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Albay: Always Magayon

Wherever you are in the province of Albay, no one can deny that Mayon Volcano is its true beauty. You can see the perfect cone volcano anywhere you go in Albay. And you can't help but admire its beauty. But aside from this fabled yet fiery active volcano, Albay also boasts it's authentic Bicol cuisines, historical churches and fun activity adventures which makes up for a sizzling complete vacation. 
Mayon Volcano is one truly "Magayon"
One of my main quests in visiting the province of Albay is to see the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano on my birthday trip this year. It is an active volcano surrounded by many legends and stories but definitely the “must-see” when in Albay. It’s natural beauty will surely left everyone in awe but you got to visit it on a perfect weather like summertime where skies are clear and cloudless because most of the time, it is hidden by the clouds. My summer visit is just timely! I also want to discover the wonder sights of Legazpi City which is dubbed as City of Fun and Adventure – a perfect theme concept for my birthday trip this year!

My fun and adventure starts when I found that approaching Legazpi Airport, you will already be delighted by the famed Mayon Volcano from the airplane window. I was excited to experience Mayon first hand in the air, but unfortunately wasn’t seated on the window seat. Still, I saw a few glimpse of the perfect cone volcano from window seats across from my aisle seat.  And that only adds up to my excitement in visiting Albay province. 

Mayon from the Legazpi Airport tarmac.
Legazpi Airport is the most scenic airport tarmac that I have seen in all of my travels!
Upon deplaning, my disappointment for not getting a window seat on the plane subsided instantly when I was greeted by the magnificent sight of Mayon Volcano. She revealed her beauty on a sunny summer day to me! And I feel delighted like no other! I take it as a sign that the rest of my stay in Albay will be as beautiful as the Mayon.   

Mayon Volcano is an active volcano in the province of Albay! But don’t be afraid or fret to visit Legazpi, there are warning measures in case it erupted. You will be more at ease and relax when you see it because it is truly “magayon” (beautiful in Bicol dialect) in every angle! Actually, you can it almost view it in every open space in Legazpi City. For me, it is a sight to delight in my eyes whenever I saw the beautiful volcano in the city.

Welcome to Embarcadero de Legazpi!
Legazpi Port just beside Embarcadero de Legazpi.
One of the first places we visited in Legazpi is Embarcadero de Legazpi. It is a mall near the seaside Legazpi Port and facing a beautiful bay of Albay. The mall doesn’t just have stores and boutiques to cater for shoppers but also wide spaces and benches for visitors to either relax, sit around, chit-chat or just appreciate the beauty of the breezy bay. There are also jetski and rappelling activity in Embarcadero de Legazpi for those who seeks sporting activity and adventure.

After having our lunch at Embarcadero de Legazpi, we went to one of known Roman Catholic church in the municipality of Daraga – Nuestra Senora de la Porteria Parish Church, also known as Our Lady of the Gate Parish and commonly known as Daraga Church.  The church is known for its mixture of Renassance Gothic and Mexican Baroque church architecture built during the Spanish era out of volcanic rocks. The church was built by the Franciscans in 1772 under the patronage of the Our Lady of the Gate. It is built on top of a hill in barangay Santa Maria overlooking Mayon Volcano so the stair steps hike for five minutes is worth the trip.

The steps uphill to Daraga Chuch from the jeepney drop-off point.
I admire the old and classic architectural style of its façade. It was beautifully made with columns and engraved with Franciscan saints and religious seals like the coat of arms of the Franciscans order.  It was just lately I knew that its façade and walls are made of volcanic rocks which amazingly stood against time. I’m glad to learn that some parts of the structure especially the belfry was already white coating of lime for protection from deterioration because not only Bicolanos deserves to appreciates this beautiful church but also every visitors of Albay. 

Post-card perfect Albay: Our Lady of the Gate Parish set against Mayon Volcano.
A visit to Daraga Church is an appreciation of the old but stunning architecture of Spanish colonization area. One may feel eerie seeing the dark sections of the church or looking through its antique glass windows, but you will definitely be fascinated by the vast view of Mayon Volcano at the side area of the church.  There is an overlooking view deck at the side of Daraga Church where I saw an obstructed view of Mayon. The clear and sunny weather was up that day and it made up a beautiful sightseeing view of Mayon Volcano. It was an amazing sight! I felt that the weather was on my side since it is my birthday trip which makes Mayon Volcano as my biggest birthday cake! Daraga Church is 10 minutes away from Legazpi City via one ride jeepney.

