Tag Archive: Albay

That grand old dame has her moods.  Last time I visited, I only had a glimpse of her peak while cruising out of Legazpi City southbound for Donsol.   Oh, the frustration!  Imagine Cagsawa Ruins without Mayon.  Most of the time,  Mount Mayon hid behind clouds, peeking out for a few seconds or a full minute, only to hide again.



Not this time.  I must have repeated myself countless times that Mt. Mayon is not like what it has been the one week we were in Bicol.   But there she was.  In all her majesty.  Looking gloriously lovely, even on a cloudy day.  As if teasing the gods since Typhoon Signal #2 was declared in the area.   The clouds would pass, but the lady is set to make her appearance. She showed up from all the corners of Legazpi City, from Cagsawa Ruins to Daraga Church up on a hill. From Lignon Hills to halfway around Mayon Skyline.   She stood there.  Ever present.  Set to make her majestic appearance.   Like no one, no typhoon could stop her.


Taken from Mayon Skyline


The morning they declared Typhoon Signal #2, we looked out the window of Villa Amada Hotel where Mayon stood guard while our not so little ones were sound asleep.   Deciding to make it a lazy day,  we even managed a day trip to Mayon Skyline.   Zigzagging up, we passed many children waving hello to us.  Unlike my last visit when it was cold and foggy,  the entire lake and the top peak of Mayon were both visible.   We made it!   The children were frustrated the Planetarium was closed (despite the sign that says “Welcome. We are open.”) and that there wasn’t much to do at the halfway resthouse.  All that zigzagging, for nothing.   But it was well worth the trip especially for me who missed this panoramic vista the last time. Intensified seismic activity you say?  Oh ok.  We’re heading down now.   Thanks for the warning.


“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”  — Quote from Paul Theroux


I only managed to book the first 2 nights of our week-long holiday.   In fact,  just the one night.   At the last minute, I arranged to book 2 nights in the same place in Donsol.  After that,  I grew tired explaining to the children that we don’t know where we’d stop for a night or two, and which hotel or inn we’d stay in.  You should see them.  Those eyes growing bigger, to express surprise, a tinge of nervousness maybe,  and utter despair that this time around, their grandma has no answers.



We found a good coffee place in Daraga, Albay with wifi to bring us back to the safety and comforts of this digital environment.   While we sipped our lattes, exotic shakes (think pili and sili!) and cappuccinos,  I checked out the hotel on the second floor of the building which houses both Bicol Blends Cafe and 1st Colonial Grill.  Same owners.  Same cheery staff.   Villa Amada Hotel has family rooms.   Two adjoining rooms with a connecting door.  Lots of space.  And a window that looks out to Mayon Volcano.  Perfect!   I booked the next 2 nights.


Family Rooms: 1 room with Queen Bed connects to 2nd room with twin beds


And so it went that we spent 2 nights in Donsol and another 2 nights in Daraga/Legazpi City.  The children are happy.  They slept well. They also ate well as the menu offerings downstairs at 1st Colonial Grill and Bicol Blends Cafe are exactly what they hanker for.   Until they remembered we still had the remainder of the week in Bicol.  Where to sleep the next few nights before heading home?


Tinapa Rice from 1st Colonial Grill

Buco Chopsuey @1st Colonial Grill. Goes well with tinapa rice!


As Typhoon Signal #2 was declared in the Bicol Region,  the poor weather condition was the least of  their worries.   We still had to get bookings for our Naga stay.  But there’s a lot to do to keep them busy. And there’s a lot of serious eating to be done too. We pigged out in 1st Colonial Grill down below the hotel. This is also where we can have our free breakfast — goes with the rooms we booked.   And then finish off with gourmet, exotic coffee and shakes at the Bicol Blends Cafe beside it.  The owners of Villa Amada Hotel and 1st Colonial Grill are one and the same.  Bicol Blends Cafe is owned by the son of the family.   Pretty soon,  I would be cornering a corner at the coffee shop. Slurping good coffee while surfing the Net.


Sili Shake, anyone?

