The iconic picture of a belfry and a cone- shaped volcano as its background has been a recurring scene in every Civics and Culture book during my elementary years. It has also been printed on almost all peso bills in the country. Mayon Volcano, has been one of the country’s prized gems due to its surreal perfection. Dubbed as the world’s most perfect cone, it’s grandeur stands tall at 8, 077 feet in the province of Albay. It is shared by eight cities and municipalities of the province of which the town of Daraga is most flocked by tourists who wants to get a full glimpse of the volcano and take into account a little history of its violent eruption in 1814 that left only the belfry of a once used to be a church in Cagsawa.
Another dream unfolding into reality as the Cebu Pacific plane made its decent on Legaspi City, the key city of Albay province and your gateway to the perfect cone.
GETTING TO LEGAZPI CITY
Traveling in all routes is possible as Cebu Pacific and PAL has direct flights to and from Manila and Cebu. If you want to travel by land, air conditioned buses depart daily from Pasay and Cubao to Legazpi. Fares range at 800 – 1000 that would take 10-12 hours of travel. One has the option to travel by sea as several shipping lines from Samar (Allen) and Masbate ply to the ports of Pilar, Bulan and Matnog in Sorsogon. Frpm these ports, it would take 1-2 hours of travel by land to Legazpi City.
GETTING OUT OF THE AIRPORT
At the airport, we asked a local how to commute to Sampaguita Tourist Inn where we shall be staying for 3 nights (3 torturous nights as we later discovered). She gladly referred us to a small desk ( tricycle assistance ) at the front entrance. They have fixed rates starting at 30 pesos depending on the distance from the airport. They gave us a small stub which said that we are to pay 30 pesos. On top of the 30php, you have to add 20php for the tricycle’s parking fee making it 50php.
By the way, don’t forget to grab a map of the city at the tourist assistance kiosk at the front entrance. It was very helpful to us given the fact that my mobile data was very slow the entire trip.
Taxis are available but rare. I suggest it would be best to take a tricycle or jeepney in commuting around Legaspi. Tricycles can be a bit pricey since they don’t charge by pax, they do the “pakyaw” style wherein you have to pay for the vacant seats which would sum up to 25- 30 php. We usually go for the jeepney. Minimum fare is 7 php. Plus, jeepney drivers are very friendly and welcoming.
Well paved roads of Legazpi. The city is also Smoke- Free and Plastic- Free.
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at Sampaguita, Tourist Inn in Rizal St., which is not very commendable. We were booked for 3 nights at 525php per night and it was a nightmare. I have been to several low cost inns in this country but theirs was by far the worst I’ve tried. Given the price, its justifiable that the room is small. We were okay with it. But it was also dirty and filthy that on our first night, my 2 year old daughter had several insect bites on her face. What made it worse was that the running water was brown in color. Who would want to shower on a brown colored water? Until now, I cannot imagine how we got through those 3 nights 😦
If you are looking for a cheap, nice place to stay in Legaspi, try the Dreams Inn and Cafe. I’ve met a traveler who was staying there and he highly recommended it.
As soon as we stepped out of the plane, we eagerly scoured for the reason why we were there. And it was there, hidden behind a pocket full of clouds.
Instead of going straight to the hotel, we opted to have a late lunch. From hereon, our gastronomic adventure of chili and “gata” (coconut cream begins!
DJC HALO- HALO
Located at Landco Business Park (back of Pacific Mall). Open from 10 am – 8 pm.
Their halo- halo is the best I’ve tried. Order the Supreme Halo- halo and it would make you forget of Chowking’s halo-halo. The grated cheese makes it unique and flavorful.They also have short orders. We were excited to try their Bicol express but it wasn’t available during that time.
DINNER AT SMALL TALK CAFE.
Located at Dona Aurora St., Old Albay, Legazpi City.
We asked a local how to commute to Small Talk Cafe, he gave us instructions to take the Legaspi- Daraga jeepney across. We asked the driver to take us to this resto but its seems it was not familiar. Good thing a fellow passenger helped him in dropping us here.
For some unknown reason, all our pictures during our first and second day in the region got deleted. Too bad I can’t show you what you will be missing if you skip this resto on your to do list in the city.haha
Must try: Bicol Express, Laing Pasta and Pinangat.
COMMUTE TO CAGSAWA RUINS
The familiar picture of Mayon volcano and a bell tower is the Cagsawa Ruins. It is located at the town of Daraga, 8 kilometers from Legazpi City. Commuting to the ruins is relatively easy. From Legazpi City, ride a jeepney (Legazpi – Daraga signage) to Old Albay and ask the driver to drop you off where the jeepneys for Guinobatan are located. They are located at the rotunda near the Penaranda Park. From there, take the Guinobatan jeepney and ask the driver to drop you off at the Cagsawa junction. From the junction,you can either walk to the ruins or hire a tricycle for 20 php.
