Albay is one of the six provinces in the Bicol region in Luzon. It is comprised of 18 municipalities, including Daraga, home to Mt. Mayon – an active volcano whose almost-perfect cone shape attracts visitors across the country.
Albay is a veeery long road trip away from Manila (around 10-11 hours by car). A bus ride from the Cubao Terminal takes around 11-13 hours with numerous stopovers. During PNR train rides, we would spend around 14-16 hours to the PNR terminal in Daraga, followed by a 20 minute-tricycle trip to Daraga town proper. A plane ride of course, is the fastest means of transport and only takes an average of 40 minutes from the NAIA airport (if you’re coming from Manila).
Albay brings back good old memories of childhood: playing house, cooking rice and fried fish in native palayok, scaling up the hillside at the Mayon Resthouse with my sister and cousins, lying on a hammock in my grandmother’s house, surrounded by coconut trees, brown earth and silence.
The province is also recognized as a major producer of abaca and is well-known for its high quality abaca handicrafts. You’d be surprised how affordable they are here. A small abaca handbag for instance, only costs P50-60 in local markets whereas the same item is pegged at P150-200 in Manila.
Mayon Rest House is also a famous starting point for mountain climbers aiming for Mayon’s 8,500-foot peak. This building, while old, never fails to yield breathtaking views of Mayon Volcano and the Albay skyline from 2,500 feet above. With its fresh air and cool temperature, the park not only offers scenic drives, but is also a suitable picnic spot for those who wish to experience Mayon up-close without needing to trek to the crater.
Standing as a grim reminder of the Mayon Volcano eruption in 1814 that swept the town of Busay in Cagsawa, the Cagsawa Ruins in Legazpi City is another must-see for Albay visitors. This historic belfry is the only living remnant of the said eruption, with the entire Cagsawa Church buried underneath. The Cagsawa Ruins offer postcard-quality photos, with Mayon Volcano sitting majestically behind it.
Within the ruin’s vicinity are huge boulders, small souvenir shops and exotic plants and orchids for sale. It is located about 8 kilometers from Legazpi City’s main business district, and can be reached by jeepneys bound for Polangui, Camalig, Oas, Guinobatan, Ligao or Libon.
Home to over 450 animals, Albay Park and Wildlife is Legazpi City’s only zoo and is a perennial favorite among families. For an entrance fee of P20 (P10 for kids 4 feet and below), visitors can enjoy a variety of flora and fauna, huge picnic area with gazebos and cottages, and a vast lagoon for refreshing boat rides. Kalesas and bikes are also available for rent. The park is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 8AM to 6PM. It is located beside the Legazpi Airport.
While you’re in Tiwi, head out to Tiwi Hot Springs National Park. While the area can get busy especially on weekends, its soothing natural thermal springs are guaranteed to rejuvenate tired muscles and alleviate the nerves.
Don’t forget to drop by Our Lady of the Gate (more popularly known as Daraga Church) just within Daraga’s busy central district. This magnificent Baroque church is perched on a hill facing Mt. Mayon, offering one of the most astounding views from the city.