“A hill without a hilltop” sounds intriguing ain’t it? I wondered myself how the summit looked like. Albay have always been known for Mt Mayon. For an area with high volcanic activity, it would be natural that the surrounding landscape would have dramatic land forms too. Kawa-kawa Hill and Natural Park in Ligao, Albay, stands just 236-meters above sea level and is just around 5.8 km away from the foothills of Mt Mayon. Aside from its intriguing hilltop, it is a famous site for pilgrimage flocked by thousands especially during holy week.
Divine Mercy Monastery
At the jump-off to the top of the hill is the Divine Mercy Monastery of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity. Bicol have always been known for its magnificent age-old churches but it’s nice to see modern ones like this which was constructed in 2014. Materials used were modern but the arches are classic in design. I love the large painted glass windows. The interior layout almost looks like an amphitheater.
What drew my attention though were the foot and hand prints on each brick used at the stairs. It turns out people can donate a P1,000 and have their mark on the church. It was really a people’s church as this was built by the community.
Stations of the Cross
Past the side of the Divine Mercy Monastery is the start of the pavement walkway to the summit. Aside from a few stalls selling souvenir items and snacks there’s a life-size statue of the “Last Supper” which is the prelude to the events at the stations of the cross.
I love the forest cover in the area. Towering trees remained and the pavements even adjusted to make way to some trees. The pavement extends from 400-500 meters in winding and ascending design. There are a few narrow shortcuts though parallel to the main walkway. Better to slip a footwear that have a good traction. The pavement can be slippery when wet and there are sections with steep ascents.
Nevertheless, it was a pleasant climb depending of course on your pace. Six of the 14 stations of the cross are found along the ascent. The remaining eight stations are at the summit rim.
No Hilltop Hill
The climb to the top is fairly easy. But still this depends on your level of fitness. It only took me less than 20 minutes to reach the hilltop. It was fascinating as the center is depressed. The natural formation is like a cauldron, hence the name “kawa”. I love that the place still feels natural with all the thick vegetation in the area. There’s a pathway along the rim of the summit where the other 8 stations can be found. Along with this are amazing views of the surrounding areas from Ligao, Mt Masaraga and summit of Mt Mayon.
Private Kawa-kawa Hill
It was one enjoyable hike and I was ecstatic to spot a few birds here. Among them are the common yellow-vented bulbul, striated grassbirds, collared kingfishers and brown shrike. I got to take home a lifer! A fairly common blue-tailed bee-eater which I spotted for the first time walking along the rim of the summit.
The entire Kawa-kawa Hill and Natural Park is privately owned and managed by Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzalez and his group of developers but kept it public for pilgrims and nature lovers to enjoy. They certainly did a good job to keep the ecotourism site clean and organized. Now I know another attraction in the area aside from Mt Mayon where people can take a spiritual journey, for birdwatching or simply bask in its the natural surroundings.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.