The Bicol region of the Philippines comprises the south-eastern arm of Luzon, the same island that the capital of Manila is on. The region’s main city, Legasbi, is a comfortable 7 hours by bus away from the capital.
I spent about ten days in Legazbi, which was a lot more than I had planned. I have to be honest, it wasn’t (subjectively speaking) my best time in the Philippines. This was partly due to a lack of other travellers; Legazbi is not so much on the tourist map and has only one or two backpacker hostels, for example. During my time in Legazbi, the hostel I was in was pretty much empty for much of the time. I also suffered a lot of bad weather, with a ton of rain making me sit inside and watch movies a lot.
But travel of course always has its up and downs, and despite being stuck slightly in a rut, I still managed to have a good time in Bicol.
Jeepneys are the best and cheapest way to move around (but can be a little cramped!)
The main attraction here is truly Mount Mayon, an imposing volcano that is said to have one of the most symmetrical cones in the world.
A good place to see the volcano from are the Cagsawa Ruins, the remnants of an 18th century Franciscan church that was destroyed in an eruption in 1814. You get a great view of the volcano in the background.
I then went to Lingñon Hill, which sits sort of between the city and the volcano, from which you can get an even better overview. When I got there I was a little annoyed that zipline cables and electricity wires obscured the view to the volcano pretty much everywhere, which is a little odd given that this is meant to be the ‘official’ lookout point. Fortunately, I managed to find a secret little path down the hill through some bushes, which ended at the top of a farmer’s field, from where I had a brilliant unobstructed view of the cone as well as the fields and rivers below. I stuck around until sundown.
Had a great view of Mt. Mayon from Lignon Hill
I had to sit through two more days of rainshowers but finally the weather was good enough to also attempt a hike up Mt. Mayon. The volcano is actually still active, though when I asked my guide if it would be dangerous to go up, he started laughing pretty hard. I guess it must be pretty safe then!
My guide for Mt. Mayon. He kept bragging how all his equipment was from premium US brands. For lunch… Jollibee’s fast food, of course.
We set off around 5.30 a.m. and took a number of Jeepneys to get to the entrance park. We then began our ‘mountain assault’. I like to keep a strong pace when hiking and fortunately my guide did not mind. We actually got to the first base camp area 2 hours earlier than planned!
Farmers we met on the way up in the early morning. We had a little chat with them before heading on
Unfortunately due to some miscommunication we could not proceed from here; I was under the impression we would be hiking further up, but I had only been booked in for the initial stage of the hike. This was quite disappointing as I could see the smoke from the cone billowing in the distance, and I was itching to get closer. But we didn’t have enough supplies with to go on, and so we had to head back down to be back in Legazbi before sundown.
This is sadly the closest I got to the top of Mt. Mayon
The view down from the same spot as the picture above
I have seen a lot of volcanoes in my travels, but Mt. Mayon has to be one of the prettiest ones I saw.
Legazbi itself is not a hugely noteable city, though I did enjoy going on a little hike up some of the surrounding hills, which give you some pretty good views. The Bicol region also has some unique dishes, which I found to be a lot better than Filipino food in general (which I’m really not a big fan of). I also often ate lunch at the Small Talk Cafe, which serves an excellent blend of italian and Filipino cuisine in a cozy setting: I found this much more to my liking than the many fastfood/burger places that many Filipinos seem to prefer!
After Legazbi I made it to nearby Donsol, where I attempted to swim with whale shark, and went on a magical firefly watching tour.