Author: James Z. Carpio
A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain? – Khalil Gibran
I was too young to recall the very first time I have seen every Bicolano’s pride, Mount Mayon. I was born and raised in Naga City but my mind was a blur to that experience but I saw in old pictures from vintage albums that I was six when I saw Mayon. This I surmised basing from the photos taken when our family went to see Blessed Pope John Paul II in his first historic and memorable visit to the city of Legazpi on February 21, 1981. But I vividly remember though that in elementary school we were tasked to draw that volcano as an art project. That was a no brainer because all I had to do was draw a perfect triangular shape of a land form. And like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae I added a white smoke with a hint of gray on top of the peak.
The most recent visit that I made to Mayon was just last month in April. I went with local tourists from Manila, a family of four. It was their first time to tour Albay and appreciate the magic that is Mayon. Two children were among them. The usual questions: “Are we there yet?” and “When do we eat?” were the remarks I heard while cruising the highway towards the active volcano. As a Bicolano, I explained to them the meaning of Mayon which is a shortened magayon which in English is translated as beautiful. Furthermore, it was named after the legendary heroine Daragang Magayon.
I probably set the bar high enough as they pictured it in their imagination. Because of that all of them had high expectations which upon seeing it were more than exceeded and were simply enthralled. We first went to Cagsawa ruins in Daraga. On our way looking at both sides of the edge of the road we have also seen a recent havoc made in 2006 where the lahar passed and engraved its damage to the valley. Upon disembarking from the van they were astonished by the wrath of the mighty mountain as the ruins showed its prowess. The most destructive eruption of Mayon occurred on February 1, 1814. Lava flowed although minimally when compared to the 1766 eruption. This time around, the volcano was spewing dark ash and thereby battering the town with tephra that the town of Cagsawa almost totally disappeared from the face of the earth.
As we circled the mountain, they commented that from different perspectives and vantage points the perfect cone shape spectacle was always the same. After all it is famous because of its almost symmetric conical shape, Mayon is part of the northern boundary of Legazpi City, the largest city in terms of population in Bicolandia. The mountain is a national park and a protected landscape in the country touted as Mayon Volcano Natural Park in the year 2000.
Our next stop: Daraga Church. The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria (Our Lady of the Gate) is a shining example of religious architecture in Albay. It is built on top of a hill above the thriving town. The Daraga Church has stood for centuries as a testament to the religiosity of the Bicolanos. The mother of the two children made an observation that the churches in Bicol are relatively old. I explained to her that the Archdiocese of Caceres, having been founded in 1595 in the Royal City of Nueva Caceres (now Naga City), is also considered as one of the oldest dioceses in the Philippines with Cebu, Manila and Segovia during the Spanish colonial times. Going back to Mayon, this site provides an exquisite view of the Bicolano gem.
We then proceeded to Embarcadero de Legazpi to experience Mayon along the bay. It is a waterfront development that offers a panoramic view of the Volcano. The couple remarked that it reminded them of their travel to Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria is an ancient city and also Egypt’s largest seaport, A barrage of picture taking occurred. They were all ecstatic. The view I must say was breathtaking. Then as I went inside the van along with our guest she simply said that Mayon indeed is majestic. I could not agree more that her choice of word aptly describes Mayon. It can be dubbed as the Queen of all volcanoes. It has a royal heavenly presence that evokes awe and respect to the One who created it. Nature’s beauty at its finest and a feast for the eyes.
I am certain that all of our guests were captured by its grandeur and were more than satisfied by their travel to see Mount Mayon. They also bought souvenir items from the shops. Pili nuts were on the list as well. And they even tried ice cream with chili. Their Mayon experience is truly unforgettable. Personally, revisiting Mayon is worth it as always. But my story does not end here. I have saved the best for last. The best travel advice on how to appreciate the beauty of Mayon will cap my discourse.
Try this travel tip. Last year I went to Bohol and coming home I felt a little bit disappointed because I wasn’t able to get a flight directly to Pili airport which is closer to Naga City. Instead my flight’s destination was Legazpi City. I wasn’t expecting anything exciting as I quietly sat in my seat. I ate the airline food and perused that day’s newspapers. But as we were approaching Legazpi Airport the pilot called to our attention to look out the airplane window and see Mayon Volcano. So I looked and with an aerial view there it was the most beautiful mountain I ever saw which felt like a new experience. There was a thousand shades of green foliage. And a hundred hues of grays and browns. The white clouds added a charming effect. It is gargantuan in size like a tower standing defiant in all its crowning glory. My eyes were glued to it and relished every second and minute of it.
A wonder of nature as it continues to attract both local and foreign tourists. Let us unceasingly promote it and talk about it. I now understand why the International Airport is being built in Albay. It is one of the best if not the best tourist attractions in the entire Bicol region. For fellow Bicolanos there is no excuse not to witness this picturesque creation at least once in their lifetime. The greatest attribute of Mount Mayon is it is one of God’s works, a testament for His love for His people that what He created is good and beautiful. A gift from above and we just have to open our eyes and partake of the magnificence of the majestic Mount Mayon.