Originally, the name Cagsawa was derived from two words: "kag" meaning "who does or owns" and "sawa" meaning "python," suggesting literally "one who collects snakes" or "a snake charmer." But it could also come from the word "sawa" (with accent at the last syllable) meaning "too much." Fr. Francisco Aragoneses, OFM, the former curate of Cagsawa and Budiao, asserted that the name was because of the over-indulgence of the people during that time, and that the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano could have been meant as God's punishment for the people's over-indulgence similar to the great flood of the Old Testament.
Mayon Volcano eruption
The February 1, 1814 eruption of the Mayon Volcano was recorded as the fifth strongest, based on accounts of previous eruptions since 1616. The eruption covered the countryside with ash and lahar. An estimated 15,000 people died, including 1,200 who sought shelter inside Cagsawa Church where they prayed for safety.
The Cagsawa Church was buried gradually by volcanic deposits from subsequent eruptions. Sand, gravel and boulders were washed down the slopes by rain, covering the church until only the belfry tower remained above ground.
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