Philippines 2013: Lignon Hill Park, Cagsawa Ruins and Mount Mayon

Date: 29th May, 2013

Today I woke up to the sad sight of morning rains. Sad because I hoped for clear skies. Today I would focus entirely on Mt. Mayon (also known as Magayon volcano) — the main reason I came to Legazpi, and quite literally, the region’s biggest attraction.

Albay wet road Philippines
By the time I stepped out, the rains had reduced to a drizzle and the sun was coming out again

I took two jeepneys (cost me ₱10+₱8) to get to Lignon Hill, which I was told is a great view point to see Mt. Mayon.

Entrance Lignon hill park Legazpi Philippines
Lignon Hill is a bit out of town
Lignon hill park road
There’s an uphill walk ahead
Lignon hill nature park map
Lignon Hill has other attractions, but all I was interested in was getting to the top
Lignon hill road bend Bicol
If you have a private vehicle, you can ride it uphill as there is parking facility at the top
Lignon hill road curve Philippines
It did get a bit challenging when the steep stretches began — and that too in this heat!
Legazpi airport runway Philippines
You get a panoramic view of Legazpi airport’s runway from up here
Legazpi airport Cebu Pacific takeoff
It’s a great place to see airplanes take off
Lignon hill climbing up
15 minutes later, I sensed I was getting close
Arriving at hill peak Lignon
And I was!
Steps Lignon hill park
Although I was tired of climbing, I felt higher the platform, better the view
Lignon hill park zip line Legazpi
They have a lot of zip lining going on here as well
Mt. Mayon cloudy Legazpi Philippines
As for Mount Mayon… sigh, clouds?

Legazpi sea view Lignon park
One can see the sea from here too
Lignon hill park restaurants
You have a few restaurants and souvenir shops up here
Trees shrubs Lignon hill
I saw a path going downhill
Mt. Mayon rice fields Legazpi
I was looking for a spot from where I could get a clear shot of Mount Mayon and the paddy fields below
Mt. Mayon paddy fields Legazpi
But this is the best I could manage
Mt. Mayon cloudy Legazpi Philippines
It was frustrating to see the clouds at the tip of the volcano. Mount Mayon is the world’s most perfectly coned volcano — if only I could have photographed it without the damn clouds!

I moved to the car park area for another view.

Mt. Mayon Bicol Philippines
Getting better?
Mt. Mayon clouds covering top
Nope, actually it got worse
Cat Lignon hill
I sat down under the roof because I could see the rain clouds coming our way
Rain clouds covering Mt. Mayon
Now you see it…
Rain clouds Lignon hill Mt. Mayon
…now you don’t

I sat there disappointed. After not being able to do the Mt. Pinatubo trek, not getting to see whale sharks in Donsol, I was upset over the thought of another potential disappointment today.

Chicken sizzler rice meal
I didn’t want to eat from here as the options were quite slim. But I had no choice, so I ordered a garlic chicken and rice meal (₱120)
Fierce cat Legazpi
There were a lot of cats here, and I found them to be quite aggressive. This ass of cat jumped on the table and tried to take a bite out of my chicken leg WHILE I was trying eat. It wouldn’t even wait until I was done! The lack of manners I tell you!
Tourists Lignon hill Mt. Mayon
Eventually the rains stopped — and it began to clear up again.

I had enough of Lignon Hill and decided to go to Cagsawa Ruins for some better luck.

Concrete road Legazpi
I began walking downhill but a moped taxi driver offered to drop me at Cagsawa Ruins if I paid him ₱100
Legazpi Bicol village road
As per the map I was carrying, the site of Cagsawa ruins was no where near walking distance from Lignon Hill
Mt. Mayon from road
I hoped the clouds would spare the top of the volcano by the time I reached Cagsawa Ruins
Bridge construction Bicol
This was some construction going on near the road leading to the Cagsawa Ruins site

Bicol river stream PhilippinesI was dropped at the entrance

Entry to Cagsawa ruins Bicol
There is an entry fee but it’s quite cheap
Christ statue Cagsawa ruins Legazpi Philippines
Cagsawa Ruins is a preserved site of what remains of the church that survived the volcanic eruption of Mt. Mayon back in 1814
Cagsawa church ruins Legazpi Philippines
And this is what’s left of the church
Church of Cagsaua tower Legazpi
The story of Cagsaua Church
Cagsaua ruins church tower Legazpi
From the side
Cagsawa ruins site shops
You have a few shops inside

