Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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.


  1. Good to see a new post from you. Looking forward to reading about your 2014–2015 adventures.

    1. Yeah, it has quite a long time hiatus but now I'm back to my travel stories. 'Hopefully I get to share all of it!

  2. laking pagsisi ko na di ako sumama para akyatin ang Mayon ilang taon na nakakaraan baka pangarap nalang para maakyat, kaso parang naghigpit na sila simula noong may mga foreigners na nasawi sa pag akyat.. ganda ng mayon kahit saang anggulo

    1. Active naman kasi sya kaya nakakatakot. Naghigpit na nga sila. Ako kuntento nako sa viewing kesa i-hike sya, hehe... Thanks for the Minalungao National Park blog mo. Naging big guide ko sya sa pagpunta ko dun, Renante/Manong Unyol.


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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