The majestic Mt Mayon looms ahead. Dramatically lit on the side as the afternoon sun illuminates its almost perfect cone shape. I revved-up my all terrain vehicle’s engine as we excitedly approach the final stretch of the Mayon Black Lava Trail. It’s my second time in a month to take on this trail. Fortunately second time around, we got better weather to enjoy the amazing views along the trail. But that’s not to say the rain isn’t good. It actually offers a different exhilarating experience altogether.
“A hill without a hilltop” sounds intriguing ain’t it? I wondered myself how the summit looked like. Albay have always been known for Mt Mayon. For an area with high volcanic activity, it would be natural that the surrounding landscape would have dramatic land forms too. Kawa-kawa Hill and Natural Park in Ligao, Albay, stands just 236-meters above sea level and is just around 5.8 km away from the foothills of Mt Mayon. Aside from its intriguing hilltop, it is a famous site for pilgrimage flocked by thousands especially during holy week.
We all know people are drawn to the natural beauty of Mt Mayon as a reason for visting Albay. But venture further, there are other attractions to add a little adventure to one’s sight seeing. About 16km passing through the town of Guinobatan is the municipality of Jovellar. Found tucked in the town of Quitinday is a nature gem still off the tourist trail. Discover scenic canyons, waterfalls and an exciting underground river.
Talk about Bicol and it’s hard not to tag one of the region’s signature dishes – the Pinangat. I had fond memories of this spicy and aromatic dish growing up. Whenever relatives from the province would visit our home, the pinangat is mostly one of the treats they would bring. Packed frozen and wrapped tightly in layers of newspaper to keep it fresh. While I had seen how the dish was made from our kitchen, it is interesting to see how it is mass-produced in a backyard industry setting. My recent visit to Camalig found me fascinated by both the sight and smell on how one of the most sought-after pinangat was concocted.
The imposing Mt Mayon, from any angle in Albay looks picturesque but there are places that’s more conducive for gawking at its glory. Still in Camalig near the Natural Carpets Industries (NCI) workshop is Sumlang Lake. This 14-hectare lake used to be a carpet of lilies until the village residents decided to clean it up three years ago and uncovered its placid beauty. They saw the potential of its unobstructed view of Mt Mayon as the backdrop for this scenic lake. To this date, it is a rising destination in Albay, enjoying 300–500 visits on weekends.
If you’ve ever visited the furniture shop Crate and Barrel, chances are, you may have seen these finely crafted placemats, carpets, rugs or even some exquisite living room furniture pieces made from abaca (Manila hemp), rattan or nito. The prices here is a premium and it’s easy to conclude that most of them may be imported. Interestingly, when I visited Camalig, Albay’s Natural Carpet Industries, I was surprised to see Crate and Barrel tags on the newly woven circular abaca placemats inside their 7,300 sq. m. factory. Those US$10 placemats at the shop can be bought here directly for only US$ 3. It just shows that the abaca industry is back in the limelight as one of the main export products of the country and can compete with international brands.
Albay has a special place in my childhood. I have fun memories of many summers spent in Albay. My mom hails in Daraga and we would visit her home often. No matter how long the drive, it’s always the majestic Mayon, the imposing Daraga Church and enjoyable time with cousins and siblings. My last visit though was drenched in tears like the heavy rain that poured upon us the day we said goodbye to my dearest lola (grandma). I was close to her. Relatives always say I’m her favorite apo (grandson). That was more than a decade ago. When an photo assignment from InFlight came recently, I thought I guess it’s time to come back. Not only to retrace the steps of my youth but to re-discover Albay.