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Playing Peek-A-Boo with Mount Mayon

For our annual mother-daughter trip this year, my Mom and I decided to fly to Legazpi City in Albay to see the Mayon Volcano. Mount Mayon, with her nearly perfectly shaped cone, is aptly named. Her name is derived from the phrase daragang magayon, a Bicolano term meaning “beautiful maiden.” She is considered to be one of the most stunning volcanoes in the world.

Mayon at Cagsawa

The thing with Mt. Mayon, though, is she’s notoriously shy, almost always covered in clouds. I read somewhere that it’s a lucky omen if she shows herself to a traveler with very little cloud cover. So when we arrived in Legazpi City last Monday morning, Mom and I became giddy upon seeing the volcano with barely any cloud covering. Too bad we couldn’t take pictures because the authorities at the Legazpi International Airport expressly forbid it for safety reasons.

We soon found out that the daragang magayon is a tease. So for three and a half days, we drove all across Albay for glimpses of Mayon’s peak, dragging along my Aunt Baby and my cousin Olga, both of whom live in the area.

Our first stop was the Mayon Planetarium and Science Park in Tabaco City. It was a very cold and downcast morning, so it was no surprise that Mayon was fully shrouded in clouds.

Mayon at Mayon Planetarium and Science Park, Tabaco City

The best part of the visit to the Planetarium is getting to climb down a steep set of stairs beside a cliff. It was fun.

Stairs at Mayon Planetarium, Tabaco City

The weather got significantly warmer and sunnier when we got to Kawa-Kawa Hill in Ligao. Unfortunately, climbing to the top of that hill proved to be too much of a challenge for me. The path up the hill is designed as a Via Dolorosa or Stations of the Cross. Whoever came up with the idea for that path took its being a way of sorrows way too literally – the path’s incline is very steep and there are no handrails.

Path up Kawa-Kawa Hill

Soon enough, I was out of breath and feeling dizzy, so I let my companions go on up the path and leave me behind at Station Three, with them for company:

Station 3, Stations of the Cross, Kawa-Kawa Hill, Ligao City, Albay

I recovered after a while and decided to go after my companions. On the climb to Station Five, I got on the verge of fainting. I only willed myself to reach the resting spot at Station Five before blacking out. It was the first time I ever blacked out in my nearly 37 years on this earth, and it’s not funny. Thank goodness I had water and food in my bag. After a big gulp of water and a few bites of sticky ube-flavored rice cake, I gingerly made my way back down the hill.

Later, my mother consoled me with this picture of Mayon:

Mayon at Kawa-Kawa Hill

The last stop for that day was the Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga. The ruins were the remains of a church built in 1724, buried when Mayon erupted in 1814. Views of Mayon standing proud with the crumbling remnants of a bell tower in the foreground are perhaps the views of Mayon most familiar to the public, often seen in postcards and paintings of the volcano. We definitely had better luck of seeing the volcano’s peak here.

Mayon at Cagsawa

We played peek-a-boo with Lady Mayon in other parts of Albay. Here she is on Wednesday morning from the rooftop of RMJ Apartelle, the place we stayed at in Legazpi City:

Mayon from RMJ Apartelle rooftop

From the Embarcadero de Legazpi, the mall/boardwalk at the city’s harbor:

View of Mayon from Embarcadero de Legazpi

Behind Kapuntukan (Sleeping Lion Hill):

Mayon behind Kapuntukan

From the viewing platform at Daraga Church:

Mayon viewed from Daraga Church

And from the top of Ligñon Hill:

Mayon at Ligñon

On the last day of our trip, Lady Mayon finally stopped playing games with us and showed herself in her full glory, with only wisps of clouds about her.

Mayon, almost naked

Maybe it’s her way of bidding us goodbye and a safe journey back home to Manila. Whatever; Mom and I are sure to come back to see Mt. Mayon and visit the spots we missed in our visit to Bicolandia. So much to see, so very little time.

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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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