By dinner we dined at Bigg’s Diner at Embarcadero de Legazpi.   Bigg’s Diner is the biggest and popular food chain in Bicol region with many branches in various Bicol provinces. Their best-seller is Baby Back Ribs, so I gave it a try even though I know it’s prone to higher cholesterol rate. The meat was soft, tasty and a hint of spice. It was delicious and the serving is enough to satisfy my dinner. 

Mayon seen inside Daraga Church's antique windows.
Our Lady of the Parish bell tower is architecturally stunning.
The following morning, we travelled to again to Daraga to visit the most recognizable landmark of Albay province - Cagsawa Ruins. A jeepney ride bound for Camalig, Guinobatan or Polangui will pass by Cagsawa Junction that takes about 15 minutes ride from Legazpi City. From the junction you can walk but I suggest hiring a tricycle to the site since the hot and sunny during morning visit. There’s an entrance fee of 10 pesos. Never did I imagine that this famed landmark of Albay that I only see on my elementary textbooks and postcards will someday meet my eye on flesh! It was a surreal experience! I’m glad that the weather was clear from clouds that morning because the ruins were set against a majestic back-drop of the perfect cone Mayon Volcano. Now, I get to shot my own photo of the postcard perfect photo of Cagsawa Ruins! 

The famed landmark of the province of Albay - Cagsawa Ruins.
The clear skies made appreciate more the beauty of Mayon as I can clearly see it from the ruins of Cagsawa. The site of Cagsawa where numerous ruins of stones and buildings to be found also serve as a perfect back-drop for photo shoots. Cagsawa Ruins are the remnants of an 18th-century Franciscan church, the Cagsawa Church built in 1724. It was destroyed by the eruption of the Mayon Volcano in 1814 and the remains of the eruption were what we see today in the ruins with most notably the belltower still intact and erect.  It is the most popular and famous landmark of Albay province so don’t miss visiting it when in the province.  Around the entrance of the ruins, there were numerous souvenir shops catered to visiting tourists.

The ruins of Cagsawa Church destroyed by Mayon Volcano's eruption in 1814.
Birthday Trip 2014 at Cagsawa Ruins!
Church of Cagawa marker.
The stunning Mayon Volcano from the view point in Cagsawa Ruins.
Then we had a lunch in 1st Colonial Grill Restaurant in Daraga town proper. It is a local and famous restaurant in the province where I sampled the best of Bicolandia cuisines. One of 1st Colonial Grill signature that filled my lunch was Tinapa Fried Rice – a complete meal dish of flavorful fried rice with tinapa flakes and slices of salted egg, green mangoes and tomatoes served uniquely in a small “kawali”. The gastronomic exploration of Bicolandia won’t be complete if you will not sample their famous Bicol Express which is one of my favorite Filipino dishes. Bicol Express is basically a pork dish simmered in thick coconut milk with lots of chili varieties to make it a one hot spicy dish. And in Bicol region I learned that there’s a 25 versions of this dish. We also tried their Boneless Bangus which has a sauce that plays in between sweet and mild spicy.
1st Colonial Grill is also home of the unusual ice cream flavors but distinctly a Bicolandia taste which catapult its fame among the must-dine restaurant in Albay. I did not let the opportunity to try these unusual ice creams – Sili Ice Cream, Malunggay ice cream, Pili ice cream and Tinutong ice cream.  I tried every ice cream and each is unique in its own taste. Sili ice cream has the sweetness of a usual ice cream but the kick of spiciness runs down thru your throat after a spoon of it. Maluggay ice cream tastes like munching on a vegetarian ice cream while Pili ice cream has a full creamy flavor of sweetened Pili nuts.  Tinutong ice cream on the hand tastes like a real tinutong (burned rice) but the cream also mistakes it as a champorado (chocolate porridge) ice cream!  

