(An Independence day break, June 12, 2014)
(An Independence day break, June 12, 2014)

Once a picture in the portrait  is now a personal experience.

During the eruption of Mayon Volcano in  February 1, 1814, the whole town of Cagsawa was buried with rocks and flowing lava. In this event, there was approximately 15,000 people who died, including 1,200 people who went to Cagsawa Church to pray for protection. Cagsawa or Kagsawa is derived from two words “Kag” meaning owner and “Sawa” meaning python (Philippine insider, 2014; Knoji,2014)  — having a collective meaning owned by a python or a python owner. The word Cagsawa also means overindulgence or the act of having too much or excess of something (oxford dictionary). The catastrophic event then signifies a divine punishment to the overindulgence of the people of Cagsawa, according to some local tales. Presently, the church ruins serve as not as a negative symbol, but a commemoration of the people’s resilience or the ability of the people to go back to their feet after a tragic event, and as the townspeople celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the event last February 1, 2014.

For more than a century, the area was abandoned until it was turned into a local tourist attraction during 1930’s. This day, there are numerous things you can do when visiting the park. Some are as follows:

1. Cagsawa (Cagsaua) Ruins

The very first thing you can, or actually may plan to do is to take picture with the iconic view of Cagsawa Church’s bellfry, along with the Mayon Volcano as the backdrop. This image is something that many Filipinos are familiar with since it is commonly put in various social studies (araling panlipunan) books and postcards. The bellfry is the only  part of the Cagsawa Church that remains standing upto this date.

(An Independence day break, June 12, 2014)

2. All Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

For those who want to try some adventure sports in the area, you may want to try riding an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). It is an off road experience where you will drive along rocky areas and even shallow rivers. ATV stations are located just few steps away from Cagsawa Park and most tricycle drivers in the area will offer you to try this and bring you to the stations. As of June 12, 2014, a rent of an ATV costs around Php 700/hour and it can be ridden by 2 persons.

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3. Souvenir Shops

There are a lot of good buys in the area ranging from different shirts, paintings, handcrafted key chains, refrigerator magnets, bags, among others. You may also buy here the famous Bicolano pasalubong , pili (Canarium Ovatum) nuts. The prices of all the products here are affordable and acceptable. You may buy some souvenirs at a very low price of Php 10 per piece.

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4. Food Trip

If you want to try some special Bicolano foods, the Cagsawa park offers some.

4.1. Sili Shake

One very interesting shake I tasted in the park was the Sili (common name: Chili pepper; scinetific name: Capsicum Frutescens L.)  Shake. Caramelized chili pepper is mixed with a fruit, milk, syrup and ice. Although you will not recognize the taste of the chili pepper because of the other fruit or flavor, you will feel the sudden hot sensation in your mouth brought about by chili pepper’s capsaicin. Some available flavor of sili shake includes banana, guyabano (sour sop), choco and mango. Different intensities of silli shake are also available. These are light, medium and heavy.

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4.2. Bicol Express

We also tried tasting Bicol express, a famous local recipe. It is commonly a combination of pork, coconut milk and lots of chili pepper. If you have a very low tolerance to spicy dishes, you should prepare a milk beside you when eating the dish to decrease the effect of the capsaicin.

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4.3. Pinangat

It is a local Filipino dish which originated from the Bicol region. For most parts of Tagalog region and National Capital Region (NCR), it is more commonly known as Laing. The dish is made from finely chopped taro leaves, wrapped with a taro leaf and tied with a coconut leaf and then cooked with coconut milk and chili pepper. Sometimes, meat or fish can also be added to the dish.

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5. Galeria de Cagsawa

Just outside the Cagsawa Park, Galeria de Cagsawa is located. Galeria de Cagsawa is a small gallery which houses different pictures of the area. Some pictures show what the area looked like before Mayon erupted more than 200 years ago. If you can spare around 15 minutes of your time, you may be able to see and enjoy all the pictures inside the gallery.

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 Our entire visit in the park was just around 2 hours since we needed to go straight to Sorsogon and visit a friend’s farm. Although it was very brief, we really enjoyed visiting the area.

When we left, we took nothing but pictures, we left nothing but memories.

Travel Guide*
Route Mode of Transportation Estimated Travel Time
Olivarez Plaza** to Calamba City Proper (Laguna) Jeepney <1 hour
Calamba City Proper (Laguna) to Turbina (Calamba City) Tricycle 15 minutes
Turbina (Calamba City) to Daraga, Albay Bus ≈11 hours
Daraga, Albay to Cagsawa Park Tricycle 10 minutes
*based on actual events
**Los Banos, Laguna (College)

References:

http://philippines.knoji.com/the-cagsawa-church-ruins-and-mayon-volcano-philippines/

Cagsawa Ruins – A Legacy to the Bicolanos

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/overindulgence

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