Albay and Bicol region’s iconic image, the Cagsawa Ruins, has recently been declared by the National Museum as a national cultural treasure (NCT), the country’s highest designation for a cultural property.
An NCT is defined as “a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value, which is significant and important to the country.” It is distinct and of a higher category than a national cultural property.
The said citation will be officially conferred by the National Museum on Feb. 1, the 202nd anniversary of Mayon Volcano’s most destructive eruption.
The Cagsawa Ruins is what remains of the old Cagsawa community when the near perfect cone-shaped volcano erupted early morning on Feb. 1, 1814. The eruption claimed over 1,200 lives and buried the entire village, including an old baroque church where some 200 parishioners ran for safety, under rocks, sand and ash.
The event kicks off a month-long observance of the Cagsawa Festival, which celebrates Daraga town’s rich history, natural and cultural heritage.
The festivity also includes a host of entertainment, musical, sporting tournaments, culinary events, a beauty pageant with celebrity appearances, and talent shows to bring out the best of the Albayanos.
Recorded accounts of the eruption said rocks and stones shot high into the air and killed fleeing residents and set residences on fire as the volcanic debris fell. A recorded incident indicated that the parish priest of Cagsawa ordered the ringing of the church bells to warn the local people of the eruption.
While it is widely believed that the parish church was buried under lava, post-eruption photographs in the early 1900s showing the frame still standing would prove otherwise.
Over time, the church building collapsed and today, only the blackened church tower remains standing which is now the centerpiece of the Cagsawa Ruins Park, Albay’s top tourist attraction with the Mayon Volcano in the background.
“The National Museum’s declaration as such of a cultural asset is an important step toward higher level designations. National cultural treasures are priority assets for protection, preservation and promotion by the state,” Albay Governor Joey Salceda said.
He said that with the declaration, the Bicol region now has three NCTs, the other two being the Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church in Daraga declared in 2007, and the St. John the Baptist Church in Tabaco City, both in Albay, declared in 2012.
The region also has two national cultural properties—Barit Bridge in Santiago, Iriga City in Camarines Sur, and the Mataas Shell Scoop, a neolithic artifact from Cagraray Island in Bacacay, Albay.
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