6 destinations to check out in the Bicol province beyond Mayon Volcano
Albay, a province in the Bicol Region, is best known as the home of what is dubbed as the “Perfect Cone” – Mayon Volcano. But this province offers so much more than just the Philippine icon. Below, we help you go beyond Mayon and get to discover more of Albay with these six underrated destinations.
Located off the coast of Malilipot, this capricious shoal features crystal clear waters and white sands. As of this writing, Vanishing Island has several floating cottages that can be rented along its periphery. Swimming, snorkeling, and island hopping are some of its offerings. You can also have a picnic in one of the floating cottages there. Overnight stays in the island is, of course, not possible, but you can spend the night in nearby Pinamuntogan Island or in mainland Tabaco City.
Getting there: At the Tabaco Port in Tabaco City, you can charter a boat to Vanishing Island for PhP1,500, which can accommodate up to 15 persons, and is good for a whole day trip (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The island can also be accessed from the Bacacay Port.
QUITINDAY GREEN HILLS
About an hour from Legazpi City, Albay’s provincial capital, lies the sleepy town of Camalig. Here, you’ll find one of the province’s hidden gems: Quitinday Hills, a 400-hectare sweep of verdant terrain. Standing at about 127 meters above sea level, the main hill can be easily reached with a 15-minute trek along an established trail. Once you get to the top of the hill, you’ll have a choice of several viewing areas.
Getting there: In Legazpi City, ride a jeepney to Polangui and alight at the Quitinday Junction. There, you can rent a tricycle for a roundtrip ride to the hills.
If you want a different perspective of the Mayon Volcano, Sumlang Lake in Camalig is the place to be. The lake, with its calm glittering surface, inspires a relaxing afternoon wading out on a bamboo raft outfitted with a stylish set of chairs made from abaca fiber. Cruise down the lake, or rent out a paddleboard or kayak, while marveling at the grandeur that is Mayon.
Getting there: In Legazpi City, take a tricycle to Bañag. Once there, ride a jeepney with “Polangui” signage and alight before the Albay Agri Ethno Eco Village (Agri-Village). Then, ride a tricycle or walk to Sumlang Lake (about a 15-minute walk).
Along Tabaco Bay, in the town of Bacacay, is a little known paradise called Pinamuntogan Island. This inlet is lined with coconut trees and a shore with fine, cream sands opening to immaculate blue waters. It’s still relatively unknown to people outside of Albay, which makes it perfect for those looking to get away from the crowd. Swimming, snorkeling, and all around beach-bumming can all be done here. You can also make arrangements for you to stay the night. Bear in mind, though, that there’s no electricity as well as stores. You may, of course, bring your own food for a good ol’ beachside picnic.
Getting there: At the Tabaco Port in Tabaco City, you can charter a boat to Pinamuntogan Island for PhP2,500 which can accommodate up to 15 persons, and is good for a whole day trip (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The island can also be accessed from the Bacacay Port.
Should you choose to pass through Tabaco City to get to Vanishing Island and Pinamuntugan Island, don’t miss out on visiting Oras Falls. The virtually unheard of falls is located in the upland barangay (village) of Oras in Tabaco. A quick trek would bring you to a tall waterfall enclosed within a patch of forest. Beneath the falls, there is a basin where the water gathers before spilling out into the runnel that flows along the barangay. Clear and cool, the pool is perfect for swimming.
Getting there: From Tabaco City proper, take a jeepney to Barangay Oras. Once in Oras, take a tricycle to the jump-off to the falls. You may also rent a tricycle from the city proper to the jump-off.
JOVELLAR UNDERGROUND RIVER
About 30 minutes from the Green Hills is the underground river in Jovellar. This pristine subterranean waterway may not be as long as that of Puerto Prinsesa, but is as majestic nevertheless. A bamboo raft will take you through the length of the cavern, glimmering stalactites jutting from the darkness, and an occasional bat zipping out of sight. At the other end is an underground falls where you can bathe. The water is raging, but cool, and extremely invigorating! You can also (very carefully) explore upstream where the water is less vehement but just as refreshing.
By CELINE REYES
Photos by CELINE REYES and DENNIS MURILLO