Home to the world-famous Mayon volcano, Albay is truly a postcard-perfect province. Legazpi, the main city, combines old-world charm and modern facilities to make it a perfect tourist haven. Here, there are endless activities to fill up a visitor’s stay, from diving, to mountain climbing, to dining and shopping.
Mayon Volcano of course is a requisite stop with the Mayon Volcano National Park as the best option for exploring the mountain’s lush greenery. Historic churches and ruins likewise abound and provide a beautiful peek at the province’s Spanish colonial past.
If you’re planning a visit to Albay you should also consider doing these other activities:
1. Museum stops. There are two museums in the area that would surely be appreciated by history and cultural lovers. On display at the Legazpi City Museum are historical and archeological relics of the City’s gentry. The museum also doubles as an art gallery for celebrated Bicolano artists. Contact: Linda Gonzalez Belleza, Museum Curator (052) 820-5972
The Philippine National Museum meanwhile provides an educational tour of Bicol region’s history as seen in the numerous archeological artifacts from Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur and Masbate that are on display. Contact: Ms. Sonia (0919-5957358)
2. Albay Park and Wildlife. Nature-lovers will appreciate a respite from paved roads and concrete buildings with a quick visit to this park right in the heart of Legazpi city. Locals consider it as both as a picnic grove and a wildlife park as it is home to 347 animals belonging to 75 species.
3. Pinangat and tinulmoks. This Bicol dish of taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and served wrapped in banana leaves is considered an Albay specialty. The version cooked with fresh shrimps (buyod) is called tinulmoks. Extra spicy, creamy and made from the freshest available ingredients, these are must-try’s on your lunch or dinner menu. To sample pinangat or take-home as pasalubong, you can order from Zenaida Nocedo Pinang’s shop at Gapo, Camalig.
4. Halo-halo. Nothing goes better with Bicol’s spicy dishes than a tall glass of halo-halo. Tiwi’s famous version has really smooth crushed iced with all the sweet and colorful fruits and other ingredients mixed in. Top that with leche flan and grated cheese for a delicious and filling desert. You’ll find stalls along the roads going to Tiwi serving halo-halo but the popular Ice Blink resto near the Tiwi Church may be your best bet in terms of cleanliness and presentation.
5. Ligñon Hill. At 500-ft. above sea level and overlooking Legazpi City, Ligñon Hill provides a breathtaking view of the Albay Gulf especially at night. A favorite of joggers and lovers, it is also easily accessible to tourists as it is a 3-minute drive from the city proper. By 5 PM, the roads are closed to vehicles for the enjoyment of pedestrians.
6. San Miguel Island Marine Reserve. Located in Lagonoy Gulf in Tabaco City, San Miguel Island is a great example of how a community has worked together to protect their marine resources. The reserve is home to vast coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves where residents of Barangay Sugorong derive their source of livelihood from. It is also the site of ongoing research by a Bicol University team which monitors the fish population and productivity of the island. Contact: Tabaco, Albay Tourism Office at (52) 487-5238 or 830-0181
7. Black sand beaches. You’ll find Albay’s black sand beaches along the coasts of Bacacay, Sto. Domingo and Tiwi. The distinct black sand is a result of the natural erosion of volcanic rock that evolved from ground lava. A little grainy and warm to the touch, the sand is comfortable to walk on. Locals likewise believe that the black sands have therapeutic benefits – something those prized white sands can’t boast of.
8. Abaca goodies. From colorful bags and dainty slippers, to rugs and other household items, you’ll get the best products made from abaca fibers in the vicinity of Albay. You’ll find great finds at the souvenir shops at the Legazpi City satellite market and at the Albay Pasalubong Center. However, you can also look for Marissa Andal-Zamon’s shop where they sell export-overruns of beautiful native bags. They are famous for the JLo bag that yes, Jennifer Lopez herself was seen using. Contact: (052)483-1331 for the JLo bag shop.
9. Tiwi pottery. Barangay Putsan in Tiwi is famous for its stoneware potteries in terra cotta or glazed finish. The red and dark clay soil in the area has been used by generations of potters to create cooking pots, decorative jars and other household items. About 4kms from Tiwi poblacion you can take a tricycle for the short ride to Putsan.
10. Handmade paper. Mrs. Barrios’ home in Sto. Domingo is famous for creating colorful art posters, greeting cards, decorative boxes and other products made with abaca pulp and local materials. Their export overruns are favorite pasalubong items of locals and visitors. The factory is located at 2A-88 Brgy., San Juan. Contact: (052) 258-7019 or (920) 446-1024.