Monday, September 26, 2011

More Of Bicol

Since we got a lot of the cuisine-tripping out of the way on Day 1, the next couple of days in Bicol was devoted to checking out the sights. We were in the heart of Bicol in the province of Albay, in its capital city, Legazpi.

MAYON VOLCANO, at 8,000 feet, looms majestically over the city. Depending on where you stand, it starts taking over the sky itself. Mayon has been called the world’s most nearly perfect cone and as I stood on the steps of DARAGA CHURCH, built atop a hill in 1773, gazing at the still-active volcano in awe, I would not dispute the claim; it truly is a magnificent mountain.

Daraga Church is a bit of a historical relic itself. Built from volcanic rock, it was designed with Baroque architecture in mind and has articulate religious carvings on its façade. Nearby lies the awesome CAGSAWA RUINS, an 18th-century church buried in lava from Mayon’s catastrophic eruption of 1814. Only the belfry of the bell tower remains visible above ground, mute testimony to Mayon's fiery temper.

Near the town of Tabaco, up on the on the eastern slope of Mayon at an altitude of 3,000 feet, stands an excellent vantage point known as “Heaven on Earth” because of the low-hanging clouds and the cool, invigorating air in this spot. From here you can see a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, offshore islands, different towns, lakes, villages, fields, and the other mountains of Bicol. It is an incredible 300-degree visual tapestry of nature and creation

This part of Bicol has its fair share of nice beaches (mostly black sand) and jungle waterfalls.
SOGOD Beach and SAN LORENZO Beach are the local favorites. Just don’t look for a Boracay kind of vibe….nah, these beaches are quieter and simpler. Just the way some folks like it. BUGSUKAN Falls and PALELE Falls do their cascading waters thing amidst lush mountainside vegetation.

On the shores of Albay Gulf at the outskirts of Legazpi City, are the PORTA AZURE VILLAS. Set against a backdrop of magnificent Mayon Volcano and a unique beachfront of black volcanic sand, Porta Azure is an oasis of serenity in the heart of Bicol. While there were somewhat decent hotels and other beach resorts in Legazpi, Porte Azure was our accommodation of choice, hands down.

The painted art on the walls, tropical façade, non-kitschy décor, cogon grass roof, ironwood trees, lava rock wall…all blended together to give a somewhat Bali-Yucatan-Thailand-Caribbean kind of feel. Oh and….got a great coconut oil massage here!

For those who want to check out the local artisans and their handicrafts and wares, head to: HABI, PHILCERAMICS CENTER, NAPA’S HANDICRAFTS.

At the City Market of Legazpi, beautifully crafted local products are a bargain….costing a fraction of what you’d pay in Manila! Hand-woven abaca slippers, bags, Christmas décor, yummy local snacks….and, of course, that well-known Bicol product pili nuts. In the town of Tiwi, our culinary travelers discover another Bicolano talent. Pottery-making at the PHILCERAMICS Center is a joy to behold.


J.Richmore said...

I love Bicol. Last year, I went to Albay, Naga and Caramoan island. I will be sure to come back next year.
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Billy S. said...

I always love visiting these beautiful places in Bicol. It is just one of the best spots for a relaxing vacation in the Philippines.

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