Cagsawa (Cagsaua): more ruins than I thought cagsaua-bell-tower

All these years, I was under the impression that the bell tower was the only structure that remained of Cagsawa Church after the town was buried when Mayon Volcano erupted in February 1, 1814. That was what most textbooks said. That was what most people said. But even Wikipedia is wrong when it says that “only the bell tower of the town’s church remained above the new surface.” Cagsaua ruins

Portions of walls remain. These walls were about 10 meters from the bell tower. It was midday when we reached Cagsawa and direct overhead sunlight doesn’t provide the best lighting for photography, hence, the deep shadows in the photo above. Cagsaua ruins

I tried to minimize the shadows by firing the flash. Above, the same walls but with less shadows on the foreground. The built-in flash of the Canon EOS 40D wasn’t powerful enough to reach the more distant portions of the walls.

Are these the only walls remaining? Not quite. Cagsaua ruins

These stone structures, according to the guides, were once part of the second floor dormitories of the seminary. I think we can safely assume that the hole in the wall is a window. Cagsaua ruins

Above, what appear to be “stubs” are also part of the second floor seminary.

And the more interesting — or you could say hair-raising — bit of information: According to the locals, the visible portion of the tower and walls get shorter and shorter with each eruption of Mayon. As it spews lava and rocks the ground rises a bit higher each time. Mayon Volcano

Mayon Volcano was covered in clouds throughout our Cagsawa visit. Taking photos was complicated by the presence of this viewing deck. I wanted to take a panoramic shot that included the volcanic rocks half buried in the ground. Some of these rocks are huge — huge enough for a person to lie on them with neither head nor feet touching the grass. Mayon Volcano

I walked toward the direction of the volcano, passing the viewing deck to avoid including it in the camera frame, and this was the best photo I could manage. The crosses… Whose graves those crosses mark, I have no idea.

At any rate, I was able to take better photos of Mayon during the two previous days of our stay in Albay and from the airport too before we boarded the plane back to Manila.


  1. Jean says

    Wow! I luv ur pictures, i always wanted to come and see the ruins for myself, u see my mom’s from Tiwi, Albay. i saw the volcano many times but only from afar, my family, they’re not so interested for that kind of stuff. I bet it’s beautiful there, i can only imagine.
    Hopefully, one day when i go back there and visit, maybe, and hopefully, i can drag my husband and kids with me to see that place.
    Thanks for sharing the photos.

  2. says

    The reason, I think, why only the bell tower gets mentioned is because it’s the most prominent part of the structure that remains, whereas the rest is considered “rubble”. That’s the beauty of travel – you get a better education! :-)

    Btw, the best time to shoot Mayon and the rest is early in the morning as the sun rises. That’s also the time when hardly any cloud covers the peak. As the day progresses, it puts on its shroud to hide from tourists like you – hehehe. Take it from someone who grew up around the place!

  3. says

    Mayon is beautiful from afar but it is more awesome up close.

    I wish I could have visited the Cagsawa ruins when there weren’t so many people. I would loved to capture the mood of the place, eerie and all considering its history.

    Hope you and your family get a chance to go. It was the highlight of our Albay trip.

  4. lemon says

    Husband and I loved that spot (hole in the wall) when we went to Cagsaua (our first time to go there together), so we had lots of photos taken there.

  5. mae says

    actually, that is not a viewing deck… That was used last Holy week, Easter Sunday to be specific, where little “angels” are lowered from the hole at the center of the upper deck to remove the veil of Mother Mary, as part of the ceremony for the resurrection of Christ. The second deck, however, are where some of the “angels” stand and sing praises during the celebration. A mass was also celebrated at that area after (or before, i dont recall) that ceremony (btw, people in Bicol call the ceremony “tun-ton” or “saklot”) to provide a wider space for the mass.