Cagsawa Ruins

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Cagsawa Ruins
Mga Guho ng Cagsawa
Cagsawa ruins.jpg
Only the church tower remains of the Cagsawa Church, which was buried by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano.
Cagsawa Ruins is located in Philippines
Cagsawa Ruins
Shown within Philippines
Alternate name Kagsawa, Cagsaua
Location Busay, Albay, Bicol Region, Philippines
Coordinates 13°9′58″N 123°42′4″E / 13.16611°N 123.70111°E / 13.16611; 123.70111Coordinates: 13°9′58″N 123°42′4″E / 13.16611°N 123.70111°E / 13.16611; 123.70111
Type Church
Area 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft)
Builder Franciscan order
Founded 1724
Abandoned 1814
Management Local Government of Daraga and the National Museum of the Philippines

The Cagsawa Ruins (also spelled as Kagsawa or Cagsaua) are the remnants of a 16th-century Franciscan church, the Cagsawa church. It was built in 1587 but was burned down by the marauding Dutch in 1636. However, it was reconstructed again in 1724 by Fr. Francisco Blanco. In February 1, 1814, Mayon Volcano caused its most violent and deadly eruption that engulfed the surrounding houses and killed nearly 2,000 people who took refuge inside the church. Only the belfry of the Cagsawa church remains as a grim and silent testimony of that fateful day. For almost two hundred years, it has withstood the test of time and the elements to become one of the most recognizable landmarks of Albay Province. The ruins are located in Barangay Busay, Cagsawa, in the municipality of Daraga, Albay, Philippines.

The ruins, currently became a park, known as the "Cagsawa Park," protected and maintained by the municipal government of Daraga and the National Museum of the Philippines, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area.[1][2] The International Tourism Bourse, one of the world’s top travel trade shows based in Berlin, has even recognized the site as one of the places to visit in Asia.[1]


The Cagsawa ruins are located 2.2 km (1.4 mi) from the town of Daraga and are approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) from the city of Legazpi.[2][3] They are also 3.3 km (2.1 mi) from the Legazpi Airport and a 55-minute flight from Manila.[4] By bus, the location is 12 to 14 hours away from Manila.[5]

It is considered symbolic of the dangers of living in close proximity with the Mayon volcano, as it is situated roughly 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) away from the volcano.[6]


The baroque church of Cagsawa was built in 1587, but was burned down by marauding Dutch in 1636. In 1724, the church was reconstructed again by Franciscan friars under Father Francisco Blanco in the small town of Cagsawa (spelled as Cagsaua during the Hispanic occupation of the Philippines).[7][8] It was supposed to replace an earlier church built in 1636 that had been burned down by Dutch pirates.[7]

On February 1, 1814, the strongest eruption recorded to date of the Mayon volcano buried the town of Cagsawa and its surrounding areas in under several hundred million cubic meters of tephra and lahar.,[6][9] killing an estimated 2,000 people. Hundreds of inhabitants of the town of Cagsawa purportedly sought refuge in the church, but were also killed by pyroclastic flows and lahar.[10][11] Only the belfry and some parts of the convent survive today,[12][13] though parts of the crumbling facade were still standing long after the 1814 eruption as attested by photographs. It is believed that the facade of the structure collapsed due to earthquakes that hit the area in the 1950s.[14]

Survivors of the 1814 eruption resettled into the nearby Daraga, which was then a mere barrio of the destroyed town of Cagsawa, and decided to merge the two.[7] However, the Cagsawa church should not be confused with the intact church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria (locally known as the Daraga Church), built in 1773 and also located in the municipality of Daraga.[15]

Cagsawa was also subjected to the Super Typhoon Durian (designated Typhoon Reming by PAGASA) in 2006. The ruins were unharmed even as the typhoon devastated the surrounding countryside with mudslides and lahar that killed at least 1,266 people.[16][17] The incident is similar to another catastrophe in the same region in 1825, shortly after the 1814 Mayon eruption.[6]


Cagsawa ruins in 1928, with parts of its facade still intact.

