Albay is the home of the world renowned Mayon Volcano, the perfect-coned mountain that will make you fall in love with its beauty. True enough, wherever you are in Albay, you’ll catch a glimpse of Mayon’s perfection.
This wonderful province is about 12 hours away from Manila by land, but you can catch daily flights from Manila to Legazpi for about 1000-2000php one way to save up about 10 hours per way. A 12-hour bus ride will cost 850php as of June 2016, so it’s up to you whether you’d like to save up time or money.
As a poor traveler, I chose to save up money and gathered a group of 10 people to join me in my Albay exploration. For 3 days and 2 nights, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of Albay and the presence of the ever mesmerizing Mayon.
We left Manila at around 12mn, and Arrived in Albay by noon. We first had our breakfast at Graceland in Camarines Sur and got a cup of Sili Ice Cream level three from 1st Colonial Grill, the home of the original sili ice cream. This delicacy is worth a try, but I’ll let you give your own judgement about it without my insights (plus, I’m not good in describing food).
Testify to the religiosity of the Filipinos at the Kawa-Kawa Hill in Ligao
A great number of Filipinos are Christians by birth due to the Spanish ruling over our lands for more than 300 years. This has left us with festivities that are made to celebrate and proclaim the life of Jesus Christ, His disciples, and all the people who followed his path. Albay is a home of many beautiful and classic churches and religious sanctuary such as the Tobaco Church and Daraga Church. Interestingly, a private land was converted to a nature park that showcases this certain Filipino culture.
Our first stop even before having our lunch (we tried the legitimate Bicol Express by the locals) was the Kawa-Kawa Hill. It is a cauldron-shaped (thus the term Kawa-Kawa) natural park featuring the 14 Stations of the Cross. At the entrance of the park is a church currently being constructed. It’s either there is no entrance fee at the park or no one was looking after the place when we arrived, so we were able to explore the place for free.
The place is slightly sloped and it brings you higher and higher as you go in circles. Aside from the statues depicting the 14 stations, you will also feel awed as you gaze upon the vast green lands of Albay, plus the calm center of the kawa.
There are also a few stores within the place, if you would ever feel thirsty or you’d want to have some snacks.
Kawa-kawa is a good place to sit back and relax. And if the rains didn’t fall, perhaps you’d like to sit down on the green green grass of this place.
Be mesmerized by the sight of Mayon at the Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga
Albay’s center is actually Mt. Mayon, so wherever you may be, you might just get a view of the perfect cone. However, there is one place where Mayon is highly expected to appear in perfection.
When I think about Albay, I think about Mayon, and when I think about Mayon, I think about the church that was said to have sunk after a former volcanic eruption. This church belltower is known as the Cagsawa Ruins, and has usually accompanied Mayon in its pictures.
Outside the Cagsawa Ruins are stores where you could buy pasalubong for your friends and family. The entrance to the place costs 10php per person. Inside, you’ll see green grasses and rocks, and if you’re not unlucky like us, you’d get a perfect shot of Mayon with the Cagsawa Ruins bonus. Classic Mayon shot.
Become explorers and discoverers at the Hoyop-hoyopan Cave in Camalig
If you are up for an exploration, visit the Hoyop-hoyopan Cave in Camalig. Less than thirty minutes away from Cagsawa Ruins, the cave has been the home of our early ancestors. In Bicolano, Hoyop means blowing of air.
The Hoyop-hoyopan tour guides have already named and/or identified the different rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites within the cave. He showed us a reaching hand, an image of Mary the Mother, Angel’s Wings, a devil from the ground, and even legitimate fossils – human bones engraved at the cave walls or floors. They have even identified a couple of rooms including a masters’ bedroom within the cave.
We were allowed to try rock climbing at a certain wall of the cave. I was the first to try the rock climbing, but fear crept in upon going down. My friend promised to catch me because I can’t find a way down, but it was worth it!
Flex Some muscles at Sumlang Lake in Camalig
Before we went to find out where our rented place is, we soaked ourselves wet under the heavy pouring rain in Sumlang Lake. When we arrived there, the sky was a little bright. We hoped to do some kayaking, and lucky were we because there were five kayaks which can accommodate two people each, and there were exactly ten of us. We paddled our way through the calm lake waters, went round and round the Sumlang Lake.
We were called after sometime because lightning might strike any time soon. We dried ourselves and changed into fresh clothes before going to our homestay. We had to pay 10php per person to take a quick bath, and kayaking costs 50php per half an hour, although it felt like we were in the lake for more than half an hour.
Get some more adrenaline rush at Lignon Hill in Legazpi
This place is perfect for the adventure seekers, but also offers a great view to those who’d like to have some peace of mind.
Many miles above the ground, Lignon Hill gives a perfect view of Legazpi City as well as the Mayon Volcano.
For only 5php, you can catch a closer view of downtown Legazpi or the Mayon Volcano via the single binoculars. You can also ride the zipline for about 250php or brave to cross the hanging bridge for 150 php.
We also visited the Japanese Tunnel, a small hideout of the Japanese when they were during the war, for 20php per person. The ceilings are really low so make sure to duck a little (or more if you are quite tall). It’s not advisable for the claustrophobic people, though, since the place gets crowded depending on the size of your crew, plus air does not flow freely within. Also, there are statues of Japanese inside and outside the cave. The greatest struggle was to get out, but of course, it was quite easy for me (lol).
View more on Walking Through Ligñon Hill.
Cap off your Albay escapades with the Mayon ATV Adventure, Sto. Domingo
A great way to cap off your Albay adventure is to ride the All Terrain Vehicle through the rough roads and irky waters surrounding Mt. Mayon. For about 500php, we availed a thirty-minute ride to a short trail near the foot of Mt. Mayon, where lava flowed during its last eruption.
The ATV ride was exhilarating. Even those who do not know how to ride a bike can survive. The trail is composed of dusty roads, bumpy waters (yes, because there are rocks in the stream), and narrow pavements. Overtaking is not advisable because it could create accidents such as falling, but there were times when we could overtake especially when a certain ATV malfunctions.
Take note, though, that the 30-minute ride is never gonna be enough, you’d be wanting for more. We enjoyed the ride even if our engines stoped many-a-number of times, or we got stuck in a rock, or we were lost in the trails. ATV adventures is truly a must!
Hike up any mountain in the Magayon Trio
Albay is a home for three beautiful mountains namely the Mt. Masaraga, Mt. Malinao, and of course, the Mt. Mayon. None of these mountains are advisable for a day hike, and none of them are considered as a minor climb. So if you’d want to pursue a more challenging hike, choose one of this trio and explore the forests and vastlands it could offer.
We allotted one day for our hike in Mt. Malinao, but we were not able to reach the campsite due to bad weather. Also, to freshen us up after a long and tiring seven-hour hike, we bathed ourselves in the perfectly cool and clean Vera Falls.
You may also view the itinerary here.
Looking for a place to stay? Check out this place in Tobaco City, Albay.
Albay has a lot to offer to the adventure seekers and those who’d like serenity. It’s up to you and your company on how you’d like to enjoy your stay in Albay, but I think I can attest to the fact that you can get best of both worlds in Albay.