Tag Archive: Mayon Volcano

I kept my word.  In an earlier blog , I reminisced about my late February butanding encounter and promised myself I’d bring my family to Donsol for the same awesome experience.  That promise was fulfilled last week.  

It was a straight drive from Makati to Barrio Dancalan in Donsol, Sorsogon.  Meal stops at Max’s Lucena, late lunch at Camalig’s Let’s Pinangat, and several pee stops.   The little ones were good travelers.  Expecting them to be restless, we were surprised they slept through much of the 10 hour ride.  Leaving at 5 am,  it was almost sunset by the time we reached the Butanding capital of the world.   We stayed in a place that must not be named as it was very nearly a mood killer for this vacay. Well, only as far as I was concerned.  The rest of the family went uncomplaining and were just too tired to call it an early  night when we reached the place.

We spent 2 nights here.  Randy, the Butanding Interaction Officer (B.I.O) I had that time I had my 1st whale shark experience has been waiting for us and eager to meet my grandchildren, aged 10 and 13.  My girls were also with me, all of whom were just as excited to meet the butandings.  I wrote about Randy the last time, and has since been my textmate with his “jejemon” language which never fails to give me headaches.    For the day, he was Kuya Randy to my apos.  So with the 2nd B.I.O. who joined us on our boat, Kuya Bong.   Yes,  we hired 2 BIOs.  Wanted to make sure my 2 apos can each have a BIO cum life guard when they jump to meet their whale shark friends.

The gentle giants didn’t let us down.  The 1st jump for the apos (plus 1 of my girls) was a hurried one.  No chance for dear Martin, my 10 year-old apo, to change his mind.  The minute the spotters alerted Kuya Bong and Kuya Randy that a butanding lurks beneath the waters near our boat,  they ordered them little ones to jump with them.  Oh, I was so proud of them!  No hesitation.  No second thoughts.  They jumped in tandem with their BIO kuyas, and promptly raised their thumbs up shortly after seeing the whale shark which Martin described as “as big as a Honda City car”.   Not exactly huge.  But its size is enough to get these kids all smiling and proud of their experience.  You bet it was the start of non-stop chatter from this excitable 10 y.o. till he grew tired and fell nearly asleep on the boat.


The duo of these kids’ mom and auntie was next.  They made 2 jumps, without success.  The first time, the butanding even displayed its dorsal fin for all to see.  I was so excited I wanted to push anyone in front of me just to get a good shot.  The second time around,  they were just around 15 meters from the butanding whose shadow we can actually see from the boat.  Oh, the frustration for these 2 ladies!  The 3rd time around, and because the kids are so eager to have their turn,  the BIOs allowed the 2 kids to jump with the 2 adults.  Guess what.  These butandings must have sensed the presence of my 2 apos that this 10 meter whale shark stayed with their new little friends for a while.  I was beside myself on the boat, taking photos,  when I saw them raise their thumbs up a second time.   Happiness.

The B&B where we stayed, and which we refrain from naming here,  packed a picnic brunch for us.  No one wanted to eat. Or can’t.  Too excited.  Adrenaline pumping high.  Me? I had this ill-timed eye infection that I stayed on the boat the whole time, snapping photos in between coffee and sandwiches shared with the boat crew.    Though I’ve “met” the butandings just a couple of months back, I wouldn’t mind interacting with them again.  But the glee I saw on the faces of them little ones and my girls are priceless.   Empty stomachs, yet excited over this awesome animal experience.  Too excited that 13 y.o. Patricia was swimming away from the pack, and without a life buoy at that!   Enough to send her aunt into near-panic mode.  But this grandma was watching the whole time. So did the 2 BIOs, Kuya Randy and Kuya Bong.   We all knew that in glee, we sometimes make silly moves.  But not that silly for my swimmer apo.  Patricia , and her brother Martin,  would likely not forget this experience for a very, very long time.  🙂


See you next year,  my friend. 🙂

Check also my TravelBlog  piece on same subject. 

Hoyop Hoyopan Cave


In Camalig, Albay, we took a detour to visit Hoyop Hoyopan Cave. Hoyop means “to blow”. We spent the next half hour or so inside the cave, amazed to “shoot the breeze” inside while checking out the stalactites and stalagmites. We can imagine how the local rebels were made comfortable while hiding from the Japanese then as the cave has water sources and a pretty good ventilation even during summers.  Our guide led the way, and we were relieved to find cemented pathways and ample lighting.  Just the same, I was ready with my handy flashlight and headlight.  I finally got to use them!  🙂   But we weren’t prepared to find a dance floor INSIDE the cave.  Say what?  A dance floor.  Only in the Philippines! Well, we were reminded that the cave is a private property and the owners have actually held parties inside this cave.  That explains the dance floor. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a karaoke bar next time I visit.  Up and down, a few steps here and there, and we found the 4th exit out of the cave.  Mind the stalactites and stalagmites, though.  One can earn a monstrous bump on the forehead if one is not careful.  Outside, we found local boys playing a game of volleyball while a cow parked itself in an area meant for motor vehicles.


