Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cagsawa Ruins - Daraga, Albay


Cagsawa Ruins
Cagsawa Ruins
Cagsawa Ruins. Ever since I was a child I have always wanted to visit the Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins. Seeing this majestic place on paintings and post cards was never really enough for me. And so we traveled to Bicol to get our very own souvenir photos. Here in the 2nd part of DonPoyo.com’s Bicolandia Special, I’ll take you to the Cagsawa Ruins located in Daraga, Albay, Philippines.


Mayon Volcano
Mayon Volcano

I have always pictured the beauty of the almost-perfect coned Mayon Volcano along with the belfry of an old church. The 18th century Franciscan Cagsawa Church built in 1724 was destroyed by the eruption of the Mayon Volcano in 1814. The remnants of this church are currently being protected in a park that is being taken care by the municipal government of Daraga and the National Museum of the Philippines.


The Cagsawa Ruins is one of the two famous tourist destinations in Albay were you could see the awesome view of the Mayon Volcano, the other one being the Lignon Hill in Legazpi City. We wanted to visit both of these places so that if ever there were a lot of clouds covering Mayon Volcano when we are at Lignon Hill, we could try our luck in the Cagsawa Ruins or vice-versa since they said that it’s often difficult to see the full cone of the volcano, especially in our situation when super typhoon Lawin was within the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Since the PNR Bicol Express train that we took was delayed by five hours, my girlfriend and I decided that we can only visit one of these tourist spots… and so we headed for the Cagsawa Ruins.

Park Entrance
From the PNR Naga Station, we took a tricycle and paid around P40.00 to the Naga Central Bus Terminal. In this bus station, there are a lot of buses that would pass by the Cagsawa Ruins but based from the reviews that I have read online, board any air-conditioned bus that is bound for Legazpi and you will not lose your way. I took this advice, boarded a bus bound for Legazpi, paid P120.00 and once in a while, we reminded the kind bus conductor to drop us off in Daraga where the Cagsawa Ruins can be found. Communication-wise, you don’t have to worry since Bicolanos can speak Tagalog fluently. Alternatively, you could also take the minivans which can be found near SM City Naga which are also bound for Legazpi but I believe the fare is a bit higher compared with buses.

Too many clouds =(
During our bus trip that took around 2 hours and 45 minutes, I was really worried since there were really huge clouds covering almost half of the Mayon Volcano which can be seen from the left side window of our bus. The bus we took dropped us off on the side of the main highway in Daraga where you could find a lot of tricycles that would take you to the Cagsawa Ruins proper. Earlier this year, they said that there was a bridge that was under repair and you could only walk to the ruins but in our case, it was already fixed so we took a tricycle ride and paid P20.00.

Jimaynahs Kainan
At the entrance of Cagsawa Ruins, there is a small booth where you have to pay P10.00 per head as entrance fee. When we arrived, the peak of the volcano was still covered with huge clouds so we ate some soft-served ice cream sold near the entrance gate just to pass some time. Around five minutes later, the volcano’s peak was almost visibile, but still, that was not yet a perfect cone for us so we decided to have our lunch first.

There was another objective that we had in mind for visiting Bicol. This was to challenge their authentic Bicol Express and Laing that the region is famous for. Laing (Taro leaves in spicy coconut milk) has always been one of my favorite dishes. People say that it’s a whole lot spicier but much tastier in Bicol. So we had our lunch at Jimaynah’s Kainan and Halo-Halo, an eatery inside the Cagsawa Park. We ordered a group serving of Bicol Express for P150.00 and Laing for P80.00. I was satisfied with their Bicol Express which was really spicy and yet very delicious at the same time. Their Laing was somehow lacking the flavor that I was looking for since they used fresh Taro leaves instead of the usual dried ones as its ingredients. It was good too but it was not spicy enough and I was not convinced that this was the best that they had to offer. My quest for the best Laing here in Bicol has yet to be completed.
         
 
       
Bicol Express


Laing

As soon as we had our lunch, the clouds around Mayon Volcano have already cleared up. My friends told me that we were really lucky since there are a lot of tourists who end up disappointed for not being able to see the entire cone shape of this volcano. So we savored the moment and took a lot of pictures with the volcano as our background. We also explored the entire park and took pictures of the Cagsawa Church’s ruins.

         
             Some ruins behind the church
Beside the Church's Belfry












There are a lot of interesting things around the park aside from the actual church’s belfry. There are some cool rocks scattered around, a grotto and a huge cross. We really had to be creative right there and then and took awesome pictures before the volcano was covered with clouds again.

              
                 The Crucifix
The Grotto

Souvenir Shops
After taking our pictures, we then checked out the souvenir shops inside the park. If you are on a tight budget, I suggest to buy your souvenirs outside the park since they are less expensive compared to the prices on the shops inside the park. We bought a lot of chili-shaped key chains, some decorative magnets, and of course, some cool Bicol-Inspired T-shirts. 

Don’t forget to buy some sweets for your friends and loved ones back home! I recommend Eden’s sweets shop just a few meters from the park’s entrance. Their Pili Nut products and sweets are really good and costs less compared to the other sweet shops and they also sell souvenirs.

          
                Eden's Sweets
Eden's Souvenirs












Great view of Mayon's Landscape
At the end of that afternoon, we took a tricycle back to the highway and boarded an air-conditioned bus bound for Naga. If ever you have any difficulty catching a bus, my friend suggested that you could take a jeepney to Legazpi City and head to their bus terminal where you would find a lot of buses bound for Naga.

The marvelous view of our very own Mayon Volcano that I have seen for the very first time has been instilled in my heart and mind. That beautiful sight which could still be seen on the right side of the bus on our way back to Naga was really worth all that waiting and long travel. It’s definitely more fun in the Philippines!


Budget: Php 500.00 ~ Php 1000.00
Food Rating: 8 out of 10
Experience Rating: 10 out of 10

Cagsawa Ruins
Barangay Busay, Cagsawa,
Daraga, Albay, Philippines
  

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