A taste of Albay - (clockwise left to right) Sili, malunggay 
and pili ice cream, the famed Bicol Express and Tinapa Rice.
Lignon Hill's entrance.
The road going up to the hill if you opt to hike it up.
Legazpi City, Albay Gulf and Legazpi Airport seen from Lignon Hill's view point.
The park on top of the hill.
Lignon Hill Nature Park is one of the places that one must visit when in Legazpi. The park boasts wider view of Mayon Volcano plus adventure activities that will delight sporty individuals and those into adventure-thrilling activities like – zip line. The park is basically a park above a hill where there are manicured gardens, benches and numerous viewpoints that overlooks Legazpi City. There’s an option to walk up to the hill or rent a habal-habal going up to the hill and vice-versa.  On the hill you can easily spot Legazpi Airport, and Albay Gulf.  But unfortunately, I didn’t have a clear view of Mayon that day since it was very cloudy that afternoon.   

Mayon Volcano in the air! Dios mabalos, paaram Albay!
From Legazpi City alone, I already have a good start of complete fun and adventure of Albay – from history, cuisine, nature up to adventure activity trips. It’s a complete package! So how much more when I have a chance to explore the rest of Albay province? I bet it will be a satisfying trip journey! Still at the end of it all, Mayon will still hold you for its marvelous and enigmatic beauty. And that makes Albay always Magayon!

Albay: Always Magayon is Part 1 of my Birthday Trip 2014 and first of my Summer 2014 travel trip that happened last March 17-19, 2014. It has been a long hiatus since my last post. I hope to be able post more travel stories in the coming months to make up for the longs hiatus. I have so much to travel to share that happened to my last Summer 2014 up to Summer 2015. Feel free to leave comments and reactions below.

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Return to Mabini

Last 2012, my trip to Anilao, Mabini, Batangas is one of the best travels of my life and one of the highlights of my 2012 travels. It was just a simple trip with friends and colleagues at work but it turn out to be the best day-off ever of my life! It wasn't just about the place and friend bonding that we had but with the place, our "samahan" grew stronger alongside creating the best travel memories that we will never forget. So to return to Mabini, a year after is something sentimental to me. 

Return to Mabini, a year after.
I was invited on a birthday trip of one my co-workers at work. I accepted it since Mabini is now quite a special place for me and it is going to be one of the last out of town trips I will have before the year ends. I also see it as an opportunity to reminisce the best travel I had before in the place. Yes, I'm getting sentimental because of the travel memories. Because honestly I still got a "hangover" of the Anilao trip I had last 2012. I still not forget that trip even I had a latest trip to Mabini. And having a different set of people on this trip it only made miss my 2012 trip.

I leave early morning for the trip. At 2AM, we leave. My birthday celebrant colleague rented a private vehicle that will fetch me and their company to Mabini, Batangas. It was four and half hour trip before we reach our intended destination - Sea's Spring Resort. The resort is situated in Barangay Mainit of Mabini municipality of Batangas. It is a Korean owned resort so doesn’t surprise if most of the guests are Koreans. The resort is notable for using seawater as a water source for its mineral pools with 3 seawater pools, one with 2 slides and a hot spring pool for body therapy and relaxation. It also provides diving activity for those who are diving enthusiast and fond of underwater marine life of Batangas.

 Chasing sunrise - one of the best activity I had on my return to Mabini.
It's so wonderful to return again to the place where I had best travel memories...
One of the main activities in Sea’s Spring Resort is swimming at it seawater pools with one being a hot spring pool. The main pool’s attraction is its two long slides perfect for water fun activity. While, the hot spring pool is perfect for body and mind relaxation. Just be cautious when dipping at the hot pool since the temperature varies up to 42 degree Celsius. There is a temperature indication at the top of the pool.  The resort provides diving lessons and activities for those who want to dive the waters of Anilao since it is reach in marine life and underwater biodiversity. There is also a sport center hall where you can play billiard. 

Sea's Spring Resort facade.
Hot pool.
The main pools of Sea's Spring Resort made of seawater.
The view from top of the slides.
 If you’re not fond of these activities, you can try to stroll around the resort as Sea’s Spring Resort has hilly landscapes, grassy ground, rocky beach and nipa huts to explore. One of the memorable activities I did was sunrise viewing at the beach. It was the first activity I did since we arrived early in the morning. The wide space and shoreline of the beach in the resort was a perfect spot for sunrise viewing. Find a perfect spot among the nipa huts and just watch the sun rises from the sea and move against the clouds in the sky. I find it relaxing. It led me into in-depth thinking and reflection – which is mainly reminiscing my past travel to Mabini, a year before.