Cagsawa Ruins Without Mayon Volcano

Most postcards in Albay show Mayon Volcano in all its majesty framed by boulders and what remains of the Cagsawa Church. Over a thousand parishioners sought refuge in this Church in Mayon’s February 1814 eruption and all perished from the tragedy. The stone pillars were constructed using eggwhites to glue the stones together. Imagine how many eggs those parishioners brought to Sunday masses, and what baked goodies they concocted with the egg yolks too! We were soooo looking forward to visiting this place as we have always visualized Mayon Volcano with this scenery, with all its tragic history. Sadly, the majestic volcano with its near-perfect cone was too shy to make an appearance. Hiding behind the clouds, one can hardly recognize even its silhouette on this cloudy day. Oh well, you can’t win them all. For the moment, the postcard will do.

Daraga Church


Finally, we drove up to nearby Daraga Church. It is said that the parish transferred to this 18th century church after the 1814 eruption. This old church was obviously undergoing some repairs and repainting. We were disappointed with the fresh coat of white paint, and would have preferred that they left the stone structure in its “natural” state. There is charm in the “old and natural”, and a paint job does not serve to enhance the beauty of this ancient church.


Nearly back in Legazpi City, we passed by Lignon Hills for another unobstructed view of Mayon Volcano. It would have been an hour’s trek to get to the View Deck, but it was our last stopover and we all felt the day is almost over. In short, we had no energy left to do the trek! Perhaps another day. For sure, I’d make a return trip and by then, I should also be ready to go trekking, ziplining and even the lava trail using the All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) available for rent. Now, that’s a good reason to go back.


More photos can be found in my TravelBlog site.

Padang Memorial

From Legazpi City, we drove towards Barangay Biga-a, just 8 kilometers from Mayon Volcano.  This place is a PERMANENT DANGER ZONE.  And for good reason.  Back in 2006, Typhoon Reming hit the area and as many as 15,000 perished .  The Padang Memorial stands here as a grim reminder of that tragedy, with the majestic volcano as backdrop.  From Padang, we passed a few 17th-18th century churches.  We took the time to stop by 2 churches , both named Santo Domingo Church. The second one had a separate bell tower as well as lovely stained glass windows. Unfortunately, the churches were closed and we failed to gain entry.

Kawa Kawa Natural Park and Mayon Skyline 

Further on,  we drove through a road lined with Pili trees and abaca hemp hanging out to dry.  Then we took an uphill road and climbed towards an area tagged as Mayon Skyline where the Mayon Planetarium and a solitary cafe stand across stone huts hugging the cliff from where one takes in a view of the crater lake on a clear, sunny day.  It was a pleasant surprise to find this cool, breezy place this foggy morning just an hour’s drive from the city. Too foggy to allow a clear view of the lake,  we instead chose to spend the next few minutes sipping a cup of hot coffee or slurping some hot noodle soup.  A nice brew would have added some charm, though, instead of the instant coffee served.


Mayon Skyline is in Barangay Bu-Ang in Tabaco, Albay.  The entire area belongs to the PERMANENT DANGER ZONE  too.  There was no chance to check out the blacksmiths from Tabaco, Albay — famous for its quality scissors and knives. ( Tabak literally means knife or machete , after which the place got its name.  )   Rather, we drove on towards Ligao City where Kawa Kawa Hill is.  Many Catholic pilgrims visit this natural park especially during the Lenten Season to do their Stations of the Cross. Moving on, we passed Guinobatan, Albay where the tree-lined road blends with the popular mode of transportation in the area — tricycles and jeepneys — and some old houses and more 17th-18th century churches.




One such old church is in Camalig, Albay whose patron saint is St. John the Baptist. The belfry is touched by this old tree with creepers along its branches and twigs, which stands witness to many Sunday masses and passing parishioners.  Unlike their counterparts in many parts of the country,  these churches are situated in wide plazas and must have served as community centers in the olden days.


It’s amazing how many 17th and 18th century churches one can find in Albay alone.  No wonder many of our priests hail from this place.  You can sense the spirituality in these places and among the people.  Truly, adversity has its favorable results.  Being in the typhoon belt, exposed to nature’s fury, the Bicolanos have strong faith in God’s mercy, as are just as blessed with many natural wonders like the near-perfect cone of Mayon and the nearby whale sharks  in Donsol, Sorsogon.   Come visit!


More photos in my TravelBlog site.

Mayon Skyline On a Foggy Morning!

Mayon Above the Barbed Wires

Cagsawa Ruins Without Mayon Volcano as Background