The Cagsawa Church Ruins and Mayon Volcano - Philippines
THE CAGSAWA CHURCH RUINS AND MAYON VOLCANO - PHILIPPINES
The February 1, 1814 eruption of the Mayon Volcano was recorded as the fifth strongest, based on accounts of previous eruptions since 1616. The eruption covered the countryside with ash and lahar. An estimated 15,000 people died, including 1,200 who sought shelter inside Cagsawa Church where they prayed for safety.
The Cagsawa Church was buried gradually by volcanic deposits from subsequent eruptions. Sand, gravel and boulders were washed down the slopes by rain, covering the church until only the belfry tower remained above ground.
The 1,200 people, who sought refuge in the town’s church, thinking they would be saved, all perished when it was engulfed in the red-hot lava flows.
One could imagine that, in their last moment, they struggled to climb to this belfry as others below tried to pull them down. It must be a tragic, horrifying experience. Now all that remains is the church’s bell tower, and it remains a mute, but solid symbol of Mother Nature’s wrath.
The photo above shows Cagsawa church before being buried by lava. It appears desolate and the thick vegetation around it suggests that it had been abandoned and not used for a long time. There is also some sign that the church had earlier been threatened by lava flows.
Although it is a gloomy remembrance of the events that took place during that momentous day, the ruins also stand as a representation of Bicol’s breathtaking scenery, valuable history and the people’s resiliency and strength to face and withstand the devastation brought about by Mother Nature. Bicol region is a typhoon prone location.
It was said that the word Cagsawa comes from two words, kag means “one who owns”
and sawa has two meanings, “python” or “snake charmer” and “too much or overmuch.” Fr. Francisco Aragoneses, OFM, the former curate of Cagsawa and Budiao, asserted that the name was because of the over-indulgence of the people during that time, and that the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano could have been meant as God's punishment for the people's over-indulgence similar to the great flood of the Old Testament.
Renowned as the "perfect cone" because of its almost symmetrically conical shape, Mayon forms the northern boundary of Legazpi City. Local folklore refers to the volcano as Bulkang Magayon (Filipino: 'Magayon Volcano'), after the legendary heroine Daragang Magayon (Bikol: 'Lady Beautiful').
On October 13, 2008 it was included in New 7 Wonders of Nature Top 10 list. However, it did not make the cut to the Top 25 finalists, giving way to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, another site in the Philippines.
Mayon Volcano is the Philippines' most active volcano. It is a basaltic-andesitic volcano. The upper slopes of the volcano are steep averaging 35-40 degrees and are capped by a small summit crater. Its sides are layers of lava and other volcanic material.
Mayon has undergone forty-nine eruptions in recorded history. The first recorded major eruption was in 1616. Its 48th and latest major eruption was a quiet effusion of lava on July 14, 2008, which was aggravated when a lahar caused by the rains of Typhoon Durian followed on November 30, 2006. A further summit eruption occurred on August 10, 2008.