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A Bicol triad: Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon

AMPHITHEATER at Cagraray Island, Albay. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

The place to stay in the whole of Albay is the hilltop Oriental Hotel in Legazpi City, the capital. It’s a classy, deluxe establishment in glass and metal, with white as the dominant color. The cuisine is highly recommended—local and international dishes with a distinct Bicolano flavor.

The hotel (theorientalhotel.com) has a grand view of the surrounding mountains and hills, buildings and residences and, of course, iconic Mt. Mayon. The Oriental is surrounded by coconut-palm, malunggay and banana trees.

An hour’s drive from the urban center is the island town of Cagraray and its Eco-Park facing scenic Misibis Bay. Features include a campsite, high ropes, the paintball game, zip line, an amphitheater (for public entertainment, sports and lectures) with a great view of the gulf plus waterfalls (but only when it rains!).

COZY Cottage at a nature beach resort. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Except for the much-ballyhooed, upscale Misibis Bay Casino Resort, this part of Albay has not been publicized too much and the seascape is marvelous, with clear waters, greenery all around, beige-white sand, beach coves, and stone cliffs with vegetation.

There are at least two islands that the ecotourist can visit: Namanday and Pinamuntugan. There are no amenities, but you can hire a boat, picnic, swim and snorkel. And even trek. But the inclination of the terrain is just average, observed coordinator Bernard Supetran.

We went there via the “Tabaco Love Boat.”

SAINTS Peter and Paul Cathedral in Sorsogon. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Another buried church

In the remote barangay of Budiao in Daraga, Albay, are the ruins of a church buried even before the 1814 eruption of Mt. Mayon which destroyed the church of Cagsawa, leaving only its famous bell tower.

What we saw now are the four walls of stones, rectangular in shape, half-buried in the ground, the windows projecting a catacombs-like atmosphere. The century and date of the eruption has not been ascertained. Calling Ambeth Ocampo and other history buffs.

THIS resort caters to foreigners, but Pinoys are welcome. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Local folks expressed the hope that the Salceda administration, through the Provincial Tourism & Cultural Affairs Office (albaytourism@gmail.com), could make the Budiao ruins a tourist destination like Cagsawa.

 

Magnificent seascape

Masbate (masbateprovincialtrourism@yahoo.com) has three big islands—Masbate, Burias and Ticao—and 14 smaller islands. Amidst choppy waters (prepare to get wet) you will come upon a magnificent seascape which rivals those in Northern Palawan, Caramoan, and the coastal waters of Boracay Island.

NAMANDAY Island. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

We stopped by Halea Nature Park, a beach resort, and then after a wet and wild ride finally reached Ticao Beach Resort early in the evening, its lights a welcoming beacon to the drenched travelers.

It was something of a surprise to find a resort like this in this neck of the woods. There are nine comfortable beachfront cottages, four standard rooms and one attic room; these are built in a classy, native style, because the resort caters to foreigners.

There are horses grazing nearby (there’s a farm somewhere), and you and your children can go horseback riding.

Sales and marketing director is Jessica Wong, while the manager is Rico Calleja, who looks like a Mexican with his sombrero and moustache. “This is community-based tourism,” Jessica said, citing the resort’s policy of integrating with the nearby fishing community and supporting its school.

LEGENDARY Lake Bulusan. Photo by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

“We want tourists to appreciate what the Philippines can offer,” she added. “We give them what they don’t have—warm weather, a beach, tropical fruits.”

The two resort officers complained, however, about the rampant dynamite fishing in the area, and expressed the hope that local authorities would do more to curb this destructive practice. Baywatch, are you listening?

 

Legendary lake

There’s more to green-laden Sorsogon than butanding (whale shark) watching (it’s off-season anyway). The province is bracketed by the Albay Gulf and Sorsogon Bay, and there are mountains for trekking, dive spots, caves for spelunking, and beach resorts galore for swimming, snorkeling and skimboarding.

Above all, there’s Lake Bulusan near the volcano of the same name, with hot and cold nature spring resorts (like Balay Buhay) along the way.

The Sorsogon City Tourism Office (info@gotosorsogoncity.com) recently treated select media members to an exposure trip to the legendary lake. Seeing it again after 13 years, kayaking and boating with colleagues, made me recall the melancholy legend associated with the lake-volcano within a forest.

It is the story of brave Bulusan and beautiful Agingay who were destroyed by the intrigues of the evil Casiguran. And the tears of Agingay and the blood of Bulusan mingled to form the volcano and the lake. And so today, when it rains here, some would like to believe that it is Agingay welcoming visitors to this lake named after her warrior husband.

 

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