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Bicol Adventure (Part 2)

...Continuation of the last post (Bicol Adventure Part 1). :)

2. Cagsawa Ruins

Do you still remember our history/geography books when we were in grade school? Whenever a picture of Mayon Volcano is shown or drawn, there’s always this tower that’s included. That’s where we were on a bleary Saturday morning. We left my friend’s house at the ungodly hour of 4:30am and started the travel to Donsol. Some minutes (or hours?) into the travel, he remembered that we would be passing by Cagsawa, which is why we suddenly veered off course to head to Cagsawa. Lucky that we did coz we were able to see the magnificent Mayon Volcano without a cloud blocking our view.

Cagsawa Ruins with Mayon in the background

Beautiful Mayon

Bell tower

Just a little info on the place - Cagsawa Ruins is called so because that tower is actually a bell tower/belfry. Locals of the place rushed to the church in hopes of being safe during the 1814 eruption of the volcano. Sadly, some 1000+ people perished on when the church was engulfed by the lava. Now, the belfry still stands intact and the local government has developed its surrounding area as it’s a major tourist attraction. It’s now called Cagsawa Park and is being managed (maintained, etc) by the government of Daraga, Albay. We didn't stay too long here - just took pictures and went back on our to Donsol.

What's a tourist spot without a jump shot? :P
Mayon jump

3. Donsol

If you didn’t pick it up earlier, we were in a hurry to get to Donsol, Sorsogon. We just HAD to make the stop in Cagsawa to get it done and then head on to Donsol. Now, what's in Donsol, you ask? Well, only “the largest living fish species” (Wikipedia) in the world! :P Locally, it’s called butanding. But the more familiar term for all is Whale-Shark. Yes, the one that Dory from Nemo was trying to talk to :P First things first, butanding IS a shark – and that fact alone made us awfully excited about going to Donsol. There’s no need to be scared, however, as it’s also called the "gentle giant of the sea." It also feeds only on planktons and krills.

We arrived in the Butanding Interaction Center around 8am, registered and watched the safety video. Then it was time to go into our boats. There are 10 of in group but since each boat could only accommodate 7 people, we decided to just split the boat in 2 groups of 5.

Butanding Interaction Guidelines

Before our boats left the shore, however, we were joined by a Butanding Interaction Officer or a BIO. He was the one who explained to us the do’s and don’ts when we see a shark. Also, he reminded us that a whale-shark sighting is not guaranteed – the peak season for butandings is from January to May and from June onwards, seeing one might prove to be a little hard. We could also be going around and around for as long as 3 (!!!) hours without seeing a glimpse of it. Of course, as he said this, we crossed our fingers that we would see one.

Our half of the group


He also told us verbal signals. When he says “Ready,” we are to wear our snorkeling gear, and then he will say whether to go right or left. That is, if we were to sit on the right or left side of the boat, ready to jump. And when he says “Go,” we are to simultaneously jump to the water wherein we have to grab the buoy and look under immediately. Take note that we have to be very quick in following his instructions as the whale-shark could very well be gone by the time land in the water.

Twice our BIO told us to get ready and to sit down on the right side – and twice we had to go back to our seats. It was just a false alarm. Third time’s a charm, though, as we FINALLY SAW A BUTANDING! :D It was a baby butanding though, maybe around 5 meters in length. We weren’t disappointed for seeing a small (yes, 5 meters is considered small) one, though, as we saw 3 more sharks! :D

(L) Squarish mouth ; (R) Another angle. They really do have those dots :)

(L) Closer view of the eye; (R) Gills

The last one was the largest one, and it was the nearest. We were getting tired of jumping out of our boats and trying hard to swim fast and taking pictures of the whale-shark but it was so worth it. On our last jump, the moment we put our heads under, it’s was right in front of us and still swimming towards us! It really caught us by surprise as we weren’t expecting it thatclose. Fortunately, it veered off a little and missed us by a bit :P

By the way, though whale-sharks are harmless to humans our BIO told us not to get too near/touch it as it may go wild and hit us :( The other half of our group weren’t as lucky as we were in seeing whale sharks. They only saw a baby one (this one only 3 meters long) and that’s it. They said that it was because of their boatman. Too bad for them.

We paid P800 per head for the trip, and then an additional P125 for the snorkeling gear (mask+snorkel). And since we felt that our BIO and boat crew deserved it, we gave them additional tips. :) By the time we were all back at the Center, it was already noon – we just took quick showers and started for our next destination, which was lunch at Embarkadero. We tried the famous Bigg’s fastfood chain. Anyway, I won’t go into that.

I’ll stop here first as it’s getting a bit long. Til the next post! :)


Amazingly enough, this journal has been up since October 2002. There were times that I rarely posted anything, and times that I posted almost daily. I guess it depends on my mood. That, and the privacy of my thoughts - some of which are only for my real (handwritten) journal.

I'm living life, and loving it. Creating moments, capturing them and cherishing it. This journal is one of the ways of capturing them. Anyway, I just want to say HI to you. However you came across this site, thank you for visiting. I'm really a private person so other entries are locked. So there. That's it, you may go on reading my thoughts and opinions about everything and anything. :)

I'm Karen, btw.

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