By Celso Amo
LEGAZPI CITY-- Cagsawa Ruins with Mayon Volcano as its backdrop has become the most popular picture postcard of the Bicol Region.
But new archeological diggings at Budiao Ruins offer another tourism attraction because Budiao Church was totally destroyed during Mayon Volcano’s strongest eruption in 1814 while Cagsawa Church was not.
Budiao Ruins is located about 25 kilometers from the popular Cagsawa Ruins.in Barangay Bañadero in Daraga, Albay.
“We are looking forward to support the diggings at Budiao Ruins which could help us understand better our past,” said Mayor Carlwyn Baldo of Daraga, Albay.
Baldo said he also passed Municipal Resolution No.95-2017 as presiding officer with municipal councilors Victor Perete, Gerry Raphael Jaucian, Jr., Niel Montallana, Joey Marcellana, Pedro Marcellana III, Juanito Comia, Archie Bajamundi and Cherry Mayor when he was vice mayor declaring Budiao Ruins and Daraga Catholic Cemetery as heritage site in the town of Daraga on May 2, 2017.
Cagsawa Ruins and Our Lady of the Gate Parish, the most beautiful Catholic Church in Bicol constructed on Gothic architecture and popularly known as Daraga Church were also declared as National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines by the National Historical Commission in 2007.
The local government of Daraga has provided funds for the excavation of the Budiao Ruins
Bishop Joel Bailon of the Diocese of Legazpi and the University of the Philippines agreed to conduct archeological digging on the buried Budiao Church starting on April 23 this year.
Franciscan friars constructed the Cagsawa, Budiao and Daraga Catholic churches in Albay province.
Mayon’s deadliest explosion on February 1, 1814, buried the Budiao church in Daraga, Albay.
Dr. Eva Recto, head of UP Archeological Studies Program said the diggings at Budiao Ruins is a joint project of the Diocese of Legazpi, the University of the Philippines and the National Museum.
She said after the May 1, 1814 Mayon eruption Budiao parish was abandoned by the Franciscan friars.
After 232 years we will excavate this ruin and find out this part of our colonial period, she said.
“We are happy to report that we have not yet reached the church’s flooring,” Recto said during a briefing at the site earlier.
Dr. Leee Anthony Neri said a team of archeologists was able to open six trenches.
“The diggings on these six trenches have their own objectives to help us understand the general questions why we are excavating the old Catholic Church of Budiao,” said Neri.
So technically the fifth trench was the deepest which reached down 5.5 meters from the surface.
“After that the sediments were analyzed and digging went down to another 2.5 meter deep,” said Neri.
Total length of the digging was 8 meters from the surface.
“Unfortunately, despite what we reached that deep we were not able to reach the church’s flooring,” he added.
So what is its implication?
“It shows the massiveness of Budiao church.”
Dr.Neri theorizes the height of the buried church could be about 10 meters.
“We were able to identify the entrance of the church through the diggings from the various trenches.”
He said the church’s entrance is about 10 meters by 15 meters.
“This shows the Budiao Church is a bit bigger than Cagsawa Church.”
The third thing that we were able to discover there is that we were quite surprised we were not able to discover artefacts but only contemporary materials.
“So that is the implication of this archeological site?”
Neri said that since this site was abandoned in 1814 it was not used again.
“Our next goal is to identify the flooring and the extent of these massive walls of the church’s ruins,” he added.
Even Bishop Joel Baylon could not suppress his excitement on the findings of the diggings when he asked: “Is it still possible to recover the pews or luhuran?”
“Were they able to transfer the pews before they abandoned the church or were they able to abandon the church with a particular plan or just abandoned it in haste?”
Baylon said the present diggings can shed light on Cagsawa church.
“To me talking about this outside of ecclessiastical context the more we dig into Budiao Ruins the more interesting Cagsawa Ruins become,” he added.
“What is inside? Yes, we can talk about the story that many were buried inside Cagsawa Church.”
He said Cagsawa Church was slowly abandoned based a 1930 photo which showed the church was half buried and its door can still be seen.
“The Cagsawa Church was not buried in the 1814 Mayon eruption while Budiao Church was definitely buried.”
The Bishop said the diggings “are very interesting for us.”
“We are proud to claim that these ruins are now tourist destinations and as we dig more we are able to tell a story about the ruins.”
He said these churches were constructed by the Franciscan missionaries.
“But the point is that the lives of the people who once lived here were also buried.”
He said the more “we dig into this the more we will be able to write the story about our past.”
“They may not be in written form such as in books and literature-- but the stones the mute witness that can tell a lot of stories.”
He was excited to know what Dr. Recto said that if the digging will reach 5 to 10 meters down the church’s flooring will be reached.
“Why not dig outside so we can now see the church structure,” Baylon added.
He said even the outside of the church’s ruins has a lot to tell us already what it was in the past.
He said the diggings has also a religious and ecclesiastical implications.
“We are trying to make these ruins speak to us who are we today,” he said.
He said the fervor of the missionaries can be gleaned how they built the church as a way of responding to the realities of the community around them during that time.
“Why does this church face the volcano? What does it mean?”
“What can we know about THE natives of Budiao at that time? What about the babaylans and how people observed their lives here?”
“In short, how did the missionaries responded to them?”
Budiao Church has a lot to tell us about the people during that time, he said.
“Kung ano ang hugis, ano ang porma can be seen through the diggings.”
“How we will connect with the efforts of the Franciscan missionaries of the past which challenges us also with the mission activities and responsibilities of the Catholic church in the present.”
“More treasures will be shown to us.”
“How the liturgy must have been celebrated. The images and what was the altar of this church?”
“Was someone buried near the altar?”
“How was the fervor of the community celebrated?”
He said in all probability the diggings have something to tell us about that as well.
“Also again, it will encourage and inspire us to make our liturgy and our life mission relevant today,” the Bishop said.
“This diggings into the past is not just to help us understand the past but also for us to appreciate our own present-- whatever efforts are those big ones or great ones so our faith will be meaningful” Bishop Baylon added.