Legaspi to Daraga jeepney- 7 php
to Guinobatan jeepney- 13 php
Triccycle to the ruins- 20php
Cagsawa Junction signage.
Entrance to the park. Entrance fee is 10php.
Seeing Mayon this close and bare was just surreal. How could such beauty bury a whole town and kill thousands?
Notice the smoke coming from its crater? At first I thought it was just clouds but its really smoke. The volcano was on Alert Level 1 during our visit.
A closer look at what was said to be a remnant of the 1814 Mayon eruption.
Souvenir shops line one side of the park. Price starts at 10 pesos.
USEFUL TIP: If you are visiting Cagsawa, you have to be there early (before 7 am) when no clouds are hovering its beauty. It took us 2 visits to finally be able to marvel at its perfection.
Built in 1773, The church of Daraga stands at the top of a hill overlooking Mayon Volcano in Brgy.Santa Monica. It’s been a popular tourist destination in Albay due to its baroque style of architecture. Its white facade makes it unique among baroque churches in the country. Later on I discovered that the white coating is lime to protect the church from deterioration.
GETTING TO DARAGA CHURCH
From Cagsawa junction, you can take a jeepney to Legaspi City located just across the road. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Daraga church junction. Fare is 7php. From there, you can walk your way up the church.
We were not ready for the steep climb actually (haha) but it was all worth it when we saw the church with Mayon Volcano at the background. We were lucky that we were able to catch the 11 am mass. We didn’t understand the words the priest was saying because it was all in Bicolano.
From the church, we took refuge in our hotel.
EMBARCADERO DE LEGAZPI
This is one of the top things to do in Legazpi City as per trip advisor’s advice hence we gave it a try. From the hotel, we managed to walk our way to Embarcadero. It is in the port area giving us the chance to stroll at the boulevard. It is actually a spacious mall facing the bay area. We wondered why it was not at all packed and only few stores were open. We concluded it might be packed at night fall.
STREET FOOD AT PENARANDA PARK
This one is not on trip advisor. The street food in Penaranda Park is something we discovered to be a must try in Legazpi. Food carts line a portion of the park near the stage area. From hotdogs in bun to tempura and squid rolls to 5 pesos fruit juices, you’ll get yourself full and refreshed after all the strolling.
Entrance to the park
Strolling around Old Albay.
If Manila has Tagaytay and Davao has Jack’s Ridge, Legazpi has Lignon Hill rising at 512 feet. It gives one a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city.
Commuting to the hill is relatively easy as it is just located 3 kms from the city proper. It is just right behind the airport. Ride a Loop 2 jeepney near the LCC mall. If you are unsure, you can ask a local. Tell the driver to drop you off at the junction to Lignon Hill. Fare is only 8 php.
Entrance fee is 20php.
From there, it will be a 1.3 km hike up the viewing deck. The trail was well- paved but a bit steep. My hubby had to carry on a back pack our 2 year- old daughter.
We were all sweaty and panting when we reached the view deck. But it was all worth it.
Mayon Volcano covered in clouds.
If you are planning to visit the hill, do it in the morning when the heat of the sun is still friendly. And wear hiking shoes and comfortable clothes.
Souvenir shops and several food stalls are located atop the hill.
We stayed there for an hour marveling the panorama.
The Japanese tunnel is located at the foot of the hill. We were supposed to get inside but the caretaker won’t allow bringing our daughter inside so we opted out.
The tunnel is 40 meters long. It was used as a storage for Japanese artillery during the war.
Other activities in Lignon Hill include the Kapit- tuko, the Hanging Bridge and its Zipline.
1ST COLONIAL GRILL (HOME OF THE SILI ICE CREAM)
Your Bicol adventure won’t be complete without trying the sili ice cream. Imagine the sweet creamy taste of ice cream combined with the hot spicy flavor of chili?
Their main branch is located at Old Albay but we dined at their Pacific Mall branch. For 89 pesos, you can savor 3 heaping scoops of this unique delicacy. I was surprised at myself that I actually loved it. We also tried the Cacao ice cream and it’s the best! Their best flavors also include the Tinutong (roasted rice) and Pili ice cream.
TIP: If you want to try all flavors, you can have 1 scoop for each flavor for 30 pesos.
DINNER AT SIBID – SIBID
Sibid- Sibid can be reached by riding a Dawis jeepney near the front entrance of Pacific Mall. Fare is 7 pesos.
I was actually surprised when we entered the resto, it was very quiet. I was expecting it to be crowded since it was a Sunday and the place is on the to- do list in Trip Advisor.
I instantly loved the ambience of the place. It was very relaxing.
We ordered the Laing and Bicol Express.
15 years ago, I was only flipping through the pages of my old Civics and Culture book trying to figure out how can I possibly see Mayon Volcano. This dream has been realized just recently 🙂