Orchids shop Legazpi Bicol

Bicol paddy fields Mt. Mayon background
I setup my camera and tripod at the boundary of Cagsawa Ruins, beyond which was a farm. I shot a timelapse sequence from here.
Camera tripod Cagsawa Legazpi
I wasn’t the only one
Cagsawa ruins from behind
I looked back and wondered if there was any restriction on going any further
Cemetery cross Mt. Mayon Philippines
I didn’t see any ‘No Trespassing’ sign anywhere
Greenery Cagsawa ruins Legazpi
But I walked back and checked out the other side of the site
Cagsawa ruins garden Legazpi
This compound used to house a lot more than just a church

Tree Cagsawa ruins LegazpiCagsawa church tower Bicol PhilippinesEventually I mustered up enough courage to just walk past the boundary and entered the fields.

Paddy field Bicol
I don’t know who owns these paddy fields. There was no sign claiming private property anyway.
Black soil farming Bicol
I noticed the soil was black, which implied it was very fertile and suitable for agriculture

Farm water puddles Bicol

Mt. Mayon farmland Bicol Philippines
Up ahead I saw a mound and I wondered if the view from there would be even better
Farm land Mt. Mayon Legazpi
I saw what looked like a shed, and I assumed I would find a man somewhere around to ask if it was okay to walk here
Shed farm Legazpi
But there was no one to be seen

And so I climbed the mound…

Mt. Mayon grassland Bicol Philippines
… WOW!
Grassland Bicol Philippines
It was absolutely beautiful! It felt like I was hundreds of miles away from the nearest town and up some mountain range — but I wasn’t. The grasslands, the grazing cows and the small streams of water just brought a huge smile to my face.
Mount Mayon cloud at the tip
I set up my tripod to shoot timelapse sequences hoping the clouds would give the top of the volcano the freedom *I* was seeking!
Cloud tip of Mt. Mayon volcano smoke
Yes, Mount Mayon is still classified as an active volcano and in fact, it erupted just a few days prior (nothing major though).
Camera tripod timelapse Legazpi Philippines
I used my phone camera to continue clicking
Cagsawa church field Bicol
That’s how far away the Cagsawa church was
Wet paddy fields Bicol Philippines
Finally, spotted one human besides me!
Cows near Mayon Legazpi
The only other company I had were these cows
Cow Bicol near Mayon
He he, poor cow. Trying to eat junk…
Cow looking at my bag
Wait…
Cow coming near camera bag
Noooo! There’s nothing to eat in my bag, shoo!

Besides shooing away cows, I really felt at ease being here. It was so pleasant, and cool, and beautiful! Green grass, water streams, very few bugs, clean air, no noise and a majestic Mt. Mayon in front of me. Somehow my frustrations just went away.

Mithun mount Mayon Legazpi Philippines
Even though I wasn’t in the best of health, and all alone, I was still happy
Shooting timelapse Mt. Mayon
I swapped lenses and shot timelapses from different angles. It did get windy though.
Mount Mayon clouds Philippines
Even though I had spent more than 2 hours just staring at Mount Mayon and it’s surroundings, not once did the clouds completely disappear
Mt. Mayon rain clouds Bicol
To makes things worse, I saw rain clouds making their way from right to left
Mount Mayon volcano smoke Philippines
So imagine hoping: “Yes, that tiny cloud on the right will clear away soon… right?”
Clouds engulfing Mt. Mayon Philippines
And then seeing this instead
Rain clouds grasslands Bicol Philippines
The rains were over in 15-20 minutes
Rain clouds Mayon base Bicol Philippines
Even though there is a 6km wide ‘danger zone’ set in place because of Mt. Mayon’s recent eruptions, there are still houses and people living close to the volcano
Clouds cover Mount Mayon Legazpi
Alas, I couldn’t afford to hang around here any longer. It was getting late.
Streams Bicol field Philippines
The sun was setting. So I packed up and made my way back. I thoroughly enjoyed being here. I considered the greenery and serenity of this place a highlight of this trip.
Plastic bottles on the ground
Which is why it annoyed me seeing plastic bottles thrown on the ground. I had to pick them up and dump them at the Cagsawa Ruins trash cans. People, please have some civic sense. Nobody is assigned to do a daily routine of cleaning up of such vast open spaces.
Cagsaua church from Mt. Mayon Philippines
Not once did I see any security personnel whistle or wave at me to come back. I was here for more than 2 hours.
Cagsawa ruins evening Mayon Bicol
It was time to say goodbye
Pili nuts Bicol Philippines
Outside, a lot of shops were selling this stuff, pili nuts, which the saleswoman told me was unique to the Bicol region. They are soft nuts (imagine walnuts in crunch) and I sampled a few.
Pili nuts for sale Legazpi Philippines
You get pili nuts caramelized, plain, coated in chocolate and in many other flavours. I bought a few to take back to India and jar for my friend Janet.
ATV Legazpi Mayon Legazpi Philippines
On any other day, you could rent these ATVs and go on guided tours around and closer to Mount Mayon. But because of the curfew on going anywhere near the volcano, these tours were temporarily stopped.
Bridge work Legazpi Philippines
I walked back to the main road and easily got a jeepney from there

