The Legend of Mt. Mayon
…Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden)
By Apolinario Villalobos
Belching out lava and red-hot rocks from its bowels, Mt. Mayon, reduced its tip by about 120 feet. That was in February 1, 1814 during its most violent eruption which destroyed several town and claimed thousands of lives. Stories of the tragic event told from generation to generation could make one shiver. And no one would have ever thought that such a gentle-looking volcano could cause such damage.
A folk tale which the elders of the region relate with gusto would tell us that once, there was no such an almost perfectly coned volcano in Albay. According to them, it grew in time from the tomb of a maiden by the name of Magayon. How it happened to be that way started with the usual quarrel between the suitors.
Magayon was the daughter of an Ibalon Chief, Makusog of Rawis. Her mother by the name of Dawani died shortly after giving birth to the frail girl. Later, she gre to be a stunnmingly beautiful and maiden and not only a few from far villages vied for her love. One of them was a handsome but arrogant Pagtuga, powerful Chief of Iraga. At first he was most favorfed because of his convincing gifts of gold, pearls and wild animals.
It was during this time that Ulap showed up at Rais. He crossed mountains and swam several rivers just to have a glimpse of the famous beautiful daughter of Makusog. Fate favored Ulap so well that one day, while Magayon was taking a bath in the river, she slipped and fell into the chilly water. As quickly as she plunged, Ulap plucked her from the swift river.
Not long after, Ulap made known his intention for Magayon by thrusting his spear at the staris of Chief Makusog’s house. Magayon could only blush shyly and the father upon sensing a promising relationship between the two, set the day for the wedding in a month’s time.
The news of the wedding spread fast , reaching Pagtuga who was eventually enraged. To avenge himself, he took Chief Makusog captive during of the latter’s hunting expeditions and notified Magayon that unless she conceded to marry him, her father would be killed. The fair maiden could not do anything but tearfully agree to what was asked of her.
Upon learning of the incident, Ulap left his village which was busily preparing for the aborted wedding. With his warriors, he rushed to Rawis just in time for the wedding ceremonies between Pagtuga and Magayon. There ensued a fierce battle between the warriours of Ulap and Pagtuga who was slain shortly. Magayon rushed to Ulap but was hit by a stray arrow. While Ulap was tearfully holding Magayon in his arms, he was hacked by Linog, a henchman of Pagtuga. It killed him instantly.
It was a tragic scene which unfolded after the skirmish. Instead of a wedding, a burial took place. Makusog, himself, dug the grave for the lovers. Many days after, the people saw a phenomenon which they could not quite understand. The grave rose higher each day. There were days also, when they could hear rumblings from underneath the ground. They believed that it was Pagtuga who still showed his jealousy. On days that the clouds cover the tip, the old folks insist that Ulap is kissing Magayon.
Another belief is that in the secret caves on its slopes live white-haired hermits. At night, they would go out to search for food, and old folks would swear to have seen several times, moving lights which they allege are torches of these hermits. Though how funny it may sound, old folks also believe that the clouds come from the crater of the volcano, because most of the time, it is thickly covered by it. They said that should these wise old men decide to come down together with the wild animals, the volcano will destroy itself, signaling the end of the world.
But whether the volcano has grown from the grave of Magayon and Ulap or not, its base circumference is 62.8 kilometers encompassing the downtown areas of Santo Domingo, Malilipot and Camalig. It is 8,075 feet above sea level and its slope gracefully inclines for three kilometers at 35 degrees all the way down to its base.
Massive volcanic rocks, buff and breccia, as well as, ash agglomerates constitute the integument of Mayon. Its slopes are generally cut by gullies and deep ravines originating from the summit, an indication that lava flowed down them.
The earliest recorded account on Mayon was made by Chief Pilot Esteban Rodriguez of the San Pedro, in July 7, 1569. He referred to the region as “the island of volcanoes”, because it was not only Mayon that he sighted but many, such as Bulusan, Daraga and others which at the time, were not yet identified.
The challenge of the volcano was first accepted by Fathers Pedro Ferrer and Esteban Solis, two Franciscan missionaries who separately scaled its slopes. While the porters of Fr. Ferrer abandoned him, those of Fr. Solis stood by him and even spread the news to other natives. The feat resulted to the conversion of hundreds of natives into Christianity.
There are conflicting claims as to who really made the first conquest of the summit. A medallion struck in 1823 showed that it was D. Antonio Sigueza who made the first successful climb to the summit. However, Dr. Fedor Jagor, a German traveller claims that Paton and Steward, two young Scotsmen were the first to make it.
Minus it fearful rumbles and eruptions, the volcano has also claimed lives. The record would show that since 1592, three climbers lost their lives while scaling the slopes of the volcano. They were Eligeo Buban and Daniel Serrano, guides who were both from Tabaco and who were overcame by fumes on March 1, 1959, and Rodrigo Fabro, Jr. , and 18 year- old engineering student from the University of Santo Tomas.
The first ever attempted Mass to be held for Rodrigo Fabro, Jr., was held at 6,000 feet. Another Mass for those who lost their lives was finally held at the summit by Fr. Pedro V. Arana, curate of San Antonio in Tabaco.
The flora on the slopes of Mayon are interestingly varied. Winter greens and wild strawberries grow profusely between 1,500 and 3,000 feet. Between 2,500 and 3,000 feet is the forested area consisting of vines and moss-covered trees. Between 3,000 and 5,000 feet is the “gogon” zone. Close to the summit consisting of fumaroles and loose stones, is almost a bare area, where fungus that cling to the rocks can be found.
The volcano which erupted more than 40 times continues to attract climbers from all walks of life – young students, bored office employees, middle-aged. There is always that desire to have a peek at its crater, and such is strong…to do it, however, one can at least try.