It is easy to understand why Mayon Volcano is bewitching. Her beauty, yet grand and imposing, is also subtle and sublime at the same time. She’s a tease one minute, showcasing all her beauty for everyone to see. When she does that, prepare to be in awe. At times she gets shy and acts mysterious, preferring to seek shelter from the clouds, which according to Bicol legend is her lover Panguinuron kissing her. When this happens, it is as if first-time travelers to the province beg her to show her beauty the way a man who pursues a woman desperately asks for her affection.
Her beauty commands attention and she rightfully deserves so. After all, Mayon is named after Daragang Magayon, the most beautiful this side of the universe whose beauty served both as her blessing and her curse. Daragang Magayon‘s love story has all the elements that would make Romeo and Juliet pale in comparison. Juliet’s love affair with Romeo ended when they both committed suicide, Daragang Magayon‘s story on the other hand, continues to this day.
When Mayon subtly erupts, that is Daragang Magayon weeping for the lose of her lover. When she erupts violently, however, that is her in rage over her misfortune. In fact, if Daragang Magayon‘s love story is to be believed, one would notice that Mayon is at her most beautiful when the clouds appear close to her, like a woman blushing at the sight of her lover.
Mayon today is that enchanting volcano which beauty is incomparable even when she pours out fumes of lava. There is a joke that goes around Albay which tells of photographers inviting death by running towards Mayon when she erupts. They are, obviously, still smitten by Mayon’s beauty even when she’s furious. To the people who live around her (it is interesting to note that almost all of Albay’s 18 towns are built around Mayon), she is both a blessing and a curse to their communities.
For first-time visitors to the province, Mayon is a towering beauty that needs to be seen and appreciated. Her near-perfect cone has been photographed time and again, attesting to the fact that Mayon is one nation’s pride that never goes out of style. Here are the spots where you can have a good view of her although when you travel around Albay, her presence is ubiquitous, it is almost impossible to miss her.
If you’re traveling by car, you start to get a view of Mayon in some parts of Camarines Sur. Her imposing presence is hard to miss once you set foot in Albay, but she appears closer when you are in the town of Guinobatan, some 30-minute ride to Legazpi City.
A short ride from Guinobatan is the town of Camalig where you can buy pinangat, a Bicol delicacy made of taro leaves and coconut milk, they make for great pasalubongs since they can be refrigerated for a month. Your next destination after your quick stop in Camalig should be the Cagsawa Ruins, famous for its bell tower – what now remains of the Cagsawa Church that was destroyed when Mayon erupted in 1814.
There’s a good view of Mayon as you make your entrance to Cagsawa from the national road. Do not forget to check Mayon some more few steps behind the bell tower. Cagsawa can get crowded at times so you have to find your best spot for that snapshot. I took this photo on our way to the Cagsawa Ruins.
Another point of interest in Albay where you can also have a good look at Mayon is the Church of Our Lady of the Gate, locally known as the Daraga Church. It is some 10-15 minutes ride from Cagsawa Ruins. Situated on top of a hill, this 18th century Baroque church offers a striking view of the volcano.
There are some refreshment areas near the church which offer a view deck of Mayon, so avail of this opportunity. Before you leave the place, make sure you take photos of the church whose walls were built using volcanic rocks. If you’re familiar with Filipino movies, this spot shall remind you of that classic scene in the 90s movie Pangako ng Kahapon.
From Daraga, take the diversion road to Legazpi City to get a closer view of Mayon. A good number of villages appear to have been built very near Mayon, one of which you will encounter on your left side on your way to the city. Mayon is a permanent fixture wherever you go in Albay, it is safe to say that it is a big part of Albayanos’ everyday living.
You can head directly to Lingnon Hill which also offers a really good view point of Mayon Volcano. But if you want to see Mayon from a different angle, and on a different environment, travel to Embarcadero de Legazpi. A recent addition to the city, Embarcadero is located within the City Port which means you get a seafront experience in romancing Mayon. Packaged as a lifestyle and commercial hub, you can have food from the different restaurants around. If it’s an out-of-the-ordinary way of admiring Mayon that you crave for, try their zipline ride for a unique viewing experience. The same experience can be had in Lingnon Hill but Embarcadero’s unique selling preposition is its location. Legazpi being a quaint city, it is easy to ask for directions to get to Embarcadero.
As you make your way out of the city, you will notice some shanties that somehow speak of the kind of life in Bicol. Once the major paths of monsoons hitting the country (I think it still is, although based on observation, monsoons these past few years have taken on a different path already), the region is actually a developing hub, thanks primarily to the boom in tourism. Mayon Volcano used to be the lone major attraction in the region, but now it shares that recognition with the CamSur Watersports Complex in Pili and the whale sharks of Donsol. Given the kind of adventure that the region offers, the sight of Mayon is that calming pill that relaxes your system after a very tiring day around Bicol.
When you continue traveling out of Legazpi to nearby towns going to the direction of Tabaco City, you will come across this spot on your left side where three huge crosses are built in memory of the people who perished from Typhoon Reming in 2006. This is Padang. A village used to occupy this place. It does not exist anymore.
Padang was buried by mud and boulders when Reming ravaged the province. According to reports, around 900 people died due to the “lahar and mud earlier disgorged by Mount Mayon that did not follow the course of the rivers but cut new paths and plunged to villages, burying people alive.” Mayon Volcano is both a blessing and a curse.
As you continue driving, you get more scenic views of Mayon on your left. I honestly think that this is the angle that shows Mayon’s now famous near-perfect cone. When you take a close look at Mayon from Guinobatan, you will notice the crack near Mayon’s crater that ruins the near-perfect cone allusion. You don’t see that from this location. Continue driving until you get to Santo Domingo which offers a really stunning view of Mayon.
The thing is that you cannot really run away from Mayon’s charm and you need not go very far to enjoy her beauty. Wherever you go in Albay, you can see Mayon teasing, smiling, hiding. She appears so near, but you know she can be very elusive, too. She, perhaps, likes the chase. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t hurt if you play along.
Be prepared to be enchanted by Mayon. Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- Except for the first photo, all photographs taken with a Canon 550d.