Small Talk Cafe


We also found time to drive by Small Talk Cafe to take out some pasta and pizza to eat back in the hotel. We figured that if the weather conditions worsen,  we would be better off in the hotel than eating out to savor this fusion cuisine.  Ever heard of Pasta Mayon?  That is laing-filled ravioli.  How about laing pizza , or pasta pinangat? And there’s the Pili Pasta with Basil. Yummy! We ordered all these plus the more traditional pizza margherita and cappriciosa (combination pizza) for the kids.  While waiting,  we couldn’t help but check out what were being served in the next table.  Before long, we were trying out their pili pie and mud pie.   Not bad at all!  Amazing how this small cafe fuses italian goodies with local cuisine centered on pili nuts, coconut cream and chilies.   By the time we made our way back to Villa Amada Hotel,  we were ready for the typhoon with all our takeout goodies.  What gluttons we were!  No mercy.


Our very first day in Legazpi City and the first order of the day was this adrenaline-pumping activity.  Sort of  like a prelude to next day’s Butanding Interaction in Donsol.


It was  a Sunday.  Soon after hearing mass at the Albay Cathedral, we proceeded to the Embarcadero de Legazpi.   It was too early for lunch.   We pondered what to do before our big meal at Bigg’s Diner, that famous Bicol food chain.  The cable lines beckoned.   From the Embarcadero “tower”,  across the waters, down to that mound of earth at the end.  Should we?


The entire family minus one queued up for the zipline.   The 2 kids are ziplining in tandem with 2 adults.   At the last minute, the older kid asked to go solo.  Fine.  Brave.   We waited till an earlier batch of teens got through.   Then one of these teens began cursing , and cussing, and screaming as he ziplined down.   Either he wanted to grab attention,  tried to be “cute” or simply had a bad mouth.  For sure, he wasn’t scared.   So it could be all of the 3.   All that was enough to drive my grandson nearly  out of his wits as he had second thoughts about this daredevil activity.   Damn.   Oops, no cussing.   In the end, he was persuaded to go through with it in tandem with his mom.  But not without reciting the Lord’s Prayer in its entirety.  Phew!

It was over even before we were ready to quit.   Enough adrenaline rush for a big meal at the famous Bicol foodchain.   This American-inspired, Hollywood-ish diner beats McDonald’s anytime of day.   Spag and chix for some of the  adults, while the “babies” craved for their baby back ribs.  My not-so-little boy nearly begged for a second serving.   Wow. That zipline must have really revved up their appetite.

Hoyop Hoyopan Cave


In Camalig, Albay, we took a detour to visit Hoyop Hoyopan Cave. Hoyop means “to blow”. We spent the next half hour or so inside the cave, amazed to “shoot the breeze” inside while checking out the stalactites and stalagmites. We can imagine how the local rebels were made comfortable while hiding from the Japanese then as the cave has water sources and a pretty good ventilation even during summers.  Our guide led the way, and we were relieved to find cemented pathways and ample lighting.  Just the same, I was ready with my handy flashlight and headlight.  I finally got to use them!  🙂   But we weren’t prepared to find a dance floor INSIDE the cave.  Say what?  A dance floor.  Only in the Philippines! Well, we were reminded that the cave is a private property and the owners have actually held parties inside this cave.  That explains the dance floor. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a karaoke bar next time I visit.  Up and down, a few steps here and there, and we found the 4th exit out of the cave.  Mind the stalactites and stalagmites, though.  One can earn a monstrous bump on the forehead if one is not careful.  Outside, we found local boys playing a game of volleyball while a cow parked itself in an area meant for motor vehicles.


Cagsawa Ruins Without Mayon Volcano

Most postcards in Albay show Mayon Volcano in all its majesty framed by boulders and what remains of the Cagsawa Church. Over a thousand parishioners sought refuge in this Church in Mayon’s February 1814 eruption and all perished from the tragedy. The stone pillars were constructed using eggwhites to glue the stones together. Imagine how many eggs those parishioners brought to Sunday masses, and what baked goodies they concocted with the egg yolks too! We were soooo looking forward to visiting this place as we have always visualized Mayon Volcano with this scenery, with all its tragic history. Sadly, the majestic volcano with its near-perfect cone was too shy to make an appearance. Hiding behind the clouds, one can hardly recognize even its silhouette on this cloudy day. Oh well, you can’t win them all. For the moment, the postcard will do.

