The Legend of Mt. Mayon…Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden)

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.



More On Albay…

More on Albay…

by Apolinario Villalobos


According to the annals on the early Spanish exploration of the country, in 1567, a small contingent from the Spanish camp in Cebu explored the central waters of the archipelago. The small group was led by Mateo del Saz and Captain Martin de Goiti who stayed on the island of Masbad (Masbate).


Two years later, Luiz Enriquez de Guzman landed on a coastal village called Ibalon after exploring the islands of Tiago (Ticao) and Burias. In 1570, Andres de Ibarra traced the route of de Guzman but did something more monumental. He erected a chapel of bamboos and nipa leaves, the first ever to be built on the island of Luzon.


With Ibarra was Father Alonzo Gimenez, an Agustinian friar who was responsible for the conversion of the natives into Christianity. This made the Ibalons the first to be baptized on the island of Luzon. While this was happening, Juan de Salcedo sailed up the Bikol River until he reached a vast sprawling valley by the bank where he founded the village of Santiago which for the natives was known as Biong.


During the early days of the Spanish colonization, there were no distinct territorial boundaries among the provinces. Ibalon as a Spanish territory was not particularly delineated. However, the eastern side’s boundary was specifically indicated by the waters between it and Masbate. The only geographical division which Ibalon had was that which separated the eastern part from the peninsula. From Matnog to Caramoan, the area belonged to Partido de Ibalon, while those in the eastern part, belonged to Camarines.


The provincial name of Ibalon was changed to Albay in 1636 by virtue of a Spanish decree, followed by the clear definition of its territory in accordance with the order made by Governor General Narciso. Sorsogon and Catanduanes were likewise made as independent military districts.


A very tragic event deeply marked a page in the history of Albay. February 1, 1814, saw the eruption of Mt. Mayon, burying two towns, Cagsawa and Budiaw in the process while the rest of the surrounding towns were partially damaged. As a result of the eruption, so many relocations were made. Bulusan for instance, was rehabilitated on the other side of San Francisco River and is now called Guinobatan. Camalig on the other hand was reconstructed a little farther south from its former location. The older Albay, now known as Buinanwahan has become a part of Legazpi. As a background, the original town of Albay was established in 1843, while Daraga which was formerly known as Salcedo when established in 1818 had included Cagsawa.


Legazpi City, the provincial capital, had its debut as the commercial hub of the peninsular region when it was opened to foreign marine in May 18, 1872 by virtue of a Royal Decree. With the opening of Legazpi to international shipping industry, its main product, abaca, has finally found a market outside the region, although, its reference within the international community is “manila hemp”.


Albay is generally mountainous and hilly. The whole area is also dotted with volcanoes with Mt. Mayon as the most imposing. Its majestic, almost perfect cone rises to 8,075 feet above sea level. Despite the province’s mountainous terrain, it has also a wide area of plains and valleys. Two-fifths of the entire province consists of this, with the plains of Central Albay as the most prominent. It stretches from Camalig to Libon and Polangui where it widens to meet the slopes and ranges of Bato and Buhi. Measuring about 42 kilometers in its full length, 23 kilometers at its narrowest span, the area is considered as the “bread basket” of Bicol Region.


Five navigable rivers crisscross the entire area of the province. These are the Baiza, Talisay, Maporong, Basong and Baloto. The headspring of the Baiza River begins at the tributaries in the northern slopes of Mt. Mayon and pours down to its final outlet at Malinao. Talisay River originates from Mt. Pantao joined by tributaries from Oas and Mt. Masaraga in Ligao. Naporong River flows out from the tributaries on the northern slopes of Mt. Masaraga, while Basong and Baloto rivers begin from headsprings in Central Albay but join at the vicinity of Mataguinting in Jovellar. As the last two rivers pass through Sorsogon, it becomes known by another name, Donsol.


Although, it is the majestic Mayon which has put Albay in the tourist map, there are other places around the province that play important roles in its popularity. Except for a few of these whose facilities are fully developed, the rest are yet to be improved. The northern coast of the province has Tiwi Geothermal area to offer. A plus is the nearby Naglagbong Lake which has spewed lava years ago. Other hot springs can be found in Camalig.


Manito which is about 41.5 kilometers from Legazpi City is endowed with several springs and waterfalls. The most popular are Inangmaharang, Geothermal Lake, Balubagon Boiling Lake and Dalipay Falls. On the other hand, Malinao, a coastal town near Tiwi, prides in its Palale Falls and Lagbanong Springs. It is some 34.1 kilometers from Legazpi City.


Jovellar is an unassuming inland town which could be reached over semi-rough road. This is a rice and abaca growing community whose hills hide an underground river called Naglaus and the Magtaginting Falls. The popular beaches near the city are Puro, Buhatan, Kalayukai, and Sogod.


Due to the topography of the province, its entire area is pockmarked with caves, some of which have protected the villagers during the early revolutions and the WWII. The most popular of these caves is Hoyop-Hoyopan in Camalig which is about 11.8 kilometers from Legazpi City. Its significance has been boosted by the discovery of archaeological remains that date back to 2,000 years ago. Among the finds are potteries, human bones and pieces of jewelry. As alleged by Dr. Solheim, noted archaeologist, the finds belonged to the Kalanay Complex which included the Visayas, classified under the early Iron Age of the Philippines from 200 BC to 900 AD. Hoyop-Hoyopan has four openings and each has its own big main chamber. The chambers are connected to each other by foot bridges and pathways. According to the local guide, during my visit, Fred Nieva, the inhabitants of Camalig crammed themselves inside the cave during the WWII. Other interesting caves are the del Rosario at Jovellar, Linao at Libon, and Minaroro at Rapu-Rapu.


Tabaco, aside from being noted for fancily -designed knives fashioned from discarded metal, is also known for furniture made from buri, rattan and wood. Tabaco’s popularity as regards furniture is shared by the towns of Santo Domingo, Guinobatan and Daraga.


It is said that in Albay, one can taste the hottest “pinangat”, folded yam (gabi) leaves into several layers within which are bits of pork or shrimp, shredded coconut, plenty of chopped red chili, and cooked in coconut milk and ginger. The popular reference to this dish, “bicol express” is said to have originated in the province. Today, however, anything cooked with plenty of red chili, be the dish, based in vegetable, fish or meat, is called “bicol express”.


As of this time, Mt. Mayon is observed to be emitting smoke and shows indication of imminent eruption, that is why, the villagers at its foot and slopes have already been warned. The same warning is also given to trekkers. As in the past, during its latest eruption, the volcano is closely watched by those who would like to gawk at its cone spewing fiery lava, a magnificent scene to behold at nighttime.