Personally, I find this place to be best where one can be solemn, not only because of the church. The church is situated on top of a hill and what I love most is having the Mayon Volcano as its background. I’m always amazed in small things so by the time I stood infront of the church and had a moment to look at the surroundings; I felt peace and relaxed. I think that I also got my shoes stuck since I had difficulty to walk away from this place. The word “Daraga” is a local term for unmarried woman.. dunno where they got the name.
Daraga Church is a baroque architecture built during the Spanish era. I was disappointed when I got to take a closer look at the church. The church is a part of the history, built for more than 200 years ago so it deserves to be well maintained and preserve its structural design but it’s not what it should be. The façade is only painted with white (like it was painted by a child) and for me; it doesn’t fit the baroque style of the church. Inside, the paintings are fading even the pews are almost unusable. I dunno why the local government doesn’t include in their projects the renovation or the maintenance of this old church.. it makes me sad.
One of the highlights I find interesting in Albay aside from seeing the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano is the Cagsawa Ruins. Cagsawa is a small town in Albay and during the Spanish occupation in the Philippines; a baroque church was built in 1724. Cagsawa Church is only about 11 km away from the summit of the Mayon Volcano so when it erupted on 1814, Cagsawa Church was destroyed and only the belfry remained standing.
Today, Cagsawa Ruins Park is one of the popular tourist destinations in Albay. If you love photography, like I do, I’m sure you’ll enjoy a few hours in visiting this place:)
Entrance ticket is only 10Php. Souvenir stores are everywhere. You can choose a variety of t-shirts, key chains, bags, refrigerator magnets etc. for reasonable prices. T-shirts cost from 180-300Php, keychains 10php-50php, ref magnets 35-100PhP, etc. There are also available photographers that can take your creative poses in case your camera runs out of battery. Food stalls are also everywhere. Try the local foods, for a different experience.
There are also adventure tour packages offered in the park like the Mayon Lava Trail, Cagsawa Trail, Hoyop Hoyopan Cave, Cagsawa to Lava Front.
Mayon Volcano is one of the places you must never miss in visiting the Bicol Region. This volcano is popular for its “perfect cone”- symmetrical conical shape. Just a piece of advice before visiting the place, wish and pray that it will not be cloudy when you get to see it. I got this advice from one of my local friends because sometimes the volcano hides in the clouds and you’ll miss to see its perfect cone. I didn’t believe my friend when he said that and you know what happened.
Mayon Volcano is the most active volcano in the country until now. The most destructive eruption in the history happened on 1814. Recently, on May 2013, it erupted again so advisories from local authorities should be followed.
You can get a great picture of the Mayon Volcano when you get to the Cagsawa Ruins Park.
From Legaspi Central Business District, take a jeep going to Camalig/Guinobotan/Ligao/Libon/Oas, fare is 8Php. Just tell the jeepney driver to stop by the road going to the ruins. At the right side of the road, you’ll see a big signage of the Cagsawa Park then walk straight down the road.
There are talks that Daraga, being the most progressive city in the Province of Albay and the whole Bicol Region will be the future site of the Bicol International Airport. There are reportedly vehement rejections from locals who oppose the idea, but whether or not there is an airport in Daraga, local and foreign tourists will surely continue to flock to Daraga, home city of Cagsawa Ruins Park and the National Cultural Treasure, centuries-old Church of Our Lady of the Gate.
From Tabaco, Albay we proceeded to Ligao City; stopped for photo shoot in Ligao River with big volcanic rocks spewed by Mt. Mayon in its recent eruption; had delicious lunch in a native-inspired restaurant; passed by Kawakawa Hill; and bought some souvenir items at the fund raising kiosk Of Carmelite Nuns.
Weather permitting, you can go to the following places in less than a day: Legaspi Seaport, The Embarcador, Kapuntukan Hill, Lignon Hill, Albay Park & Wildlife, St. Raphael Parish Church, Plaza, and pili delicacies & abaca souvenir stalls at Tahao Road.
Our next stop was Tabaco City. Because "TABAKO" is the vernacular for TOBACCO, I was expecting to find tobacco fields similar to those in Ilocos Region, but there was none. I laughed at myself when I learned that the name of Tabaco was derived from 2 words "TABAK KO", meaning MY BOLO/MACHETE. Such was the utterance of a farmer who thought that the Spaniards (who came to their house to ask what the name of the place was) were going to get his daughter. He meant to frighten them by shouting out loud that he was asking for his bolo/machete. And like other stories, the Spaniards thought that what the farmer uttered was the name of the place.
At Tabaco City, we first stopped for prayers and photo shoot at St. John The Baptist Parish Church, a centuries-old stone church with a separate, massive structure for a bell tower. Then we went shopping for abaca items at the municipal trade fair just across the church. Having no umbrellas or rain jacket, we were "trapped" in a stall when heavy rain poured. The proprietress of the stall must be happy because I bought a lot from her while waiting for the rain to stop. The rain didn't stop, so we just ran to our car.
We went to Jollibee for brunch, afterwhich we passed by the Tabaco International Seaport to have a glimpse of Natunawan Cove. Then, we proceeded to Mayon Resthouse (now closed for operations), and the Mayon Planetarium and Science park. It was like being in Baguio City, with the cold weather and thick fog. The sight of Mt. Mayon was supposed to be the best from this place, but although the shower abated, the thick fog remained, obscuring the majestic view of Mt. Mayon. While it was showering where we were, we noticed that the place behind the volcano was bright, so we crossed our fingers, hoping to have better weather when we reach Daraga.
As we went downhill, I noticed the sign "Holy Rosary Mountain". It was already late for us to go back and check out what's on top of the mountain. We were told that there is a chapel; another person told us there is a big Holy Cross...Bookmark for next trip to Tabaco.
