My final assignment as a bank auditor in October 2017 was in our Legazpi City branch with Karen and Chimie. This was the second and last assignment I had while assisting Chimie in her new role as an audit manager (team leader) because I was leaving. It was going to be my last adventure for a while because my new job will not entail travelling. Travelling (for free) is something I’ll miss.
A day before our flight, I got a message from Cebu Pacific that our flight was cancelled. We had to take another flight to Naga instead and rode a smaller CebGo plane. I have no issues with small aircrafts as long as they can safely bring me to my destination. However, if a short person like me can still experience hitting my head on the overhead cabin, a tall person might find it difficult to move around and stretch his legs.
I also wanted to take pictures and videos from the window seat but the huge propeller was blocking the view. What puzzled me however, was how my phone could capture the individual blades in the video and even in pictures when in real life, all I could see was a blur.
When we landed in Naga, we opted to ride a van to get to Legazpi. The ride was at Php 200 per person and took around two to three hours to get to our destination. I was not able to enjoy the scenery of Naga as much because it was almost nighttime when we got there.
For some reason, almost every hotel close to the branch we will audit was fully booked on most days of our stay there. It was only during the day of our flight that Chimie discovered Hotel Liatris. I forgot the exact cost of our accommodation but for two beds and an extra mattress, it was not over Php 2,000. It included breakfast which was delivered to our room because they had no restaurant or café in the hotel then.
True to their word, the hotel was simple yet very clean. It was also situated very near the branch we will audit and the Ayala and LCC malls. The staff were also very nice and attentive to our needs and requests. The bed was funny though because every time we would twist and turn, it gave off a sound that is like a person farting loudly. We would giggle every time we will have to move and would tease each other that it was our way of masking the real sound of our farts.
I found the people of Legazpi to be very gentle and agreeable people in general. For some reason, when I requested documents from the branch personnel, they replied with, “Sige po ibibigay namin. Thank you.” I was supposed to be the one saying thanks since I was the one asking for something but they thanked us every single time we were requesting them for anything related to the audit.
On our first day of audit, the branch manager and the branch operations head made us try the food at 1st Colonial Grill at the Ayala Mall. It was my first time to try pinangat, which is popularly known in Manila as laing. I was very hesitant at first to try it because I normally detest eating leafy veggies because they give me a feeling of being stuck in my throat that no amount of water I drink could get rid of. I did not expect to love it very much! I cannot believe I put off eating pinangat/laing until that day.
1st Colonial Grill is also famous for the sili ice cream so we made it a point to order one, including pili, coffee and salabat flavored ones. We tried the mildest sili ice cream so as not to shock our taste buds. It was not spicy when we had our first spoon but a few seconds later, we could feel the heat in our throats. I was not partial to the sili ice cream because I am very sensitive to spicy foods in general. That bright pink ice cream thankfully comes with a warning sign (a sili garnish) because one may be tricked into eating a cherry or red velvet flavored ice cream because of its deceptively vibrant pink color. I was more taken with the pili flavored ice cream though.
From the third floor of the Ayala mall, you should already be able to see the Mayon Volcano. Unfortunately, Legazpi was experiencing a rainy weather and could not see the volcano’s “perfect cone” shape.
Because we badly wanted to see the volcano closer, we decided to go on an ATV adventure ride. We were able to contact Bicol Adventure ATV which seemed to offer the lowest rate but came with rave reviews. We wanted to take the Green Lava Wall Trail priced at Php 950 per person that would last two to three hours but on the day of our trip, the weather was not so nice. We decided to take the Cagsawa Short Trail instead at Php 399 per person for forty-five minutes and to spend our remaining budget on a tour of the city.
With Bicol Adventure ATV, you are briefed first on how to drive the ATV and you practice within their grounds before being allowed to go on the trail of your choice. The ATV was not very hard to drive and the controls were beginner-friendly. You will be assigned a guide throughout the trail, with another staff assigned to take pictures and videos of your ride throughout the trail. Make sure to fully charge your phone and to hand over a power bank and charging cable in case you will not be using a camera with much longer battery capacity.
The trail was sometimes smooth, at times steep, and almost always bumpy. Our guide made sure to warn us if we had to go slower or to keep to one side. I had to make sure to keep my distance from my friend ahead of me when going through the steep paths because I might not be able to control the ATV and bump into her. The head gear can only do so much. One must still take caution and not drive like a maniac. But if I drove in Manila the way I did during the ATV trip, I bet all the cars behind me will be blasting their horns to get me to drive faster.
