It’s easy to get lost in reverie when on the beach. The infinite swells and crashing waves has that hypnotic hook once gazed for merely seconds. This same trance-like state lingered for a moment as sundown sets upon the famed San Juan Beach of La Union. San Juan beach is a playground for both novice and veteran surfers. But for non surfers, it’s an ideal stretch to lounge or simply walk around.
The surf, the easy going vibe and the interesting eats may be the draw for the destination such as La Union. But even when the swell’s down, there’s another activity to get wet while away from the coast. At the highlands of San Gabriel, La Union, the cool climes of this municipality entices with nature hikes and waterfalls like is Tangadan Waterfalls. I was participating in Lakbay Norte, a long-running annual familiarization tour of north Luzon and this was one of the stops in our itinerary I was looking forward to.
Talk about Bicol and it’s hard not to tag one of the region’s signature dishes – the Pinangat. I had fond memories of this spicy and aromatic dish growing up. Whenever relatives from the province would visit our home, the pinangat is mostly one of the treats they would bring. Packed frozen and wrapped tightly in layers of newspaper to keep it fresh. While I had seen how the dish was made from our kitchen, it is interesting to see how it is mass-produced in a backyard industry setting. My recent visit to Camalig found me fascinated by both the sight and smell on how one of the most sought-after pinangat was concocted.
The imposing Mt Mayon, from any angle in Albay looks picturesque but there are places that’s more conducive for gawking at its glory. Still in Camalig near the Natural Carpets Industries (NCI) workshop is Sumlang Lake. This 14-hectare lake used to be a carpet of lilies until the village residents decided to clean it up three years ago and uncovered its placid beauty. They saw the potential of its unobstructed view of Mt Mayon as the backdrop for this scenic lake. To this date, it is a rising destination in Albay, enjoying 300–500 visits on weekends.
If you’ve ever visited the furniture shop Crate and Barrel, chances are, you may have seen these finely crafted placemats, carpets, rugs or even some exquisite living room furniture pieces made from abaca (Manila hemp), rattan or nito. The prices here is a premium and it’s easy to conclude that most of them may be imported. Interestingly, when I visited Camalig, Albay’s Natural Carpet Industries, I was surprised to see Crate and Barrel tags on the newly woven circular abaca placemats inside their 7,300 sq. m. factory. Those US$10 placemats at the shop can be bought here directly for only US$ 3. It just shows that the abaca industry is back in the limelight as one of the main export products of the country and can compete with international brands.
Albay has a special place in my childhood. I have fun memories of many summers spent in Albay. My mom hails in Daraga and we would visit her home often. No matter how long the drive, it’s always the majestic Mayon, the imposing Daraga Church and enjoyable time with cousins and siblings. My last visit though was drenched in tears like the heavy rain that poured upon us the day we said goodbye to my dearest lola (grandma). I was close to her. Relatives always say I’m her favorite apo (grandson). That was more than a decade ago. When an photo assignment from InFlight came recently, I thought I guess it’s time to come back. Not only to retrace the steps of my youth but to re-discover Albay.
Makati is a prime location in Metro Manila. If you’re travelling and looking for a place to stay within this city, initial impression would be that it would be expensive. A bed alone at one of the hostels can cost Php 500–700 alone. But if you have a little more budget and yearning for more space than the four corners of a bed, it is worth checking out Jupiter Suites in Bel-air Makati. More than a decade of experience is its charm and ridiculously huge rooms as one of its key appeal.