Knowing my hubby was into landscape photography, our driver wanted to bring us to Busay Falls in Malilipot; and to please me, he wanted to bring us to the cheapest source of abaca bags and other handcrafted abaca items. But before he could make a left turn to the direction of Busay Falls, hubby and I decided to forego the stopover. We know that Busay is one of the most beautiful waterfalls, cascading in mini-falls, forming 7 tiers of catch basins; we know that it is regarded as the highest of waterfalls in the country, with a height of 800 feet from the top BUT we didn't like to take the risk of going up without the proper footwear and weather protection. It was still showering and the clouds were dark, foreboding a possible heavier downpour.
If you happen to have better weather on your Albay tour, by all means, explore Busay Fallls. I have it bookmarked for our next trip.
We also felt that the shopping for abaca bags and handicrafts wasn't a priority, so we headed off for the next destination. On the way to Tabaco City, we had a glimpse of the big volcanic rocks spewed by Mt. Mayon in its recent eruption. The riverbed was backhoed to clear the waterway of the big boulders.
We decided to make Legaspi City our transit base for our the Albay tour. Going to Legaspi is easy. Getting an inexpensive but comfortable place to stay is easy, too. We opted to stay at Legaspi Tourist Inn which is in the central business district, very near shopping centers, restaurants, pharmacy, the scenic harbour area and jeepney terminals.
We were only 2, so getting an expensive van was impractical. With the help of LTI frontdesk staff, we were able to get a car for our planned tour of cities around Mt. Mayon. It wasn't a luxury car (1993 Lancer), but clean, cool and road worthy, and more importantly, we felt safe, secure and happy with our driver.
Even if you opt to commute, Legaspi would be a good choice for jump-off point because the jeepneys going to tourist destinations are easy to find on the road or at their terminals.
Before going to the more popular tourist destinations, find time to discover Sto. Domingo. It has earned the titles of Cleanest and Greenest Town In Bicol Region; Birthplace of Bicol's Pride, "Sarung Banggui"; and Home of Architectural Gem, St. Dominic de Guzman Church. This picturesque town is only a few minutes drive from Legaspi City.
Stopping by the St. Dominic de Guzman Church is a good way to start your Albay tour. You can pray and light a candle to ask God's blessing for a safe tour. Then, you can explore the church premises and read the historical marker to better appreciate the significance of this massive stone church to the community.
To maximize going around Legazpi and neighboring areas it is useful to hire a jeepney. Our friend sho lives in the area rented a jeepney for Php 1500 for the whole day.
Our first stop was in the Kawa-kawa Nature Park. The park is shaped like a cauldron and there are stations of the cross in the rim. At the bottom is an obstacle course and there is horse backriding. Entrance is free.
Next, we went to Huyop-huyopan cave. The cave has 4 chambers and it takes 30 min to go through them. Entrance fee is Php 150 for the group (5pax). The cave is not really very spectacular but there is another cave near it that is more adventurous, the Calabidongan Cave. But since it we were not ready to go caving we did not go there.
After Cagsawa it was time for lunch. We had pinangat and Bicol express at Tita Let's, in Camalig.
Next stop the Cagsawa ruins (entrance fee Php 10). This I think is the major stop for most people going to Bicol. Picture of the ruins with Mt. Mayon at the background. There are kids there who can take your group picture and they would even give you tips on how to pose for the camera. Just give them a tip for their effort. ;)
We had halo-halo at DJC in Legazpi (near Robinsons Mall) before going to Lignon Hill.
Lignon Hill is a recent addition to places to go in Legazpi. It offers a great view of Mt. Mayon, the Albay Gulf and a view of the city. There is also a zipline (Php 200) which I think is not worth the money since it's very quick. Entrance is free.
Since we will be staying at Tabaco, our last stop is the Mayon Rest house. The place is almost at the foot of the volcano and the view is great. The place has a restaurant and a planetaruim. But it was closed when we got there. Entrance is free.
The Cagsawa park's prominent landmark is the belfry of the church of Cagsawa town after the most violent eruption of Mayon in 1814. Now, Mayon's wrath has repeatedly caused mudflow in the area of Cagsawa, the latest in 2001.
Nowadays, the Cagsawa park is also the location of craft shops from bicol craftsmen. A place to do your shopping for inexpensive pasalubongs.
The Mayon Skyline is located 2,500 feet above sea level. There's a scenic road going up the Mayon skyline where one finds unique flora and marvelous views as Mayon looks down upon the land she shapes thru the centuries. The Skyline was actually a hotel build along the slopes of Mayon but the unavailability of consistent water and electricity has caused the hotel to cease operations. However the local government has converted the premises as a tourist attraction, picnic area and converted the building to a planetarium.
A few kilometers from Legaspi City is a landmark that will lead you to Busay Falls, a unique waterfalls that is 7-tiered from the water source, according to the caretaker. For adventurers, hiking to the first tier will take about 30 minutes from the entrance of the waterfall entrance gate. The last tier pours into a shallow basin at the foot of the falls where many go to bath, frolick and have picnics. A constant attraction every summer, Busay falls pours cold, crystal clear water and flows in abundance from the falls to the rice paddies that surround the hills from where Busay is home.
Entrance is only P5.00 per person, but parking is paid P20+ depending on size of vehicle.
This cave is located in Batan island, and accessible only by boat. It has the remnants of a well-maintained cave site for tourists, as a port, platform, stairs and pathways were specifically made to aid trips to the cave. There was also a balcony at the mouth of the cave for sight-seeing and not spcifically exploring. However, maintenance seemed to have been abandoned for several years as large parts of the stairs and port has broken off and litter the beach.