I also kept forgetting that it had four wheels! Because you run it the way you drive a motorcycle or electric bike, I kept thinking I had two wheels at the back and one wheel mid-front. For that reason, every time I thought I was avoiding rocks, I was driving over them with either the left or the right front wheel instead.
Upon reaching our destination, we were sad that it was so cloudy that we could not see Mayon’s grand beauty. At that point, we were told that Cagsawa meant owner (kag) and pythons (sawa). Cagsawa was home to snakes that went down to the villages during the most violent eruption of the Mayon Volcano in 1814. Fortunately, we did not encounter any python during our trip.
We were glad that we did not go for our original plan to take the almost three-hour trail. As soon as we parked the ATV, rain poured down. The Cagsawa Trail was already enough of an experience for the kind of weather at the time. After all, we have not completed our audit yet and could not afford to fall sick because we got soaked in the rain.
For our tour of the city, we first went to the boulevard. We prayed that Mayon will show up this time because the rain had stopped already. The blue sky would have made a perfect background for the volcano but there was just too much clouds around!
Their boulevard was very clean and was a good place to take up brisk walking or jogging exercises.
Next, we went to Ligñon Hill Nature Park. This is one of the highest points of the city that also gives a good view of the Mayon Volcano (which was frustratingly still hidden by the clouds). It also features a zipline and a fifty-foot tunnel that was constructed by the Japanese during World War II. We did not try any of the two anymore because our attention was caught by the souvenir shops that sold goods for a low price! I bought a native bag as post-birthday present for my aunt and a pair of abaca slippers for my friend. You should check out the pili and sili key chains that they sell. So cute!
After the hill, we went to the Cagsawa Ruins where we found whatever remained from the 17th Century Franciscan re-built church after the volcanic eruption. What we saw was the belfry, still standing tall as if proof that one can remain strong despite life’s most difficult trials. After all, it was originally built in 1587 before being burned down by pirates in 1636. The church that Mayon Volcano ruined was a re-built structure of the church in 1724.
Rumor has it that the church was actually home to the pythons before being ruined during the volcanic eruption. Well, there seems to be no snake now. Still, while I think there’s no way to go inside anyway, I was not planning to try. Who knows what other creatures are inside?
Thankfully, there were no headless friars that showed up while we were taking pictures. That would have been very, very, creepy.
It was almost mid-afternoon but Mayon Volcano still would not show up. I was beginning to think that we will fly back to Manila without having seen its perfect beauty at all.
Sumlang Lake was next on our itinerary. This new tourist attraction is Camalig Town is another top destination where one can get a good view of the Mayon Volcano. I could not believe that the Lake used to be covered by lilies! The residents cleaned it up very well.
There was not much activities going on in Sumlang Lake but it was a great place to bond with family and friends over a picnic. You could ride the rafts too if you wished.
Afterwards, we went to Daraga Church, certain sections of which are declared Natural Cultural Treasure of the Philippines. Like the Cagsawa Church, this was also built by the Franciscans in 1773 after Daraga became a settlement of people who feared being victims of another Mayon eruption.
The church retained its Baroque-style look which makes it more majestic today. The church front and its walls were said to be made by volcanic rocks that were obviously abundant in the area.
As usual, I made it a point to go inside the church and make a wish (to see Mayon Volcano). Rumor has it that every time you make a wish in church you are visiting for the first time, that wish will come true. I tried it thrice in my life before and I am glad to say the wishes I had were granted. I would like to think they came true because I worked hard to achieve them but it never hurts to pray in a new church. Just make sure you thank God first for all the blessings He has already showered you without your asking for them.
Our last stop was at the Albay Pilinut Candy store. The pili goodies here can be pricey but they are worth it because they taste so good! Try the Mazapan De Pili and the Crispy Pili. They make great gifts to friends and family back home. I do not recommend the salted pili nuts though.
The day ended without being able to see Mayon Volcano properly. We tried on the succeeding days to no avail. We were already losing hope of seeing it at all. We were going home very soon.
But on our way to the airport, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was blue! Well I guess the wish-making rumor worked for a fourth time. Good job to the person who chose the airport location!