My best friend Carmenez invited me on a trip to Legaspi, Albay. It had been years since I last stepped foot on my motherís home province and I jumped on the chance. A few days later, she asked if I knew of anyone else who wanted to go, so I took my brother Miks along.
The moments before the actual flight were rather tense. one reason was mostly due to my carelessness, and the other one was purely because of fate. But when the plane was in the air and we landed in Legaspi, we didnít really care and had a grand time laughing about it.
Day 1: Legaspi and Daraga
It was Miksí first time to ride a plane, and his first visit back to Bicol after twenty years. He was roughly two years old when he first visited, and hasnít been back since. He said that the plane ride was rather short (less than an hour from Manila to Legaspi), but enjoyed it nonetheless.
Upon landing, we immediately whipped out our cameras for a shot at the tarmac, even though we were asked not to take pictures in the runway. Since there were not much activity, the airport personnel was a bit more accommodating.
We were able to get a ride with someone Carmenez knew from work, so we arrived at our hotel pretty quickly. Sampaguita Tourist Inn is located along Rizal St., and is easily accessible through public or private transportation. Itís relatively cheap and clean. Our room had three single beds, one bathroom, a TV with cable, aircon and fan. itís the bare essentials, but for P750+ per night, itís very good. Thereís no WiFi in the rooms, but thereís a free connection at the lobby. Thereís also a restaurant on the first floor, but I donít know how the food is.
After dumping our things and freshening up a bit, we headed out. Pacific Mall was our first stop, where we were told we can easily get rides to where we needed to go. A trike is P7 per person, but for some reason the drivers kept asking for P30 for the three of us. It wouldnít be so bad, but the total of those extra three pesos does make a difference.
Pacific Mall is a Gaisano mall, hence the familiar uniforms of the department store ladies. The funny thing was it was only a few blocks away from our hotel, and we couldíve easily walked to it. It houses several familiar establishments like McDonaldís, Jollibee, Bench, Penshoppe and National Bookstore.
We had lunch at Graceland, all because we thought there were two Jollibee stores in the mall, thanks to the mascot Qweenie. For less than P100, you get a full meal. Miks and I had lechon kawali with Bicol Express, while Nez had porkchop with laing.
Right on the second floor is the store my friends and I know and love so well: Booksale. Since I was with the friend who introduced me to it, we just had to pass by. Iím sure my brother rolled his eyes as we made a beeline for it. I purchased a book for Lolo, while Nez hauled in some pocketbooks at P15 each.
We finished running our errands and headed off to the Philippine Ports Authority office, where Nez met up with people she knew from work. We took a trike from the mall, which then dropped us off in front of the Naval base. Unfortunately neither the trike driver nor the security guard we asked knew where PPA was, so we were off for a long walk. We made some wrong turns but eventually ended up where we needed to be.
Most of Legaspiís government offices are located in one compound. I saw the Civil Service, DOST, DOT, LTO, Commission on Audit, DILG among others. There were other government offices outside the compound but they were more like satellite offices.
The Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga
We headed off to Daraga to see the Cagsawa Ruins. The last time I was there, it seemed like it was just a big field with the bell tower in the middle of it. Now thereís a gate, where you have to pay the entrance fee, plus stalls where you can buy souvenirs. Inside the compound, we ran into King, a young man who took us around the ruins and told us the story behind it. He was also really cool to take pictures of us, and gave us information on where we could go next. If ever you do stop by the Cagsawa Ruins, look for King.
Our next stop was Daraga church, which sits on top of a hill. Daraga was celebrating its fiesta the next day, so the church was all spruced up. It had an amazing view of Mayon, and thanks to Kingís tips, we were able to get great pictures of the church and the volcano.
It was late afternoon when we got back to Legaspi, so we opted to go to Bacacay the next day, after wakeboarding in CamSur. Instead, we freshened up and went downtown to look for the bus terminal. Legaspi has a busy downtown district, the only thing I recall ever seeing back then was LCC Mall. We took a walk around but didnít find what we wanted. We poked around an ukay-ukay store, and I finally saw the post office, complete with a really odd statue of kneeling headless man. According to my research, it was originally found along the townís port area and is a memorial to a guerilla hero beheaded by the Japanese during World War II.
Legaspi’s night life
A short walk away is the Embarcadero, a waterfront development full of stores and restaurants, considered as the portal of nightlife in Legaspi. Much of it is still under development, and will house a hotel and spa as well as a IT park in the future. For now, it has enough to keep one entertained. We had dinner in Biggs Diner, one of Bicol’s popular food chain.
At first, Nez wasn’t impressed because it functioned quite like McDonaldís where you have to line up to order instead of sitting down then ordering from a menu. However, when our orders came, we didnít have anything bad to say about it. For the price, Biggís is well worth it. The servings are, well, big, and the taste lives up to the images that are posted on the menu board.
For a Monday night, there were a lot of people milling about. There was a boxing event, and there was a live band playing. Nez wanted coffee, so we looked around for a coffeeshop. No Starbucks or CBTL, instead, we saw La Mia Tazza. Like Biggís and Graceland, it is purely homegrown. Many of the drinks and the desserts have incorporated what Bicol is known for. I just tried tea, but I heard that they have drinks with pili nuts. My mom would love that.
We spent the rest of the evening listening to the band, then headed back to Sampaguita to rest as we had to get up early the next day.