In the Background

For this week’s challenge, I will venture a little farther from my hometown. Yup, that’s Mayon Volcano–the world’s perfect cone–in the background.

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The town of Daraga in Albay is an hour and a half away from Sorsogon. Getting there is easy: you just follow the stretch of the Maharlika Highway, past rice fields, bowers of trees and a sprinkling of communities–some fast-paced, others laid-back. You know you’re nearly there when, on clear days, the majestic Mayon Volcano stands proud on the horizon, an open invitation to witness the wonders of Bicolandia.

Mayon Volcano is, of course, the muse of Bicol. Its perfect cone is the perfect backdrop for the I-was-here travel shots. It dominates the Albay skyline as well and is visible from all the province’s towns. From parts of Sorsogon, too, and from the rest of the region, especially along coastlines.

The Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga is one of the best viewdecks of the fabled Volcano. It is also a testament to the beauty–and destructive temper–of Mount Mayon. From 1724 up until 1814, Cagsawa Church was a solid, seemingly unshakable symbol of the Catholic faith in Bicol. All that changed on February 1, 1814 when a particularly violent eruption buried the church and the thousands who sought refuge behind its stone walls. All that is left today is the belfry, portions of the stone walls and a spectacular view of Mayon.

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The day we were there, Mayon was hiding behind a thick blanket of clouds. There were a handful of tourists just the same, some gamely posing for the touristy shots choreographed by the guides. Just when we were about to leave–after making the rounds of souvenir shops and sampling the refreshingly spicy sili shake–Mayon decided to show herself. The sight–no matter how many times I’ve been fortunate to see it–was simply stunning!

Mayon is indeed the beautiful maiden–the Daragang Magayon–of Bicol. She may constantly be in the background, but she certainly knows how to command attention. Sadly, as the ruins of Cagsawa prove, she can also be disastrous. Sixteen hours after our visit, Mayon spewed ash and smoke, in a phreatic explosion that killed five mountaineers.

Ah, majesty and mayhem, indeed!

Here she is again, this time calm and serene, from the coastal hamlet of Sto. Niño in Sorsogon.

Sto. Nino

Hop on over here for more takes on the in-the-background theme.

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