Our first night in Bicolandia was spent in Legazpi city with the mighty Mayon looming in the horizon. At dawn, I ventured to the Embarcadero where friends told me gives a spectacular view of the mountain and the city sprawled below it with the breakwater in the foreground. True enough, the morning sun painted the city and the mountain in a glorious light. Thank God, this is the first time Ive seen Mayon in full light and as locals would have it – a good omen for the day to have a view of the mountain without any clouds blocking its form.
The day’s itinerary was a trip to Albay’s northern towns starting in Tabaco city where we again make our way down south back to Legazpi passing by the towns of Malilipot, Bacacay, and Santo Domingo (Lib-og). Tabaco city was a true delight with one of the province’s cultural treasures – the centuries old San Juan Bautista church, the old Smith & Bell house, and their octagonal mortuary chapel touted to be one of the country’s finest. The church is made of volcanic stones and complete a charming plaza streetscape fronting their old city hall. Though not among the most ornate facades Ive seen, Tabaco’s church was elegant leaning more on the side of solidity. The bellfry standing detached nearby is inversely decorated with highly ornate carvings in the niches and medallions.
The old Smith & Bell House which prominently straddles a corner is spectacularly preserved, and feature wrap-around windows of capiz with filleted corners. The mortuary chapel which we visited after a brief lunch was the highlight of the town. Octagonal in shape and sitting regally in the middle of the old cemetery grounds, the mortuary chapel feature well-preserved exteriors and rather unusual inscriptions above its main portal.
A similar mortuary chapel this time in the town of Malilipot provided a foil to the one in Tabaco. Heavily overgrown with foliage but with visible details worth noticing still intact, the mortuary chapel of Malilipot feature walls of the old chapel and an archway of what was once the cemetery gate. Further into the town is the church whose recent plastering have made any details (if any) invisible. Noteworthy is the wide expanse surrounding the church where one could view the mountain ranges of Bacacay from a distance.
Bacacay offered the highlight of this trip with not just an old church but an older church ruins right beside each other. The old church was simple, unassuming, but elegant. Its interiors renovated in the 60’s give it a Mod feel but have inexplicably aged quite well. The bellfry beside the church offered expansive views of the town and the Misibis bay. The town plaza is a true haven with open fields and lush acacia arbors. Truly that trip gave us a sense of the rural Albay – laid back and relaxed.
Our last stop for the day was the town of Santo Domingo but problems in transportation options and the approaching dusk led us to cancel that stop and instead head back earlier to Legazpi for a night out. On waiting for a Legazpi-bound bus, we stumbled on an old masonry bridge with rustling waters on the river underneath. Looking so tempting and the sweltering heat taking its toll on us, we went down and took a dip.
Back in Legazpi, we dined and chilled under the stars beside the bay at Embarcadero.