Last weekend, my family and I went on a long road trip to Albay in the Bicol region of the Philippines. The thing is, I’ve long wanted to go to Albay, Philippines for Mayon Volcano and for Bicolano cuisine. Mount Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines that dominates the landscape of Legazpi City. It also has the world’s most perfect and symmetrical volcanic cone. As for Bicolano cuisine, the region is known for their spicy food thanks to their generous use of sili (chili peppers) and gata (coconut milk). Hubby and I have been wanting to try their food for the longest time.
How we got there
I wanted to fly to Legazpi City, but everyone else in the family wanted to do a road trip, so even if I’m averse to such a long-drawn-out ride (12 hours seemed like a flight going to the U.S. already), I acquiesced. After all, it’s a chance to see the views along the way, so why not? We left our house in Quezon City at 2:30 AM, and I was fast asleep before we even got to C-5. When I woke up, we were already in Lucena City in Quezon Province. I fell asleep again, then woke up when I heard my mom say we were at the old zigzag road called Bitukang Manok (chicken intestines).
The rest of the drive, I saw a lot of coconut and banana trees, even carabaos, cows, egrets, kingfishers, starlings and swallows. It was something else seeing that part of the Philippines. Not in a bad way, of course, because seeing so much green, so much nature after leaving the smog, pollution and traffic jams of Manila was a welcome relief.
But that first glimpse of Mayon Volcano caught me by surprise, and it made me forget how tired I was. The volcano wasn’t really doing anything, just standing there in the midst of the land with blue skies as its backdrop. But I was awe-struck. This was nature. No human hand made it, and I pray that no human hand will ruin it. We didn’t stop to take proper pictures because we were all hungry and tired. At that point, we just wanted to get to our destination. But she was there, just being.
The thing is, cameras will not give justice to her beauty. You really have to see it to appreciate it.
What we did
- We went on an ATV adventure. Yup, that’s me right there. It was our first time to ride an ATV, and we were lucky enough to have Mayon Volcano as a destination.
- We visited three churches – St. Gregory the Great Cathedral (Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno) commonly known as Albay Cathedral, the Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelites Monastery, and Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church commonly known as Daraga Church.
- We hiked Kawa-Kawa Natural Park. Check out the views during our hike!
- We contemplated the majesty of the beautiful Mayon Volcano at different locations all over Albay – Cagsawa Ruins, Quitinday Green Hills, Mayon Skyline, heck, even a random stop on the road.
what we ate
- Bicolano food. We indulged in Bicolano food like Pinangat, Bicol Express, etcetera. I’ve had Balay Cena Una on my radar for the longest time because I read somewhere that they served traditional Bicol cuisine. 🙂 We also went to Small Talk Cafe for Bicolano fusion cuisine, which turned out to be owned by someone I know! Color me surprised. Anyway, I’ll be posting about both places soon.
- Sili Ice Cream. 1st Colonial Grill’s Sili Ice Cream came in four levels – levels 1 to 3 and a fourth one they called Volcanic. I guess that’s self-explanatory, right? We also tried other flavors like Pili, Tinutong na Bigas and Pipino. Hubby bravely ate the Volcanic Sili Ice Cream, and was certified Oragon (matapang in Tagalog, brave in English). My sister, her boyfriend and I ate some of the Volcanic ice cream too, but not as much as hubby. How hot was the ice cream? Slow burn is the best way to describe it.
- Toasted Siopao. My sister’s boyfriend told us that toasted siopao started in Legazpi City, so we bought some from 3N Bakery. It made for a perfect snack during the drive back to Manila. Sadly, the entire box with a dozen siopao didn’t even make it to Manila, but it turns out that 3N Bakery has many branches, even here in Quezon City.
where we stayed
We stayed at Casa Roces, a well-maintained and well-managed little bed and breakfast in the heart of Legazpi City. They provided breakfast from the nearby Bigg’s Diner, supposedly owned by the same people who own Casa Roces. They took our breakfast orders the night before and in the morning, it was served in the dining room like you’re in your own home. That was so nice.
While we were in Albay, I kept telling my husband, “I can’t believe that we’re finally here!” We’ve been planning to go for the longest time, but one thing or another kept popping up that prevented us from going.
The ATV adventure was hubby’s idea, and he even ended up making this little video of our ATV adventure on the Budiao Trail going to the Budiao Church Ruins, which I’m sharing here. This experience is like hitting two birds with one stone because not only did we get to ride ATVs, we also saw Mayon Volcano pretty close.
Happily, Mayon Volcano and Bicolano cuisine – our two main reasons for going there – did not disappoint us. You know how some tourist attractions tend to fall short of expectations? Thankfully, Mount Mayon didn’t. Of course, we did see her in various stages of concealment, but eventually, we did see her in all her breathtaking glory. As for the food? Definitely worth going back to.
I leave you with this beautiful image of the regal Mayon Volcano that I took after our ATV adventure.
Until we meet again and Dios mabalos, Mount Mayon.