Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The old Daraga Church




Albay seems just a small part of the Bicol region, but it has performed well in terms of tourism efforts for the past few years with Governor Joey Salceda at the helm of its operations. He is after all the Department of Tourism’s first recipient of its Tourism Star award. Under his brilliant tutelage, the province is constantly serving as a shining example to its neighbours even with the threat of the unpredictable Mayon Volcano. If anything, its natural majesty even enhances every destination within the area. Most hotels and resorts in the province have managed to promote a wonderful view of the volcano in every possible way. The residents themselves know how to cultivate the God-given terrain that essentially serves them back. first started visiting Albay only in 2012. After the most recent eruption in 2010, the need to become part of the landscape was more than just a visit for this travel blogger. It has become a fulfilling experience for me since I’ve done repeat visits every year. With every escapade, I managed to discover something wonderful to share to the rest of the Filipinos. More than just its cities and towns, Albay is definitely a destination worth visiting again and again.

Here are a few essential stops I did for the past three years that you may want to try for yourself soon:

Riding the Bicol Adventure ATV
3,000 feet from the Mayon Volcano crater aboard the Bicol Adventure ATV

Daraga’s Old Church and Bicol Adventure ATV

For a glimpse of the past and a wild ride of the present, Daraga offers two popular tourist-friendly spots – the old Daraga Church and Bicol Adventure ATV, respectively.

The Daraga Church was ordered to be built by the Franciscan priests during the Spanish era. Filipinos laboured to complete its construction in 1773. It was later on used by the Japanese soldier invaders as headquarters during WW2. Its eastern and western facades, plus its bell tower, and baptistery are considered a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.

Read the full story here.

The outdoor recreation called Bicol Adventure ATV offered me the wild side of the province. Aboard its CFMoto Terralander 500, I was led to experience the so-called green lava trail. It’s a full 16-kilometer trail that commenced at Barangay Busay's Cagsawa Ruins, plying the rugged quarry-filled terrain along the 1968-produced lava wall with uphill and downhill slopes, past the permanent danger zone through the eerie forest, up the 2,500-3,000-feet verdant summit and back.

Read the full story here.

The Oriental-Legazpi
The Japanese Tunnel at Lignon Hill
Legazpi City’s Bests

Albay only has three cities with Legazpi being its capital. It’s also where tourists locally and abroad deplane at the airport.

A sexy infinity pool at The Oriental-Legazpi can offer guests an unobstructed view of the Mayon Volcano on a clear day. The hotel’s location proved to be both luxurious and splendid for photo opportunities during my visit in 2012. Atop a hill, it's raised higher than the rest of the city. 

Read the full story here.

Albay Park & Wildlife

While checked in at same hotel, I had the chance to visit a tourist attraction that was first discovered in 1945 by American soldiers who liberated the whole of Bicol. Simply called the Japanese- Built World War II Tunnel, the man-made hole was dug at Ligñon Hill by Japanese soldiers after they arrived to occupy the city in December 12, 1941.

Read the full story here.

The city also has the Albay Park & Wildlife which provides its local residents a vast space for communing with nature and exotic animals.

Read the full story here.
Barangay Rawis of San Miguel Island in Tabaco City
The Hotel Fina lobby
Tabaco City's Hotel Fina, Angela Manalang House and San Miguel Island

Tabaco City is wealthy in creativity and exceptionality. Roughly 30 minutes of passenger van ride from the provincial capital, the city is as sharp-edged as the tabak after which its official seal was patterned, yet it’s also romantic with the presence of its prominent tourist and environment-friendly pedicabs, the ever-present volcano silhouette, and its sliver of attractive San Miguel Island.

My early 2015 immersion of of the city had me linger in luxe living, however short, at the newly-opened Hotel Fina. Located smack dab in the middle of the city proper next to the busy public market and near the town plaza and Catholic church, the 5-storey hotel has both been a popular dining and special events destination by locals aside from being a new favorite jump-off point by foreign tourists to the nearby island of Catanduanes.

Read the full story here.

A room at Hotel Fina in Tabaco City
The scenic San Miguel Island of Tabaco City

The city also has the scenic San Miguel Island. I was able to check out a decent overnight bungalow that Hotel Fina is managing for guests who may want to experience an additional overnight stay there for potential guests who will directly arrive from the port from any point in Luzon. It's a simple bungalow with a vast private outdoor space and backdoor grilling area. After lounging at island cottage’s front yard hammock, I hopped on a habal-habal (motorcycle) to check out Barangay Rawis, one of the island’s five villages, where I was able to marvel at farming fields, stunning cliffs, and rolling hills that can rival any northern Luzon trip. I also managed to skinny-dip at a secluded cove of the island during my boat stopover before heading back to mainland Albay.

Read the full story here.

The Angela Manalang Gloria Ancestral House in Tabaco City
Also memorable was a visit to the most popular old Spanish stone house in the city called Angela Manalang Gloria ancestral house which was named after the late Filipina poet who was a pioneer in her time.

Read the full story here.

For a wellness experience of the province, tourists can experience a luxurious stay in Bacacay’s Dorotea Resort & Spa. During my 2013 visit, I had the chance to appreciate the rest of the town thanks to the resort which is owned and run by Doctor Joey Betito. The former local radio personality has transformed his establishment into a wellness hub where soothing massages are available and well-being products are displayed for patronage.

Read the full story here.

