By JR Abdon Balde
ALBAY VIEJO & ALBAY NUEVO
Sawangan was a settlement by the seashore before the arrival of Spanish explorers. There are debates on whether the name Sawangan refers to “sa’wangan” (anchorage) or “sabangan” (delta). There is a place called Binanuahan to this day, which was the original center of the coastal village. It flourished between the Tibu River and the Makabalo River. When the Spaniards arrive, the village by the seashore was recorded in the journals of the colonizers as “Baybayo”, which later became “Baybay” and “Albay”.
When Mayon Volcano erupted in February 1, 1814, pyroclastic materials rained on the village by the seashore. Thus, the villagers were forced to move to the higher grounds of Taysan. The terrain in Taysan was rugged and mountainous. Later, when Mayon became dormant again, the evacuees in Taysan moved downhill to a flatland they called Bagumbayan. They rebuilt in Bagumbayan the church consecrated to San Gregorio Magno, which originally was built in the Baybay area.
Some of the evacuees in Taysan returned to the Baybay village as they wished to continue fishing by the sea. These returnees who resettled by the sea built a new church with San Rafael the Archangel as its patron. San Rafael is the patron saint of fishermen.
The new settlement in Bagumbayan was henceforth called Albay Nuevo (New Albay) and the old settlement by the sea Albay Viejo (Old Albay). Confusions started from thereon when both Albay Viejo and Albay Nuevo became part of Legazpi City. The commercial center of Legazpi was in Albay Viejo, but the city government offices were situated in Albay Nuevo. The central government of the Province of Albay was located in Albay Nuevo, right in front of the Legazpi City Hall. Some of the regional offices of the national government agencies were in Albay Viejo, some were in Albay Nuevo. Later, Albay Nuevo was called Albay Old District, adding confusion to the names of these places. The Governor of Albay and the Mayor of Legazpi could actually see each other in their office windows facing each other across the national highway. But there were times when the Governor and the Mayor did not see each other eye to eye.