The Traveling Wino and Mayon Volcano

There she was, with her crown draped with the clouds –
Mesmerizing goddess of my childhood books
And fantastical figure of Philippine history.
Her perfect legendary cone; now gone
With one explosion. With earth shattering tremors.
Perfection collapses.
Yet beauty remains.

Eli Med
161111 | Legazpi City

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There are day trips that will forever stay in your mind and heart.  This is one of them:

bicol-uber-x

It’s interesting that Facebook retained California time. I probably should have changed the time zone.

It was my second day in the Philippines, and I was determined to defy the brutality of my old body by shocking it with two hours of sleep and the brisk torture of a cold shower at 2:00 AM.  It was a trip years in the making, and I will not allow the fragility of a sleepless mind and body to get in the way.

coffee

Airport free time means coffee time! Sige, magkape muna tayo! | Golden brown sugar and brisk dark coffee for early morning joy.

A conglomeration of circumstances made us miss our flight.  And so we wait.  With coffee.  And a full meal.  We are Filipinos in the Philippines.  A full breakfast was not even a consideration; it was an unquestionable necessity.

breakfast

This is an example of a “light breakfast” for Filipinos; which revives the question: Why are they so skinny?

There is no way we were missing the flight; especially with a plane so refreshingly fragrant.

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Bonita and her bodyguards.

We land on Legazpi Airport, with the sky gloriously blue with white fluffy cumulus clouds that wonderfully contrasted with the extraordinarily lush landscape.  The topography appeared hilly, and with forest-like greenery; yet all around, palm and coconut trees made their own saturated claim on the landscape.  It made sense that the cuisine is so richly drenched with coconut milk.

Even the tarmac was already gloriously picturesque. Welcome to Legaspi City!

From the airport, our driver1, Kuya Nick, picked us up and brought us to Cagsawa Ruins.  According to wowlegazpi.com, the Cagsawa Ruins are the remains of a 17th century church built by the Franciscans. The first church was erected in 1587 but was destroyed by Dutch marauders in 1646. The church was reconstructed in 1724 by Fr. Francisco Blanco. In February 1, 1814, Mt. Mayon began its most violent and deadly eruption in recorded history. Unfortunately, the church, along with most of the town of Cagsawa, was destroyed by lahars and pyroclastic flows, killing thousands of inhabitants.

Dreams do come true. There I was, facing what I had only seen on images and book drawings as a child.

The Interweb says that for more than two centuries, the church ruins withstood the test of time and the elements to become one of the most recognizable landmarks of Albay Province. Today, the site of the Cagsawa ruins is now a park managed by the municipal government of Daraga and is now the most visited tourist spot in Albay. In 2015, the site was declared a national cultural treasure, the Philippines’ highest designation for a cultural property.2

While at the airport, Jeff reminded me that I had to get a bottle of wine.  Luckily, the airport’s duty free shop actually had a decent selection of wines.  I planned on getting a Riesling to pair with the region’s spicy food, but I didn’t want to worry about how to and when to chill the wine.  I had invited myself to this journey and I did not want to be the usual diva that I am.  I decided to get a red wine.  I thought a Cabernet Sauvignon might be a little more robust for the cuisine, but I got it anyway; I thought we could perhaps enjoy the wine after the meal or while waiting to board our evening flight back to Manila.  I stayed away from Napa Valley Cabernet, for the juice would have truly been extrenously bold for the cuisine.  I found a bottle of Lodi Cab in a good price point and thought it could work.

The Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon did work, well photographically, at least.  It accompanied landmark poses at the tarmac, at the ruins, and after lunch, at the life-size Last Supper.  This wine will actually make it back uncorked to Manila on my backpack, with full knowledge and examination of the TSA agents.  They were able to make a kind rare exemption and I am very grateful.3

I was, undeniably mesmerized beyond belief to be seeing Mayon Volcano, and the ruins in person.  See my excitement on replay: Facebook Live Feed at Cagsawa Ruins.

