Friday, August 18, 2006


Any day now, Mayon Volcano is poised to erupt. Its ironic why such a beauty is so destructive, why such soothing sight so fierce. According to legend, the volcano is where Daragang Magayon --- the most beautiful woman in Kabikolan --- was buried by her father Tiong Makusog. The burial mound kept growing until it was able to kiss the clouds where the spirit of Daragang Magayon’s lover Pangaronon dwell. Like the story of Romeo and Juliet, they were ill-fated lovers: boy saves girl, both fell in love, an asshole ruined things, girl has to marry asshole, boy tries to rescue girl, both killed by the asshole. The asshole in this legend is Paratuga who kidnapped Tiong Makusog to force Daragang Magayon to marry him. Both Daragang Magayon and her Tagalog boyfriend Pangaronon died in the botched rescue attempt. It is said that the Mayon Volcano’s eruptions are attempts by Paratuga to exhume Daragang Magayon’s grave to get back the jewels he has given her. Mayon is a shortened version of Magayon and in its slopes is nestled the town of Daraga who’s women are said to be among the prettiest in Bicol.

The province of Albay host some of the country’s magnificent but underrated colonial churches. I always wonder the dearth of historical markers in these fine churches. In other places, totally reconstructed/rebuilt churches have NHI markers (like Bula, Baao and Iriga City in Camarines Sur; and the churches of Manila with the exception of San Agustin church). My visita iglesia in Albay is my own way of atoning for this slight, and a prayer for recognition of these marvelous pieces of architecture so they may live forever. Our visita followed a loop around Mayon Volcano (via Polangui, Oas, Ligao City, Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Legazpi City, Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Malilipot, Tabaco, Malinao, and Tiwi in that order) giving us the opportunity of savoring its beauty on all sides.

PHOTOS: (1) Polangui’s Church of San Pedro and San Pablo, (2) the Church of San Miguel Arkanghal in Oas (built in 1825), (3) Ligao City’s Church of San Esteban, (4) Guinobatan’s Church of the Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion, and (5) Camalig’s Church of San Juan Bautista.

From Camalig, our group --- me, Pare Amor (Bulan’s ninong) and his sidekick Joey, and Pare Dante (Balong’s ninong) --- stopped by the Cagsaua Ruins because Dante who is from nearby Baao, Camarines Sur have never been there (so are we but we are from a distant region). The mission of Cagsaua was established by the Franciscans at around 1587. Fr. Francisco Blanco (OFM) built what are now the church ruins in 1724 that was buried during Mayon Volcano’s eruption in 1814. Cagsaua was eventually incorporated into the town of Daraga. I wanted to take a picture of Mayon and thought that framing it within the bell tower’s window will be perfect. Camera in hand, I climbed down into the bell tower but lost my footing in the slippery stones. As I tumbled down, I covered my precious Olympus Camedia with both hands to protect it from being smashed against the stones. I’ve had some cuts and bruises but except for a small dent on the lens, my camera is intact.

PHOTOS: (1) The old Cagsawa church and (2) inside the ruins of the bell tower; (3) Daraga's Church of Our Lady of the Gate (built in 1884); (4) Legazpi City's Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno (built in 1834); (5) the Church of Santo Domingo; (6) Bacacay’s Church of Santa Rosa de Lima; and (7) Church of Malilipot.

National Heritage: Tabaco City's Church of San Juan Bautista

We stayed overnight in Tabaco City’s San Miguel Island where we were invited as resource persons in a youth summer camp. I woke up early to watch Daragang Magayon slowly emerge from Parangonon’s clouds. She unfolded reluctantly, a regal and beautiful queen. The soft early morning light was good, the still waters of the sea and a moored banca just where I want them. I thought I was able to take a perfect picture of Daragang Magayon and Parangonon in tight embrace that day.

Tabaco was founded by the Franciscans as a visita of Cagsaua in 1587. It became an independent parish in 1664. The church was probably built before 1750 when it was handed to over to secular priests. It has been declared as a national landmark in 1973. It is one of the rare churches where the identification marks of the masons who built it are inscribed on the stones. The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.

PHOTOS: (1) Tabaco City's national heritage, (2) Malinao’s Church of San Joaquin and Santa Ana, (3)Tiwi’s Church of St. Florence the Martyr, and (4) the Joroan Shrine.

The visita around Albay’s colonial churches can be done within a day. My proposed route is Polangui as the entry point then just follow the itinerary discussed above and exit at Tiwi at the shrine to the Nuestra Senora de la Salvacion in Barangay Joroan (to be discussed in a separate posting) into Camarines Sur (passing through the towns of Sagnay, Tigaon and Ocampo in that order before reaching Pili). The Sto. Domingo, Albay to Sagnay, Camarines Sur stretch is a great ride (good roads, no traffic) and offers a magnificent view of idyllic coastal villages, lush terrestrial greenery, and the unspoiled azure waters of Lagonoy Gulf. The only problem I encountered is the lack of historical data about the churches that could have helped in mapping-out the visita. This is my usual dilemma on Franciscan-built churches.

As we left I Albay, I whispered a prayer for Lolo Piryong's lost child somewhere under the shadows of Daragang Magayon. God bless him or her.

We capped our visita with a side trip to Donsol, Sorsogon for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some butandings (i.e. whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world). The entire experience cost us some bucks (the boat rental alone is P2,500.00 for the whole day) but it was worth it.


ivanhenares said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. You might want to contribute photos to

big_berto said...

I will. Thanks for visiting.


amor said...

Pare shub.

congrats again for the very interesting and reader's frienly blog.Just to clarify some of the conflicting names or character,coz u mentioned pangaronon as one of the suitor na mabait (in other book the name is Ulap (cloud)and the other one is u mentioned Paratuga as the asshole instead of pagtuga(eruption).By the way,sundan ko ang susunod na kabanata kc pare wala na halos na mga komiks ngayon.I hope in the near future na isulat mo yung mga escapades mo sa pagbabasa ng komiks nuong bata ka pa.haha.

big_berto said...

oo nga tsong. actually, ni-research ko sa internet yung Daragang Magayon. tapos medyo iba yata yung mga pangalan sa lumabas today sa Inquirer yata. anyway, tignan ko ulit. thanks for visiting and for the observation.


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yumyumduck said...

sir thank you for your article.. it is good to know that a lot of people appreciates my mom's hometown.. can you give me info on how to commute from main land to san miguel? i am visiting albay soon and i want to be able to go there even for a few hours. thanks and more power to your blog! :)