Batangas seascape at its best!
No one would feel tired if you would stroll on this place everyday.
The rocky beach in front of the resort. Unfortunately, not recommended for swimming but highly recommended for photo shoots.
Since the rocky beach is not advisable to swim, I opt to have photoshoot instead!
I tried swimming into their pools for the rest of the day. Swimming into the resort’s beaches is not advisable because of its rocky seabed. You may opt for photo shoot and landscape photography which I did. By night time, we celebrated my colleague birthday by having a barbeque party and drinks near the main pool. The resort allows bringing in food and usage of kitchen utensils for a fee. They also have a free breakfast inclusion in their package. The resort has an ideal space in Mabini (facing the beach) and accessible via road. Their rooms are clean and nice. Their facilities are clean too and landscapes are perfect for travel souvenir shots. Actually their surrounding landscapes made them an ideal place to stay. The resort’s landscapes are winner in my travel books. (I will have a separate post regarding my accommodation and resort review of Sea Spring Resort.)

Kwentuhan and kulitan before going to sleep with my travel mates.
Witnessing the wonderful Batangas sunrise again...
Chasing Mabini sunrise!
It was an overnight trip. The following morning I get to witness again Batangas sunrise. I swam into the pool for the last time before packing up my things for a road trip home. By noon, we leave Mabini and headed to Manila. I was a short trip yet it is a wonderful trip full of reliving travel memories.
Throwback memories - In 2012, it was Batangas sunset 
and in 2013, it was Batangas sunrise.
Throwback memories - In 2012, the original cast of Anilao trip and 
in 2013, just like a movie sequels, only 2 of the casts to return.
Ending thoughts as I go home from Mabini… Fast forward. December 2013. It’s the last month of the year and exactly 2 weeks to go before 2013 ends. I unexpectedly had a chance to return to Mabini again. But this time with a different set of people and in a different place of Mabini.  Even though, this time my trip here is the opposite of last 2012, I'm still happy and felt thankful to return to this place where I had great travel memories. Because returning to Mabini now brings me so many memories!

Return to Mabini is my last travel trip of 2013 that happened last December 18-19, 2013 in Sea's Spring Resort, Mainit, Mabini, Batangas. I initially thought that the resort is located in Barangay Anilao which prompt me to agree right away to go on the trip since I still had a "hangover" of my Anilao trip in 2012. But later I discovered it was in Barangay Mainit yet still in Mabini municipality where Anilao is also located and we passed by as we travel to Mainit. It's still a return to the place where I had a best travel to date - a return to Mabini. 

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Tagaytay Revisited

If you are looking for a mild cold weather on a hot weekend, I will recommend you to revisit the famous relaxation and vacation place in Cavite – Tagaytay. I called this a “revisit” because I know most of us have already been to this famous destination of Cavite province. I myself have been in Tagaytay for a countless times but I still find it worth to have a revisit to this place. Definitely because of the mild cold weather but with some new sights, good old cuisine to taste and the ever-charming overlooking scenery of Taal Lake and volcano, Tagaytay will always be worth for a revisit.

In Panorama: The famed postcard photo of Taal lake and volcano overlooking view from Tagaytay.
The proximity of Tagaytay from the metro makes it an ideal quick escape for those like me who are looking for a short vacation. So after my work shift together with my workmates, we hop on the earliest bus ride to Tagaytay, Cavite. Travel time is just one and a half hour coming from Pasay area and at the early hours of the morning. We arrived early in the morning and to enjoy the most our quick visit; we planned to do what Tagaytay visitors normally do like food trip and sightseeing.