The Jeepney, the omnipresent mode of Philippine public transportation.

After a quick stop at Cagsawa Ruins, we proceeded to the market in search of candles and flowers to take to the cemetery. Filipinos pay homage to their elders, both the living and the dead, and for those who have passed on, Filipinos often pay their respects at the cemetery in which they were interned. Facebook Live Feed: In Honor of Departed Loved Ones.

The search for candles and flowers lead to shopping for other goods.  Who knew that I would be so excited in a marketplace visit.  Facebook Live Feed: At the Sari-Sari Store. | Facebook Live Feed: 500 Pounds of Pancit. | Facebook Live Feed: Smoked Fish. | Facebook Live Feed: Goodbye Marketplace.

The “Sari-Sari” Store, which roughly translates to a “Store of Various Items” is a staple in any Philippine marketplace and is a testament to the ingenuity of Philippine entrepreneurship. Filipinos will rent a small space or turn the front of their house into a little store that sells toiletries, snacks, drinks, and other necessities. Before the mega-markets invaded Philippine towns, the Sari-Sari stores were the reliable source for household needs.

After the marketplace, it was time to search for a vendor that will rekindle Bonita’s love affair with Pili Nuts.  According to Nuts.com, Pili nuts are a rich buttery tasting nut grown in the volcanic soil of the Philippine peninsula. High in protein, calcium and potassium, pili nuts are a healthy snack with a delicious flavor. They also make a wonderful addition to desserts and baked goods. Try these dry roasted and unsalted pili nuts for yourself and discover what makes them so unique and incredible. Here are some health benefits of Pili Nuts. Facebook Live Feed: Close Encounter with Pili Nuts.

It was mid-afternoon and at that time, we had just feasted on natural beauty and pili nuts.  Right before we fainted from starvation, we reached Kawakawa Hill, where a homecooked feast of Bicol’s marvelous cuisine unfolded right before our hungry eyes and tummy.  It was a spread made for all of Christ’s disciples and we gloriously represented. The Bicolano cuisine prominently uses chili peppers and gata (coconut milk) its dishes.  A classic example is the “gulay na lada,” known outside the region as Bicol Express, a well-loved dish using siling labuyo (native small chillies), coconut milk, pork, and a lot of other delicious ingredients.  Here are Top 10 Must Try Bicolano Dishes.

With these daily bountiful feasts from our humble, yet overly generous hosts, it makes it odd to think we’re in a third world country and there is so much struggle to survive. #blessed

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Facebook Live Feed: Buko Tasting Segment – Epic Volume Fail.

The intention was to drape the coconut cluster over my shoulder. My muscles betrayed me.

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They say a bond made with coconut is a bond that lasts forever.

After our lunch feast, our host escorted us to the Catholic Shrine next door and to the Station of the Cross that marked the slopes of Kawakawa Hill.  The pilgrimage up the hill starts with the a life-size sculpture of The Last Supper.  This scene stands next to the Monastery of the Carmelite Sisters.

A dream come true: Filling Jesus’ cup with wine. It’s the least I could do.

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Sorry, but “Thou shall not point fingers,” even if it’s Judas Escariot.

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We made it to the second station, and then we were ready to descend again and have ice cream. Sights and flavors forever linger.  A chili infused cheese ice cream will definitely be one of the deliciously memorable parts of this trip.

Faith withstands the test of time and nature; its steeple protects its people.

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  1. The best and most efficient way to travel and see places in the Philippines is to hire a van and a driver that knows your destination areas.  This takes away the stress of planning and managing your routes, and also gives you more opportunity to enjoy the sites.  Driving conditions in the Philippines are also often challenging, so unless you are skilled in navigation and assertive/agressive driving conditions, then hiring a driver is a must.  It is also, amazingly affordable.
  2. For more information visit www.wowlegazpi.com.
  3. What an interesting adventure that was, to say the least.

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