Communing with Nature in the “Tourist Spots Filled” Province of Albay

Communing with nature is something I have been doing since I learned to recognize the value of it. My definition of it translates to what I call “nature therapy”. That is to recharge and reconnect with myself through the abundance of nature. I do it in a multitude of ways such as watching the sun sets or rises; walking in the woods; filling my lungs up with fresh air at the nearby prairie; hugging trees; smelling and touching the leaves of the trees around; dipping the soles of my feet to the mud or sands; dancing or playing in the rain; looking at the limitless horizon; swimming in the ocean; and so forth.

I have always maintained balance by doing any of those practices. Whenever I feel stressed, overworked, depleted, alone, or overwhelmed, I get immediate relief and incredible insight from communing with nature. On a regular basis, I do the simple ones like watching the sunset or go to the nearby park with trees and grass in it. When I am on vacation; however, I go the extra mile by going on nature trips. Green therapy in this case.

Recently, I availed one of Albay Tour Packages’ travel promos called “Mayon 360” to make this endeavor extra special.

Mayon 360 enables participants to literally go around the Mayon Volcano while visiting 10 of Albay’s most sought-after tourist destinations namely Busay Falls*, Tabaco Church, Mayon Skyline/Mayon Resthouse, Kawa kawa Hill and Nature Park, Hoyop Hoyopan Cave*, Sumlang Lake*, Cagsawa Ruins (Optional ATV)*, Daraga Church, Lignon Hill*, Legazpi Boulevard. It also lets them visit five (5) more places to visit if there is still an available time— 1st Colonial Grill (famous for sili ice cream), DJC Halo-halo, Albay Pilinut, Pasalubong Center at Legazpi Terminal, and Smalltalk Cafe. The original inclusions could be done within five (5) hours ideally so to give way to the additional five, my unsolicited advice is to limit the photo op time for each destination.

Last March 23, a Saturday, I dragged my “squad” to Naga City’s terminal at 5:00 AM for a bus from Manila bound for Legazpi City. We reached the meeting place, Jacem Gasoline Station in Oas, within a couple of hours. From there, we met our driver/tour guide, Mond Redito, who is a brother of Ronald Redito—the esteemed owner of Albay Tour Packages. It is a pleasure to mention once again that Albay Tour Packages took care of my trip to Trinity Islands in March 2017.

We started the tour at Kawa-Kawa Hill’s Shrine and the Carmelite Monastery in Ligao City—which is a thirty-minute drive from the station.

This structure, according to our guide, will soon be serving as a wedding church for the monied people.

We hike some of the shorter trails up the hill for a bit. The vibrant verdure of the hill is still as beautiful and invigorating as the first time we visited it in 2013.

We stopped by another church, which is one of the oldest ones in the country and then drove to Cagraray in Misibis.

The clouds covering the blue sky suddenly turned dark as we were cruising the sinuous road.

After a few minutes it released a shower. Good thing it became just a drizzle upon approaching the Cagraray Eco-Energy Park‘s entrance. It was more than an hour drive from Ligao City.

We registered and paid the environmental fee for P25 each then started checking some of the attractions in the area such as the stunning Stella Mariz Chapel on top of the hill and monkey bridge below it.

That was to buy us some time for a clear sky before landing to the park’s main attraction: the Amphitheater.

It was still sprinkling when we arrived at the amphitheater though and there is no telling that it will stop anytime soon. So we had our pictures taken in the middle of the slightly bad weather. The tour must go on and the momentum must not be killed.

I fell in love instantly with this spot when I stumbled upon it in one of the photos that appeared during my internet search for places to visit in Albay. The four gigantic stones in the middle reminded me of the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Looking at them intently created a bit of a strange feeling like there is more to what can be seen.

The amphitheater is strategically located within the park offering a breathtaking view of the Albay Gulf and the islands nearby. It could have been a perfect spot too for sunrise and sunset photos.

According to what I read, this amphitheater is occasionally used as venue for parties, (even) concerts, and other events. It was also used by the Amazing Race Asia as a Pit Stop during its 5th season.

We went back to the main city at around 10:00 AM to have lunch at Colonial Grill, which is mainly for the sili ice cream.

Thereafter, we headed straight to what we really came for in Albay.

Sumlang Lake is just a four-year old tourist attraction in Camalig as relayed to us by the guide but it is definitely attracting a considerable number of visitors on a daily basis .

Its claim to fame are the rafts that are perfectly blended with rattan furniture for visitors to lounge in.

Add to that the magical landscape of Mayon Volcano and the water view of Sumlang Lake, you get the best background ever.

The best way to describe the view though is by saying, Sumlang Lake is like a piece of Indonesia’s “Bali”  in the Bicol Region or the Philippines (if you may).

We capped the tour off by cruising along the Legazpi Boulevard.

The boulevard is a coastal road that became famous because of the picturesque seaside views it provides as well as a spectacular view of the Mayon Volcano, the Albay Gulf and its islands to the east, and the mountains of Sorsogon to the south, and and the Kapuntukan hill to the north.

There are free seats in the area so you can conveniently relax and enjoy the view, which is, by the way, an excellent spot for jogging, walking,…even for zumba. The approximately three-kilometer stretch of a paved road is conducive for a scenic, I say, biking or running as well.

Our guide said that the place was originally planned as a new frontier for future development but by the looks of it during our visit, it is merely one of those potential but abandoned projects due to lack of support from the government. It is still a decent tourist spot nevertheless.

My squad and I owed the uncanny sensation of lucidness and energy that we had from all of those places. The long walk in the woods of Cagraray Eco Park, the climb to the steep trails of Kawa-Kawa Hill, the frolic and rafting in and on the artificial lake of Sumlang, the stroll on the coastal road of Legazpi Boulevard and everything that took place that day made us feel somehow cleaner and re-energized, especially me who was in the early stages of my therapy.

I would not have this kind of quality time and nature therapy in any other way.

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