The jeepney did pass by Albay and I could have gotten down. But I figured I’d go and have dinner from the city. That turned out to be a bad idea. I could see grey skies in the distance by around 6pm, but when some of the passengers decided to get out of the jeepney, leaving only me in the back, I took it as a bad sign.

Heavy rain jeepney Legazpi city night
It rained hard!
Night rain Legazpi city
Even though I had an umbrella with me, I took shelter at a 7-Eleven when I got down from the jeepney

After the rains subsided, I walked around Legazpi city because I read online there was a small concentration of Indians who have been in Legazpi for some time.

St. Raphael church Legazpi night rain
I really didn’t know where exactly in the city center I was or where to go

It was dark, most of the shops were shut or shutting down. I gave up trying to find the area and decided to head back. I bought some meds from a pharmacy, picked up some Dunkin Donuts for tomorrow’s breakfast and took a jeepney back to Albay.

Mang Inasal chicken soup
For dinner, I ended up at Mang Inasal again. With the cold rain, I somehow craved the unlimited supply of that hot soup along with chicken and rice. It warmed my feverish body.

Although I was disappointed I couldn’t shoot Mt. Mayon perfectly without the clouds, I still felt calm and at ease today. All thanks to the unspoiled beauty and serenity that I experienced out in the grasslands. It’s no wonder the people of Bicol named the volcano “magayon” — which mean ‘beautiful’ in the local dialect — when it’s not erupting and damaging property that is.

If you want to know what Mt. Mayon looks like without the clouds, see yesterday’s post — and the next. Yup, luck is never on my side when I most need it!

P.S: The timelapse video of Mount Mayon will come a bit later. I shot over 2,000 photos and I haven’t got the resources to make the video yet.

Update: Here’s the video, pieced together in Adobe After Effects with music by my younger brother

Next post in this series:

Philippines 2013: Aerial view of Mount Mayon; arriving at Coron

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2013: Arriving at Legazpi; going to Donsol to see whale sharks

Philippines 2013: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City

Beachfront hotels and resorts on White Beach, Boracay

Philippines 2013: Bulabog beach, Mount Luho viewpoint and sunset at White Beach

Philippines 2013: Boracay island tour, Puka beach and snorkelling

Philippines 2013: Flying from Manila to Boracay, White Beach

Philippines 2013: Taal Lake Volcano and Peoples Park, Tagaytay

The crap I went through to get my Philippines tourist visa this time

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5 Comments

  • Jill

    13/02/2014

    beautiful pics!

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thank you! 🙂

    [Reply]

  • Shairmaine

    29/02/2016

    Hello Mithun! Your blog, so far, is the most interesting piece ever about Mayon. I felt as if I were in your shoes and looking through your eyes. Maybe I had enough of vain shots here and there. I’m planning to go to Mt. Mayon soon.

    PS you know how to avoid the crowd huh!

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks for your kind words Shairmaine! 🙂

    I just walked into the fields away from the crowds. Not many ventured into the fields.

    [Reply]

  • Juliet Mountaineer

    10/03/2016

    hi! Your photos are wonderful, it really captivate and inspire me to visit mt. Mayon and being able to experienced mountaineering activities there and witness it’s natural beauty though sometimes it bring harm and danger in going there.

    [Reply]

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