The Bicol region, in general, and the Albay province, in particular, possess two architectural monuments of exceptional landmarks of a glorious chapter of Bicol history and as reminders of the unforgettable past of a good people of Albay province. These two monuments are a silent testimony of the genius of the people of Daraga. I am referring to the churches of Cagsawa and Daraga.
Time and again, we have listened with awe to the story of the tragic end of Cagsawa as well as the cloudy early beginnings of its descendant town New-Cagsawa or Daraga. (It is a well-known fact that until quite recently Daraga was still known as Cagsawa). Yet there is nothing awesome or mysterious about these two towns. Like all others, they have been the fruit of the joys and sorrows of their inhabitants, the product of their daily sweat abundantly spilled over the land year after year.
Cagsawa was born as a settlement as early as 1587, approximately, when the famous Franciscan St. Peter the Baptist, later ambassador to Japan and martyred by Emperor Taikosama in 1596, came to visit the Franciscan missionaries engaged in missionary and, what we may call today. social work in the Bicol region. Following the normal pace of growth of similar settlement at the time, the missionaries expectedly assembled together the people scattered over the area extending from Albay to Camalig around a temporary chapel made of split bamboos and nipa leaves.
In 1595, this settlement was raised to the category of "visita" and attached to the town and parish of Camalig, the Franciscan center for the evangelization of the province of Domingo de Santiago. Under his leadership, the new "visita" grew rapidly, for only ten years later, in 1605, Cagsawa got its first parish priest, Fr. Alonso de Jadraque, and automatically became the center and vanguard of Franciscan missionary activities taking place around the eastern side of the imposing Mayon Volcano. New mission posts were established and old ones were strengthened in places like Albay, Tabaco and Malinao. Eleven years later, however, in 1616. Albay and Tabaco were detached from Cagsawa, and became autonomous, while Malinao was attached to Albay.
A colorful fiesta in 1635 recorded a tragedy that befell the Cagsawanos for a midst the festivities the pueblo was sacked and burned to the ground. (continue reading)
Sanchez, Cayetano, OFM. "A Town Called Daraga".
DPI Bulletin Vol. I No. 7.
7 September 1976. Print