Legazpi to open track to Albay’s undiscovered tourism wonders

By , on January 1, 2015

Albay Gulf (photo courtesy of www.ztopic.com)
Albay Gulf (photo courtesy of www.ztopic.com)

LEGAZPI CITY -– This “City of Fun and Adventure” is opening the gateway to local tourism wonders that are off the beaten track.

It will start off at home with the Kapuntukan Hill that is loved by photographers and sightseers for its strategic location that offers panoramic views of the entire city with the majestic Mt. Mayon at the backdrop, the scenic Albay Gulf islands and the exciting greenery of the mountainous terrain at the city’s southern barangays up to Mt. Inang Maharang in Manito town.

Described as the “sleeping lion” owing to its peak that resembles the hunched shoulders and mane of a lion and its lower edifice, the animal’s rump, the hill stands like a sentinel guarding the city’s port — drawing comparisons with the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The hill is a historical landmark where a monument to the great Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi stands near its foot.

Many of the city’s most popular and iconic photos were taken from atop the hill, which, as of now, can be reached via a rough trail leading to its summit.

The place is now being developed as a more tourist-friendly destination with Embarcadero de Legazpi, a privately-owned world-class waterfront shopping and leisure complex, sitting on its foot.

Another development that has taken shape along Kapuntukan Hill is the Legazpi Boulevard, a coastal road network extending from the city’s central business district and port area to its southern barangays.

The boulevard, which is now a favorite recreation area owing to its cool, fresh sea breeze gently blowing from the gulf, is considered the longest outside Metro Manila and one of the most picturesque seaside roads in the Philippines.

The Kapuntukan Hill will become an imposing landmark of the upcoming New Legazpi Urban District whose development worth around Php300 billion would be realized through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) deals with both local and international investors, City mayor Noel Rosal on Wednesday told the Philippine News Agency here.

The ‘boiling lake’ of Nag-Aso in the town of Manito is one of the off-the-beaten-path wonders in Albay that this city wants to connect with.

This three-hectare lake whose name is derived from the Bicolano word “nag-aaso” (steaming) is fed by a hot spring that has a temperature that can reach 100 degrees Celsius– hot enough to boil eggs within 10 minutes.

Because of the extreme temperatures of the lake, its heat helps to power the nearby 180-megawatt geothermal power plant operating within the 250,000-hectare Bacon-Manito reservation atop Mt. Inang Maharang.

During high tide, the lake is submerged by seawater from the Albay Gulf, but the bubbling, boiling water remains enchantingly visible.

It is also amazing that trees and greens surrounding the lake survive the temperature, hence, the lush vegetation.

Nestled between the gulf and the ridge down the forest of Mt. Inang Maharang, Nag-aso Lake, which is covered by Barangays Balabagon and Hulugan, Manito, can be reached from here via an about one-hour motorized boat trip or through land trips on an about 40-kilometer provincial road that is badly bumpy and winding.

There is no regular boat trip serving the destination and visitors who want to see the place have to charter the ride at a higher cost.

Going by land through public transport plying the Legazpi-Manito route, means riding earthly jeepneys to the town proper and tricycles down to the lake’s site—rides that are below the dignity of an average tourist.

Manito is a sleepy rural town at the southernmost section of Albay that borders the province of Sorsogon.

And since the city, having all the tourist facilities, is the center of tourism for Albay and Sorsogon, Rosal said the local government is going to provide the needed gateway to Nag-aso Lake, the same way that it is linking with another out-of-the way ecotourism marvel–San Miguel Island of Tabaco City.

Located at the western end of the strip of islands in the Lagonoy Gulf, San Miguel Island is an ideal place for travelers who are looking for a serene and simple vacation life away from the hassles of busy urban settings.

From here, tourists can travel by boat passing through clear waters that feature the sight of sea urchins underneath to the island that boasts of a quaint environment surrounded by beaches of light-colored fine sand that are preserved by the locals.

There are two well-kept beach resorts in the island whose surrounding waters is a marine reserve created by the Coastal Resource Management Project, a multi-disciplinary approach to developing and managing habitats and resources through the establishment of marine fishery reserves in the context of a community-participated co-managed scheme.

Established through the collaboration among the Tabaco City council, Bicol University (BU), Haribon Foundation, University of the Philippines (UP), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Bicol, US Peace Corps and barangay councils, the reserve ensures both an economic future in fishing and the conservation of the local environmental treasures.

Its establishment was started in 1998 to avert the massive destruction of Bicol’s reefs by illegal and damaging fishing practices such as dynamite and cyanide that consequently decimated the local marine resources.

Now, the area is where the reef is protected from damaging fishing techniques, allowing fish populations to prosper. It won an award from PhilReefs for being adjudged as the second Best-Managed Reefs in the Philippines in 2001.

PhilReefs is a consortium of conservationist organizations working for the protection, rehabilitation and management of coral reefs.

With this conservation effort, the island has become an attractive site for leisure fishing, snorkeling and diving.

By opening a gateway to these off-the-beaten-path local wonders, the city government will be helping other Albay localities stimulate their tourism industry while at the same benefit the city in terms of tourism receipts for its hotels, restaurants, malls, souvenir shops and transportation providers, among other local tourist-oriented businesses, Rosal said.