, I always make sure that I include a visit to the beach as much as possible. I am a water person and I love the beach. Most people enjoy the white sand beaches, hence the fascination for Boracay and Bohol. The Bicol region has its own share of beaches to boast and Legaspi City and the towns around it have their own selection. However, their close proximity to Mayon Volcano has given them a fare share of black sand beaches.
Sto. Domingo, a town north of Legazpi City, is the closest place that I could visit to check out their black sand beach. It is famous for being the resort town of Albay and the birthplace of Potenciano Gregorio, a musician who wrote the anthem of Bicol “Sarung Banggi”. The town is only a thirty minute ride from Legazpi and getting there is quite easy.
Sto. Domingo is a typical Philippine town where politics, economy, and religion all melt into one central location of the community. In this set up, you would usually find the church, market, municipal hall, and town plaza at the center of the community and Sto. Domingo is no different.
The Parish Church of St. Dominic de Guzman is the most prominent landmark of Sto. Domingo. The church was built in 1820 with its massive walls built with lime, albumin, and molasses. It was built through force labor and was a product of sweat, tears, and blood.
The interior of the church is a reflection of simplicity. A simple altar design of Jesus Christ at the front is actually enough to reflect the religiosity of the townspeople. Again, another sanctum for worship is set aside for the other images of saints.
Across the street, one will find the Municipal Hall and the town plaza of Sto. Domingo. The town plaza is a large open area where the community can spend a lazy afternoon with the other residents. It also has a shrine dedicated to their beloved Potenciano Gregorio, a simple reminder that a quaint town can produce a person of great importance.
Beside the municipal hall is the public market, a small business venue for their daily transactions for their personal needs. From the market, one can already have a view of the beach front of Sto. Domingo. In fact, one can walk to the beach from the town center.
My desire to get to the beach led me to walk about 500 meters from the town center to a resort aptly named “Sarung Banggi”. It is a small resort in town that offers huts for rents and room accommodations. It is by the beach front and offers a great view of the jet black sands of the beach and a view of Legazpi City.
It was a great day for me to commune with nature. The peace and serenity of the place, as well as the great food (which I will be sharing in another entry), was enough to make you go into soul searching. It was a great place to relax and get refreshed.
My interest on Legazpi City and the famed Mayon Volcano started this trip for me. It was an interesting mix of excitement and anticipation as I was doing my research prior to my visit. Interesting sights does not only surround Legazpi City but within the city itself. My walking tour of the city also revealed a lot of interesting facts about the city.
Lignon Hill is the closest observation point of Mayon Volcano in Legazpi City. The hill stands at 143 meters and offers a great view of Mayon Volcano and the city of Legazpi. Hiking the hill is a great early morning workout and coupled with a great companion, it will also be fun. Once you reach the summit, it will give you a rewarding view of Legazpi City and Mayon Volcano.
The management of Lignon Hill has also lined up a couple of exciting activities for those who have the heart for adventures. A Zip Line and Rappelling Station have already been set up and they are also offering ATV runs to the base of Mayon Volcano.
You can cap off your early morning exercise with rice cakes and buko juice at the base of Lignon Hill. What can kick off your Legazpi day to a good one – a great cardio workout, a refreshing view of Mayon and Legazpi City, and a great healthy breakfast.
At the base of Lignon Hill is another main attraction of Legazpi City, the Albay Park and Wildlife. It is a great place to have a picnic with the family and a great way to introduce wildlife to kids because the park houses 75 species of animals. Going around the park, I was actually surprised to see that they are also housing a tiger in the park. Various activities are also available for the family like biking and boating.
Going around the city is easy and you can identify the different landmarks in the city. In downtown Legazpi City, you can find the Bichara Silver Screen, one of the oldest mall and movie house in the city, Rizal Park, and a number of old malls. You can also take a tricycle to bring you to the newest hang out place in the city – Embarcadero.
Embarcadero is a new complex located along the Legazpi Harbor Area. The location offers a breathtaking view of Mayon Volcano, with the Kapuntukan Hill or Sleeping Lion Hill behind you as the backdrop. It offers a variety of food and retail establishments and is fast becoming a great place to hang out with friends especially in the evening. It has now expanded its offerings with a Zipline across the waters of the harbor.
For a great shopping experience for “pasalubongs”, you can head off to Tahao Road or the public market and find a lot of abaca weaved products, pili nuts, and beaded necklaces. I got myself a necklace with a sili pendant to remember my visit here in Legazpi City.
One can end the trip with a prayer of thanksgiving by visiting the Church of Legazpi or the St. Raphael Parish Church, found at the heart of Legazpi City. The pre-dominant theme of the church altars in Bicol is that of simplicity and the church is no exception. A major attraction of the church is that the altar is made from hardened lava. The religiosity and the simplicity of the people of Bicol are all embodied in the way they designed their churches - despite the simple and humble designs is a great devotion to the Savior.
I was in complete awe when I saw Mayon Volcano up close. She is beautiful at whatever angle you look at her. What makes her more attractive is her command over the Bicol landscape. Rising solely above her territory, she dominates every inch of the scenery and just simply captivates you. She looks over her land like a goddess ready to defend her territory.
On my way back from Sto. Domingo to Legazpi City, I chanced upon a monument that caught my fancy that I actually asked to be dropped off so I can have a closer look. The monument is in memoriam of the people who lost their lives in the aftermath of Typhoon Reming in 2006.
The contrast of Mayon’s beauty at the background against what the monument symbolizes is an eye opener for me: the beauty of Mayon Volcano cannot be refuted as she guards her land, however, her wrath can come in extreme fury that it can allow devastation on her land just to prove that life still moves on despite of every wretched pain she brings about.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.