The ruins of the Cagsawa church now stands as the site of the Cagsawa Ruins Park, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Albay.[12][18] It is also the site of the Cagsawa Branch of the National Museum of the Philippines, also known as the Cagsawa National Museum. The museum was established on land that was donated by the municipality of Daraga to the National Museum on January 26, 1981.[6]

It was formally inaugurated on October 30, 1992 and is the third largest regional branch of the National Museum. It houses a collection of photographs of the volcanic eruptions of Mount Mayon as well as various geological and archeological exhibits.[5]

In addition, Cagsawa also provides all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) tours which allow tourists to trail down the lava front in Barangay Mabinit.[19]

Cagsawa Festival[edit]

The Cagsawa Festival is the latest addition to the celebrated festivals of Albay province, and has recently joined the ranks of the province's major festivals. It was launched in 2012 by the province and the municipal government of Daraga. The festival showcases various activities and entertainment such as outdoor and sport events, culinary activities, and cultural presentations of dances and plays.[20]

In line with this, the Pintura Cagsawa was also introduced, which provides venue for artists to showcase their works through body painting. It is solely on this festival in the province that body art is explored and showcased.[21]

Last February 1, 2014, the province of Albay commemorated the 200th anniversary of the 1814 eruption by holding the Cagsawa Festival, “Cagsawa Dos Siglos.” The festival aimed to pay tribute to the strength and resiliency of the people in Albay. According to Joey Salceda, Albay governor, Albayanos (local name for people from Albay) are aware that they live within the shadow of a beautiful yet dangerous volcano every day. Thus, the anniversary of the 1814 eruption also serves as a reminder of the town's commitment to disaster risk reduction as part of their way of life to be able to achieve their goals of development for the community.[22]


  1. ^ "ITB Berlin". Messe Berlin. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ Henrylito D. Tacio (February 15, 2011). "Legaspi: Home of Natural Wonders". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ Chris Rowthorn; Greg Bloom; Michael Grosberg; Ryan Ver Berkmoes (2006). Lonely Planet Philippines. Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet; 9th Edition. ISBN 978-1-74104-289-4. 
  4. ^ "Cagsawa Ruins – A Legacy to the Bicolanos". Philippines Insider. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Cagsawa Branch Museum". National Museum of the Philippines. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c England, Vaudine (2009-12-24). "Mount Mayon: a tale of love and destruction". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  7. ^ a b c Albert Speer (1967). "Plaque on church steeple, Cagsawa ruins, Philippines, (1967 picture)". National Library of Australia. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Overview of the Region: Province of Albay, Where To Go And What To See". Department of Tourism, National Statistical Coordination Committee - Regional Division V, Republic of the Philippines. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Mayon". Global Volcanism Program, Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  10. ^ CP David (September 17, 2014). "What kinds of volcanic eruption should we worry about?". GMA News. Retrieved September 25, 2014. 
  11. ^ John Mark Escandor (July 3, 2014). "1814 Mayon Volcano eruption emits lesson on handling challenge of destruction". Balita. Retrieved September 25, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Jaymee T. Gamil (March 23, 2008). "Young tour guides bring depth to Cagsawa experience". Inquirer. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Mt Mayon Volcano Eruption, 1814". Fabulous Philippines. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  14. ^ Jaucian, Michael. "Tourism execs cry SOS for Cagsawa ruins". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  15. ^ Jaymee T. Gamil. "History of Daraga". Parish Church of Nuestra Senora de la Portera. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  16. ^ "The Cagsawa ruins". NewsBreak: Independent Journalism. December 20, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  17. ^ Emily B. Bordado (2006). "Rummaging through the ruins of Typhoon Reming". UMAsenso. Department of Agriculture RFU 5. 15 (4). Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  18. ^ Rey M. Nasol. "Cagsawa Shrine to showcase Mayon Volcano for New 7 Wonders of the world". Positive News Media. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  19. ^ Amo, Celso (February 3, 2014). "Albay welcomes Chinese tourists". The Philippine Star. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  20. ^ Tribune (January 19, 2014). "Cagsawa Festival 'Dos Siglos' to recall 1814 Mayon eruption". The Daily Tribune. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  21. ^ Magtoto, Raymond (March 6, 2014). "Depicting Cagsawa through body art". The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  22. ^ Barcia, Rhaydz (February 1, 2014). "Worst Mayon eruption remembered". Retrieved May 3, 2014. 

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