Legend has it that Mount Mayon only shows herself to virgins or, as Enderun VP Tricia Tensuan puts it, those who are “pure in heart.”
Folklore also has it that Mayon, named after the mythical beauty “Daragang Magayon” (beautiful maiden), was a virgin of incomparable beauty, and Ulap (the clouds) is her protective lover who covers her so that she cannot be seen by those who are not pure of heart.
We must have been a bus full of virgins when we visited Legazpi upon the invitation of Albay Rep. Joey Salceda because Mt. Mayon not only welcomed us in her full glory as we landed but stayed with us, tip and all, throughout our entire trip, allowing us to enjoy her beauty against two magical sunsets.
Legazpi is not an uncommon destination for tourists, with Mt. Mayon among the top 10 tourist spots in Luzon. But to see Mayon’s tip is a special sighting, as it is often covered by clouds and fog.
One of the best places from which to behold Mt. Mayon is 5 Views—where you have a view of Mt. Mayon, Mt. Isarog, Mt. Masaraga, Mt. Malinao and Mt. Iriga.
Enjoy the hospitality of Misibis Bay, managed by graduates of Enderun Colleges, for a first class appreciation of the majestic view.
The resort brings guests to 5 Views for sunset cocktails. Colorful bean bags are laid out and you are enticed to be one with nature with a glass of champagne or Prosecco in hand as well as hors d’ouevres to tide you over till dinner.
Note, though, that 5 Views is not exclusive to Misibis; it is open to the public—it’s land that is just sitting there—so you can bring your own poison and picnic bag if you wish! (Although the first-class Misibis pampering may be hard to replicate.)
First class tour
If you are able to visit, try to get a learned tour guide because Albay is not only filled with breathtaking sights but also rich in history and culture.
We were lucky to have been toured by Jun Balde, an award-winning writer and history buff, who gave extensive cultural and historical details as we visited the usual sites: Daraga Church, Cagsawa Ruins Park where we got the obligatory trick shots, Lingñon Hill, and Embarcadero, among other sites. Balde pointed out, among other things, that certain church sections of the Nuestra Señora de la Porteria or Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church, popularly called Daraga Church, established in 1773, like the facade of the church, have been declared as National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines.
Listening to Balde explain how Legazpi promotes and protects its tourism industry. our friend Claire de Leon Papa of Unilab noted, “I am impressed that Albay’s history and natural resources go through the Discovery, Appreciation, Protection and Utilization phases, through the leadership of the local government.”
In a previous interview, Salceda explained that the tourism surge in Bicol was a product not only of hard work but also of resilience, showing that Bicolanos can literally weather the storms. Some storms had wiped out almost half of their crops but this only pushed Bicolanos, led by their local government, to further promote Bicol.
“We made sure that Albay is safe for tourists and traders,” Salceda said.
Then they proceeded to promote Albay as “maganda, maraming magagawa, masaya, masarap ang pagkain, mayaman ang kultura na may bago, na ‘pag pumunta ka tiyak may maaalala ka”—beautiful, exciting, fun, with delicious food and rich culture.
What to eat
In food alone, you will not be bored. Being the chili capital of the Philippines, people have added the spice to almost anything, from spicy viands like the Bicol Express to chili ice cream.
At Colonial Grill, which also has a branch at the mall, the chili ice cream becomes a conversation piece as you can choose the spice level.
Level 1 is tolerable, with just a hint of chili. Level 3 means burning your tonsils! It’s quite the conversation piece when anyone dares take on the high levels.
Don’t miss out on eating Tinutungan. Native chicken is cooked in coconut milk (gata) from smoked coconut meat.
If you are looking for the best restaurants, here are Rep. Salceda’s favorites: Bob Marlin’s, Lava Resto, Jasmine, Balak Cena Una and Ysabels. Then, of course, there is the original Colonial Grill (Rizal Avenue, Old Albay District, Legaspi). Aside from tinutungang manok, be sure to order laing (taro leaves and chili cooked in coconut milk), pinangat (taro leaves, chili, meat and coconut milk wrapped in gabi leaves and tied securely with coconut leaf), and Colonial Grill’s ice cream.
For a first class vacation, splurge on Misibis Bay. You are treated to your own villa, some with its own infinity pool so you can see the stretch of the beach, as well as your own private exit to the beach. Depending on the location of your room, you may just spot the Bicol sunrise from your personal pool.
At 5 p.m., enjoy the sunset cruise. A speedboat will bring you from the beach to a cove nearby. If you are lucky, as we were, Mt. Mayon may just join you and you will see the perfectly shaped volcano against a beautiful pink sunset sky during your boat ride to the cove. When you get to the cove, breathe it all in with a glass of champagne or Prosecco and some tapas. Nature trip the Misibis way!
In the evenings, Misibis can set up a beautiful dinner literally on the beach. Perfectly cooked kilawin, traditionally cooked laing, or freshly grilled seafood are all available for the luxurious traveler, with the ambiance made even more memorable by the beautiful live acoustics and vocals by the soft jazz band First String.
Salceda said, “There are no goodbyes in Albay.” I don’t know if that’s just because it rhymes but it is hard to part with the beauty of Legazpi. One thing’s for sure: You will want to come back! This city is living testament that it is really “more fun in the Philippines!”
For updates on Albay, follow Cong. Joey Salceda on Facebook. Search Joey Sarte Salceda (Constant Kindness).
Misibis Bay, Cagraray Island, Bacacay, Albay Province, Bicol Region, Philippines. For inquiries, call +63917-5991606 or +63 921-4873869. E-mail [email protected]
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By: Margaux Salcedo, Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 14, 2015