Dorotea Resort & Spa in Bacacay
Tasty Pinangat in Camalig

Tasting The Camalig Culture

Camalig is where the locals will point you to for a taste of the delicious delicacy called pinangat, a tasty local vegetable dish. The side of the Mayon Volcano where the vegetable gabi is grown in abundance is where Camalig is. My visit of the town’s famous Let’s Pinangat, a decent-looking eatery that’s easy on the eyes sells it as its best-selling dish over other traditional Filipino viands.The next town of Legazpi City is rightfully called as such because tucked in this Southern portion of Mount Mayon are old Spanish houses where Franciscan missionaries were known to have first settled in the province. The famous Nuyda Mansion is one old ancestral house worth visiting there.

Read the full story here.
The Sunflower Farm in Ligao City
Mount Malinao's Vera Falls

Viewing the Mayon Volcano is a treat from the plantation of sunflowers found in the city of Ligao. The area in California Village in Kawa Kawa is starting to be a favorite tourist attraction by Filipinos who love to see the flower farm with the distant volcano as backdrop.

Read the full story here.

Tiwi’s Vera Falls and Philceramics

Aside from the Mayon Volcano, Albay also has Mount Malinao where it has Vera Falls that offers guests a refreshing side of the province. Invited by the team of the Tabaco Travel Adven-tour for my "I Love Albay!" Blog Series Tour in 2013, I tagged along with a group of vacationers to see the famous waterfalls. Located in a secluded nook of the mountain, it was a paradise for a city dweller like me. The experience of seeing clear cascading waters in a highly-vegetated forest was exciting!

Read the full story here.

Philceramics in Tiwi
I also learned from the travel agency’s Maria Anna Banadera that Philceramics is an earthenware destination that caters to tourists who love decorative ceramics and the craftmanship behind it. Located in Barangay Putsan, the facility’s name is short for Philippine Ceramics Arts and Crafts Center and it’s just 12 kilometers from the commercial center of Tabaco City. It’s also the original site of the famous DJC Halo-halo, the tasty cheese-topped merienda that Albay residents are proud of.

Read the full story here.
DJC Halo-halo of Albay
Camalig's Quitinday Green Hills

The province also has a set of rolling hills that accentuate the landscape. Called the Quitinday Green Hills, the verdant terrain resembles the famous Chocolate Hills attraction of Bohol in shape but, in contrast, it appears as a lush green of paradise because of ankle-to-waist-high grass and scattered coconut trees. Some tourists can view the splendid formation from a high point at their flight-in to Legazpi City Airport. In my experience, it’s best visited on site as it’s accessible through the district of Camalig. Interestingly, coral stones could be seen in varying shapes on the hilltops of the reserve which left me to imagine the area as submerged under water millions of years ago.

Read the full story here.

Quitinday Green Hills of Camalig
Guinanayan Island in Rapu-Rapu

Rapu-Rapu 's Guinanayan Island

With Boracay leading the Philippines as a sought-after beach destination, mass tourism has flocked to the island to a fault. Fortunately, there is a remote island paradise off the coast of the Lagonoy Gulf in the municipality of Rapu-rapu that still offers tourists the chance to unplug. Called Guinanayan Island, the beach destination is located in the mouth of the Cagraray Pass and it sits next to the Pacific Ocean. What I adored about the beachfront is the sandbar-like formation of white sand where a few open cottages are erected for guests. On both sides of the shorelines, the waves were calm and inviting. This makes swimming safe for kids and paddling on boats safe on low tide.

Read the full story here.

Old Albay District's The Apple Peach House

The ApplePeach House is a modern boutique hotel in the old Albay district. It offers modern comfort for local and foreign tourists. I was booked for a Business Room early in 2015 and it overwhelmed me with its sleek features when I checked in. It was there where I actually spent my last night of my 5-day backpacking Albay tour of April. The culmination couldn’t be more rewarding because I think I deserved something comfortable to stay in and the hotel provided just that. Located near the St. Gregory Cathedral of Legazpi City, it is actually at a quiet residential area but is just a walking distance from the city’s commercial and business center. The nearest Jollibee and Biggs branches are just a 5-minute stroll from the hotel.

Read the full story here.

Casa Basilisa and The Guinobatan Longganisa

The special interest resort called Casa Basilisa has a feel of an exclusive retreat. Located at a breezy enclave of the Bicol Peninsula in Albay’s Barangay San Rafael, it seems like a world away from the rural town of Guinobatan where it belongs. Roughly 510 km southeast of Metro Manila and just 15 km west of Legazpi City, it poses as an ideal escape for travelers seeking solace from the erratic urban life as it offers basic amenities that perform beyond the fray. Accessible via a 50-minute plane ride from Metro Manila via Legazpi City Airport or by an 8-hour land trip, it can successfully nurture guests seeking its pleasant surprises that include odd-shaped villas with access to relaxing swimming pools.

My booked trellis-surrounded Casita was spacious and complete with a comfy bed, access to more than one swimming pools (the main one and the natural or batis-inspired), access to Wi-Fi zone at the Main Pavilion where the restaurant and reception areas are, a cable television set, plus hot and cold shower. Inclusive to the room rate was a hearty Filipino breakfast. To sample the best of the town, I had its much buzzed about garlic-flavored longganisa for breakfast. It was tasty to the last bite and prepared me for a day of extended relaxation.

Read the full story here.

I intend to visit Albay every year for as long as I have the chance because every single time there's always something new to behold. Nothing is the same except the reliable presence of Bicol's famous cone-shaped volcano which doesn’t seem to disappoint me every time I see it.

Be spontaneous. Book that round trip flight or have an intrepid bus ride to discover what Bicolanos have been raving about.

Check out the recap of my Albay-related blog posts:


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