Since we arrived in the morning, we sample first the famous Bulalo (Beef Shank Soup) to refresh our senses at Green Ats Bulalohan and Restaurant which is open for 24 hours. Bulalo is made of a hot stew from beef shank with beef meat, corn cob and vegetables like cabbage and potatoes. Just the aroma of Bulalo is perfect enough for withstanding the cold weather of Tagaytay so what more in indulging its hot stew. It was perfect for the cold weather of the place!
Tagaytay's famous Bulalo!
The sun starts to shine...
Cavite sunrise...
Green Ats has a perfect terrace view deck of Taal Lake and volcano so we waited until sunrise to enjoy the popular view of Tagaytay. After enjoying our Bulalo meal and dawn has passed, the sun started to rise. It slowly lighted the beautiful view of Taal Lake with Taal Volcano, known as the world’s smallest volcano in the center of it. I know this view has always been popular in postcards and travel magazines already but this view of Tagaytay is it timeless charm. And though, Taal lake and volcano geographically belongs to Batangas province, you will never get tired of this beautiful view from the ridge of Tagaytay. For me, this view of Tagaytay is a view that every visitor will never forget.

It's more fun in Cavite!
Overlooking view of Green Ats Bulalohan and Restaurant.
Each one of us dreams to fly.
We were still full from Bulalo, yet we continue our food trip at Mushroom Burger. It is 10 minutes away from Green Ats Bulalohan and Restaurant and along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway. Mushroom Burger is famous for its burger made of organic mushroom! For me, it was a perfect breakfast treat in combination with hot coffee. The burger patty seems to be like an ordinary meat patty burger but very mushroom in taste! And I find it healthy too! Since it is made of mushroom and organic vegetables, it promotes good digestion. After finishing our “heavy” breakfast and a few chats, I usher my travel mates to proceed to our next destination in Tagaytay.

Perfect combination for breakfast - Mushroom burger and coffee.
Pine trees around Tagaytay City.
Located in Barangay Asisan is Puzzle Mansion. The mansion is a museum that boasts a Guinness Book of Records for the most number of collection puzzles on display. The museum has two floors of halls of collected puzzles of different pictures that will fancy, entertain and amaze the visitors.  Some of the most attractive puzzles found inside Puzzle Mansion are portrait of famous Philippine politicians like President Aquino, famous paintings like Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh and world famous landmarks like Taj Mahal of India and Red Square of Russia. The museum facilities also boast hotel accommodation for its visitors, a wishing well and souvenir shop full of puzzles, of course. Most of the activity that you can do in Puzzle Mansion is to have souvenir photos with the numerous puzzles of all sizes but aside from it, there is nothing to do in the museum.

How many puzzles can you count at Puzzle Mansion?
Record holder.
Van Gogh's Starry Night in puzzle version.
Souvenir shop of Puzzle Mansion.
More puzzles, more fun!
Our last destination is another famous place in Tagaytay, the Tagaytay Picnic Groove. The park has great recalls of my childhood memories for it has been a popular place for our family trips and outing. The park also has a perfect view of Taal Lake and volcano too, where visitors can do picnic in the huts located in a slope facing the view. The park also has cable car ride and zipline for an exciting activity. And for the adventurous, it has an eco-trail where explorers can do canopy walk and concrete platform walk as an optional activity. But the famous activity in Tagaytay Picnic Groove is horseback riding activity that I’m sure most of us have a fond childhood memories of. Souvenirs shops are all abound around the park. Some parts of the park were poorly maintained that I hope its management will do action soon since the picnic groove is still a popular place in Tagaytay. The picnic groove until now still appeals to a lot to Tagaytay visitors so hopefully its improvement will happen soon.

The stunning view at Tagaytay Picnic Groove.
We could still visit People’s Park Palace in the Sky which is another must-see attraction in Tagaytay too but our time is limited. I hope there will be changes already to this mountain peak park because the last time I went there it was badly neglected and in need of maintenance. Or visit the famed gardens of Sonya’s Garden and taste their organic treats in Alfonso, also near Tagaytay. But I definitely enjoyed my revisit to Tagaytay! I get to explore it enough to satisfy my senses. And it still has a lot of fond memories of my childhood trip memories. It was worthy to revisit Tagaytay again. Its charm goes beyond the scenic view of Taal lake and volcano but soars to great travel memories now and then. Tagaytay is a great place to revisit again and again in my home province of Cavite.

Tagaytay Revisited is the narration of my first trip of the year that happened last February 3, 2014 with my workmates. It happened just out of thinking where to go a quick escape from the city which happens Tagaytay as the nearest place to go. It was a wonderful revisit to the old time popular destination in my home province for all this time it still has a charming way to call you for a visit. After all, it's more fun in Cavite! 

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