Friday, February 15, 2013

Kwentong Kaladkarin #51: Spicy Legazpi – Of Fantastic Views and Fiery Frozen Delights

Da Where: Legazpi, Albay, Philippines
Da When: September 27-29, 2012
Da Who: me and first-time travel buddies from work, Red and Meis :)

The previous night's alcohol buzz was non-existent when I woke up that Sunday morning. The famous almost-perfectly-cone volcano that is the pride of this region and also infamous for being finicky in showing all her glory is waiting for us!

I saw her once from afar on a banca on our way back to Naga from Caramoan shrouded by clouds and then once on a clear day while I was on a plane to Davao. This time, hangover or not, pretty much nothing will stop me from coming up close and personal with Mayon.

Breakfast, at last!

Tapa Breakfast
Bacon Breakfast
After stuffing our faces with our breakfast that came free with the night's stay from the hotel's resto, we were finally awake enough to greet our pretty guides for the day, Nice and Sarah from Mayon ATV Tours. This guided tour was only arranged the previous night with the very accommodating front desk personnel with no hassle at all.

As soon as we piled into the van, Nice and Sarah started taking turns giving us historical tidbits and anecdotes of this very interesting province. Our first stop for the day is the most-photographed landmark of Albay, the Cagsaua Ruins, often with a gorgeous backdrop of the majestic Mayon.

Mayon still slightly visible in the distance. :)
I had to start snapping photos as gloomy clouds began chasing across the horizon and readying to cover Mayon's beautiful face. In a matter of minutes, we couldn't see the volcano from the distance anymore. We just contented ourselves with the details of the past shared by Nice.

This structure is what's left of the belfry of the church that used to stand there. After the 1814 eruption, it was buried in rocks and lava. The sad story behind it was the residents actually sought refuge in the church when the volcano started acting up. Needless to say, they were all trapped and buried alive. For decades, families have been requesting to dig up the area to retrieve even just the bones of their departed but it was never granted so as to preserve a historical site. A sobering thought amidst awe-inspiring views.

You may also come across kids between the ages of 10-18 y.o. offering their photography skills so they can take quirky photos with the belfry and the volcano behind you. Say yes! My PhP100 tip was so worth it! It helped that the kid was also very charming and earnestly wanted to take good photos of us. :D

Meis the Giant! :D
Lean on me... :D

We piled back to the van and headed to our next destination, another well-known landmark in Albay - the Daraga Church. You see, after the 1814 catastrophe, the devout parishioners decided they will build another church but this time, on higher ground.

Out of this was another beautiful landmark, the Our Lady of the Gate Church. Its rich baroque architecture is a breathtaking sight to behold. From afar, Mayon is still visible, it's crown hidden by a mass of clouds. There was a Mass ongoing when we visited so we didn't have the chance to step inside and take photos. :(

Located on Sta. Maria Hill, it's a steep walk up before getting to the church.
Cloud-covered Mayon in the distance
Beautiful bas relief on the church façade
Sunday church-goers
Hiding her face...

Our next stop was another uphill battle, this time to visit Ligñon Hill. At about 500 feet, it offers an unblocked view of the volcano, it it's isn't raining that is. And lucky us, it was pouring when we got there. While waiting out the rain, we ducked inside the visitor's area where you can find stalls of food and souvenir vendors.

A rainy visit to Ligñon Hill
Albay Gulf blasted by rain with the Legazpi Airport in the foreground
Poor kids. No playing in the rain. :D
Legazpi Airport as seen from Ligñon Hill

With no signs of the downpour weakening anytime soon, our hopes of doing a zipline with the majestic Mayon in the background came to a cold, dripping halt. *sigh* We all decided to just head back to town and get some lunch.

I asked Nice and Sarah which resto we can find the famous sili (red chili) ice cream and they directed the driver to head to LCC Mall so we can visit First Colonial Grill. We ordered dish after dish, ravenous after our disappointing and gloomy stop at Ligñon Hill. The sili ice cream was amazing! Goes in cold and sweet but goes down spicy and hot. I finished the whole cup by myself! :D

Spicy Seafood Rice. They DO mean spicy!
Lechon Kawali
I loved the sili ice cream best! In the background, malunggay ice cream.
Roasted Chicken
Stuffed silly, we headed back to the hotel to rest up, heartily thanking our wonderful guides who never failed to take care of us the whole time. Before parting, Nice told us we're probably meant to come back to Legazpi. After all, it's known that when Mayon is elusive and too shy to show her face, she means you have to keep pursuing her.

We just might. :)

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