9:30 AM, the clock on my phone read. It’s Saturday. Through the window of the bus, I saw the silhouette of Mayon Volcano, shrouded in clouds. After a butt-numbing twelve-and-a-half-hour bus ride, we have finally arrived in Legazpi City, Albay. We’re not quite there yet, though. Our final destination was Donsol, where we were to swim with the whalesharks. My companions and I alighted from the bus and was immediately met by a man who was to be our driver for the trip. I had joined Travel Factor for this trip and they had made arrangements for a chartered van while we were here. The same van will take us to a resort in Donsol, Sorsogon, another hour away from Legazpi City.
After a quick breakfast stop at a local fast food chain, we headed to our first stop of the day, Daraga Church. This four-century old church sits on top of a hill overlooking the majestic Mayon Volcano. My companions went inside the church and prayed. I looked around.
The insides looked like its undergone some renovation. It didn’t look as dated as the outside. The exterior of the church, covered in lime coating, reflected a version of baroque architecture. The church’s façade, made up of volcanic stone, is covered in beautiful intricate carvings.
Our second stop is the Cagsawa Ruins. I’ve actually been here as a teen. I think I was around twelve or thirteen. We were on a road trip from Manila to Tacloban. There’s got to be pictures somewhere, but I can’t find them now. I can’t quite remember this place. It looks a lot different from what I remember it to be. For instance, I don’t remember there being as many souvenir shops and restaurants around it. Has this always been the case?
The Cagsawa Ruins are the remnants of the Cagsawa Church, which was destroyed during the eruption of the Mayon Volcano in February 1, 1814. According to Wikipedia, the eruption killed an estimated 1, 200 people. The famous landmark that you would see here is the belfry of the old church.
A visit to the Cagsawa ruins would also show you what is probably the most unobstructed view of Mayon Volcano… if it wasn’t covered in clouds, that is. When we were there, half of Mayon was covered with it.
A highlight of our side trip was the ATV ride to the foot of Mayon Volcano. Bicol Adventure Tours is the company that offers these tours. There are two trails available, one that would last an hour that would cover around 6km (PHP599) and a three-hour trail that will cover 18km (PHP1,800). The latter goes all the way to the lava bed, closer to the foot of Mayon Volcano. Since we were a bit pressed for time, we chose the 6km trail.
I was actually hesitant to join in on this ATV ride. When I was twelve, I was in a motorcycle accident that left me looking like Two-Face for at least a month. Not a very pretty picture. Since then, I have not driven a motorbike on my own. Sure, ATV’s aren’t technically motorcycles. They have more wheels for one, but the terrain can still mean trouble for me, the accident-prone klutz. I realize how… ironic (?) this seems for someone who has jumped off the 61st storey of a building, but fears are fears. After talking to the guide though, I found out I can ride in tandem with him (and it’ll cost half as much!), so I decided to sign up for it, too.
Before we set out, there was a quick how-to session conducted by one of the guides on operating the ATVs. Then, it was time to go. Off we went on this bumpy trail. This rocky trail offered what I think are the most scenic views of Legazpi—lush greens with a lot of trees, dotted by cows grazing on the grass.
I’d like to say it looks like New Zealand, but what do I know? I’ve never been there. This trail let us cross two streams, one more challenging than the other. Two of my companions got stuck on two different parts of the trail.
The guide who was driving the ATV I was on, had to assist them out of the troughs they got stuck in. Overall, it was a fun experience, riding that ATV. Perhaps, next time, I’d have the guts to drive one on my own.
We left Cagsawa around 2PM for a late lunch and then we would be back on the road again. This was a fun side trip, a nice little layover, on our journey to Donsol.