The Cagsaua Ruins, just like the Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna (“Shooting the Roughly Blazed Paths to Pagsanjan Falls“), in the town of Daraga is one of those tourist places I had only seen on TV, postcards, stamps, and textbooks during grade school. A place I only dreamt of visiting when I was a kid. I never thought I will get there one day. And that day has come. When I embarked on my fifth solo travel to Albay’s most recognizable landmark in April a year ago.
It took almost four hours for me to reach the shallow river via a lonely-looking bridge on the threshold of this historic spot from Pili, Camarines Sur. The environs radiate so much ataraxy that standing there for a few minutes gave me an ineffable relief—until I learned from the tour guide that there were more than a thousand people, including those who took shelter in the church believing they would be safe from the raging flow of lava and volcanic rocks, who died from Mayon Volcano’s most annihilating eruption in February 1814. I got chills up and down my spine upon hearing the tragic news, which I hope will never happen again. The said eruption has made Cagsaua what it now looks: desolate, historical, placid, but very much treasured.
I sauntered through the foregrounds. I noticed how different the scene is compared to its darkest day as narrated by Father Francisco Tubino of Guinobatan. The sky is grinning; the gentle wind roams around like a refreshing bath in the morning; the greens are dancing; the rays of the sun are joyfully streaming into the huge rocks and trees around; and the souvenir stalls swarming at the gates herald a beautiful day.
What I saw after stepping at the gates of Cagsaua Ruins a few minutes later were plenty of sightseers flocking around. Summer has something to do with the vast crowd nevertheless there’s a comforting feeling in the middle of a crowd oblivious of me.
There is nothing more eye catching than the church’s belfry majestically rising in the middle of the place. In fact, I read that the Berlin-based International Tourism Bourse, the world’s leading travel trade show, even cited it as one of the best places to visit in Asia. This tower is another example of a baroque architecture and is as imposing as the Mayon Volcano, which was then concealed by the cruel clouds in the distance. Its facade is festooned with carvings made from volcanic stones.
On the flip side, this place also showcases Albay’s countryside scenery that will surely please visitors. A few meters away from the church’s East Wall you will see a very New Zealandish stretch of green fields.
This particular travel moment taught me another lesson: Nature has its moods too. Yes, it dances to our expectations’ music most of the time but when it’s in a bad mood, it’s in a bad mood. It goes without saying I failed to see Mayon Volcano in all its glory.
Aesthetically, the ruins of Cagsaua Church may not be iPhone 5S beauty but they tell important tales of our times, exude high cultural significance, and remain as very popular subjects for creative photography. The belfry is an attestation to this; it serves as a hint of what the church had been like and as a metaphor for the volcano eruption’s havoc to the town and for the agony of the victims.
Mayon Volcano and Cagsawa Ruins Belfry avrotor.blogspot.com
Cagsawa Ruins wowlegazpi.com
Albay Stole My Heart idreamedofthis.com