Daraga Church


Finally, we drove up to nearby Daraga Church. It is said that the parish transferred to this 18th century church after the 1814 eruption. This old church was obviously undergoing some repairs and repainting. We were disappointed with the fresh coat of white paint, and would have preferred that they left the stone structure in its “natural” state. There is charm in the “old and natural”, and a paint job does not serve to enhance the beauty of this ancient church.


Nearly back in Legazpi City, we passed by Lignon Hills for another unobstructed view of Mayon Volcano. It would have been an hour’s trek to get to the View Deck, but it was our last stopover and we all felt the day is almost over. In short, we had no energy left to do the trek! Perhaps another day. For sure, I’d make a return trip and by then, I should also be ready to go trekking, ziplining and even the lava trail using the All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) available for rent. Now, that’s a good reason to go back.


More photos can be found in my TravelBlog site.

Padang Memorial

From Legazpi City, we drove towards Barangay Biga-a, just 8 kilometers from Mayon Volcano.  This place is a PERMANENT DANGER ZONE.  And for good reason.  Back in 2006, Typhoon Reming hit the area and as many as 15,000 perished .  The Padang Memorial stands here as a grim reminder of that tragedy, with the majestic volcano as backdrop.  From Padang, we passed a few 17th-18th century churches.  We took the time to stop by 2 churches , both named Santo Domingo Church. The second one had a separate bell tower as well as lovely stained glass windows. Unfortunately, the churches were closed and we failed to gain entry.

Kawa Kawa Natural Park and Mayon Skyline 

Further on,  we drove through a road lined with Pili trees and abaca hemp hanging out to dry.  Then we took an uphill road and climbed towards an area tagged as Mayon Skyline where the Mayon Planetarium and a solitary cafe stand across stone huts hugging the cliff from where one takes in a view of the crater lake on a clear, sunny day.  It was a pleasant surprise to find this cool, breezy place this foggy morning just an hour’s drive from the city. Too foggy to allow a clear view of the lake,  we instead chose to spend the next few minutes sipping a cup of hot coffee or slurping some hot noodle soup.  A nice brew would have added some charm, though, instead of the instant coffee served.


Mayon Skyline is in Barangay Bu-Ang in Tabaco, Albay.  The entire area belongs to the PERMANENT DANGER ZONE  too.  There was no chance to check out the blacksmiths from Tabaco, Albay — famous for its quality scissors and knives. ( Tabak literally means knife or machete , after which the place got its name.  )   Rather, we drove on towards Ligao City where Kawa Kawa Hill is.  Many Catholic pilgrims visit this natural park especially during the Lenten Season to do their Stations of the Cross. Moving on, we passed Guinobatan, Albay where the tree-lined road blends with the popular mode of transportation in the area — tricycles and jeepneys — and some old houses and more 17th-18th century churches.




One such old church is in Camalig, Albay whose patron saint is St. John the Baptist. The belfry is touched by this old tree with creepers along its branches and twigs, which stands witness to many Sunday masses and passing parishioners.  Unlike their counterparts in many parts of the country,  these churches are situated in wide plazas and must have served as community centers in the olden days.


It’s amazing how many 17th and 18th century churches one can find in Albay alone.  No wonder many of our priests hail from this place.  You can sense the spirituality in these places and among the people.  Truly, adversity has its favorable results.  Being in the typhoon belt, exposed to nature’s fury, the Bicolanos have strong faith in God’s mercy, as are just as blessed with many natural wonders like the near-perfect cone of Mayon and the nearby whale sharks  in Donsol, Sorsogon.   Come visit!


More photos in my TravelBlog site.

Mayon Skyline On a Foggy Morning!

Mayon Above the Barbed Wires

Cagsawa Ruins Without Mayon Volcano as Background