In Albay, Cagsawa Ruins is Ready to Say Hello to the New Normal!
Choose Philippines | July 01, 2020
Story and photos by Jose Carretero
Arguably the best vantage point of the stunning beauty of Mayon Volcano, called by locals as Daragang Magayon or Maiden Beauty, is in Cagsawa Ruins. Albay’s famous landmark was kept closed for more than three months as Albayano braced for the dreaded coronavirus disease or COVID-19. The suspension of all tourism activities in the country due to the pandemic has immensely paralyzed movement, leaving the most visited sites in the country like ghost towns.
As the quarantine regulations all over the country are being relaxed by authorities, tourism activities in areas under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), like Albay province, is being restored gradually. Among them is the opening of the famous Cagsawa Ruins to the public.
Mayon volcano’s perfect conical shape greeted the tourism staff on the first day of the opening of the ruins. After three months of lockdown, its full splendid beauty radiates once again, seemingly overlooking the century-old ruins. This picture-perfect view is mainly the reason why a visit to Albay will never be complete without visiting Cagsawa.
For the tourism staff headed by Tin Armero, the opening of Cagsawa Ruins is a breather from a nearly four-month-long hiatus. With its opening, stricter health protocols will be implemented before a tourist can grab their camera to capture the perfect photograph of Cagsawa Ruins with Daragang Magayon as the backdrop or before they can have a selfie with the majestic Mayon and the church remnants that reminds Albayano’s that the present beauty of Mayon Volcano belies a horrible past.
Tourists will have to pass through a foot bath at the ruins entrance. They also need to wash their hand in the washing area with soap and water and apply alcohol as well. Their temperature will be checked before they proceed to the registration area where tourists are required to write their names, address, and their contact number. Armero said that fewer tourists will be allowed to enter at any given time. “Less than a hundred, basta may lumabas may papasok. (As long as they come and go.)"
BUSINESS ARE SLOWLY COMING BACK
For the Cagsawa Business Organization, the opening of Cagsawa Ruins is somehow a reprieve. Their source of income was greatly devastated by the closure since it happened during the peak of summer season, a time when tourists flock to Albay. Cesar Lingcaso, the president of the organization and the maker of the famous sili shakes in Cagsawa, says that the stall owners selling foods and souvenir items were elated upon hearing the announcement of the opening of the ruins. Some stalls selling souvenir items like sili key chains, Mayon rocks, and t-shirts have already started preparing their merchandise as they expect tourists to slowly come back. An array of pili products that sells like hotcakes not just to locals but foreign tourists, like pili candies and pili mazapan, can now be seen mostly in every stalls inside and outside the ruins. “Halos 3 to 4 months kaming naghantay na makabalik kami sa normal na bawat isa magkaroon na rin ng pagbubukas ng negosyo so napakasaya namin," he says. (We've been waiting for 3 to 4 months for our businesses to get back to normal and so we made them fit.)
ATV ADVENTURES REOPENS
The opening of Cagsawa has also signaled the All-Terrain Vehicle or ATV operators to start pumping again the engines of their vehicles. An ATV adventure at the foot slope of Mayon Volcano is a memory to keep for tourists. ATV trails start around Cagsawa ruins but tourists may opt for a much longer adventure, driving their ATV going to the black and green lava area. These sites are the remnants of the previous eruptions of the volcano that offers not just a closer view of Mayon but also views of the Albay Gulf and the economic landscape of Legazpi City, the provincial capital.
Kim Maceda, an assistant site manager of one of the ATV operators in Daraga, Albay, said the opening of Cagsawa will help them get more adventurous trail seeking tourists.They hope they could bounce back from the lost income due to the pandemic since ATV adventure is not just fun during the summer season but can also be very exciting during the rainy season. ATV trails during rainy months become more thrilling due to wider and longer water trails creating big splashes while it is being traversed by ATV. “Masaya naman kami na pupuede na pong magoperate yung mga ATV operators dito sa Cagsawa dahil kahit papano kumbaga makabawi na yung nasayang na opportunity natin nitong summer na sana peak season namin,” Kim said. (We are happy that Cagsawa ATV businesses are allowed to reopen. This will allow us to recuperate from the lost opportunity to earn last summer which would have been our peak season.)
GARDEN ADJACENT TO THE RUINS
Aside from the ruins, Cagsawa visitors can also take magnificent pictures of Mayon Volcano with different colorful flowers as a foreground. A garden adjacent to the ruins is one of the most visited spots. It features arrays of local flowers of different varieties and species that are in bloom almost year-round. Tourists can have their Instagramable or Facebook perfect photos with the colorful flowers with Mayon Volcano once again as backdrop. Owner Rodolfo Nugpo said they are more than prepared to once again accept visitors despite the big loss because of the closure. “Totally talaga nuong lockdown wala, hirap talaga walang kabuhayan yung mga tao atleast kung baga sa ano nakita na natin ang aninag ng konti." (People really lost ways of living during the lockdown, at least now we're getting by a little.)
Stall owners, ATV operators and the tourism staff are hoping the pandemic will end soon so that they will not be forced again to deprive tourists of their chance to capture the picture perfect scene of Cagsawa Ruins with Mayon Volcano as backdrop.