In Bicolandia, the renowned Mayon Volcano towers majestically at 8,000 feet from the base to its pointed tip, with its crater a mere 1,640 feet across.

At dawn, mists bank its foliage.  During midday, it heaves in the heat like a ferocious lover.  Then as evening descends, it bathes itself in the whiteness of the moon illuminating all of Albay, glowing like star dust and exerting what seems to be a pervasive influence during the much heralded “hot nights of Bicol.”  One also should not forget the Nagaso lake that gets so hot that could boil eggs.

Reviled by myth and malice, the overrated sensuality of Bicolanos as volcanic creatures (years back, they had the highest birth rate in the county) is summed up in the sardonic clincher “Bicolanong…sexy,” which never fails to offend.  But it does not seem to diminish the fact that they do indeed thrive on hot dishes, for everything swims in coconut milk, and a fistful of siling labuyo.

However, Bicolanos are deeply religious.  For years, the region contributed the most to priesthood, and each city had its own religious festival.  They trace their origins to a deeply rooted devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The magnificent churches of Bicol

Saint Joseph Church was built in 1874 and is the oldest church in Bicol.   Camalig Catholic Church, is built out of volcanic rocks, while the Our Lady of the Gate church in Daraga is majestically high up on a hill.  It is said that worshippers could almost hear the seraphim singing.

The San Juan Bautista Church in Tobacco City has the unique feature that sets it apart. By looking closer, the building structure comes the mark of the free masons who built it in 1879.  Also considered as the oldest is St. Peter Church built in 1611 and the 400-year-old church, the Nuestra  Senora de Candelario.  There are lot more churches, just as grand as the other.

The Basilica Minor del Penafrancia is where Our Lady of Penafrancia, patroness of the whole Bicol region is enshrined. Her feast is the grandest and most highly celebrated festival in the Philippines.  During the celebration, more than 3,000,000 gather to pay homage in our country that unleashed a kind of controlled religious anarchy.

The Bicol party led by Bernie Targa Ganon was an express voyage to Bicol to experience nature’s marvelous bounty and to enjoy what the region offers.  Swim, surf, dive into its water of fun and adventures; or trek, climb and savor the exhilarating scent of mountains of green splendor, and the captivating warmth and smiles that awaits us.

Bicol that is not just about the Mayon Volcano.  The region is a nostalgic a tapestry of Bicolandia’s history, dense forests and its abundant variety of wild life,  warm people, green meadows and rolling hills, the pineapple lush plantations, and rivers and rich aquatic reserve.

“Tourism is people,” said the gentle but willful Bernie Targa Ganon then added,  “And what comes to ones minds are little hints of Spanish admirable traits through the number of cultural and social practices their penchant for music, the arts, and their folkloric tales, which are clearly  tourist come ons.”

For the Bicolanos, nothing much has changed in their present drive and values.  Yet, just about everything has changed.

It is a stunning piece, eminently knowledgeable, what makes them tick — and there is more fun in Bicol.

Here are some snapshots from  the Bicol party, last Saturday.

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E-mail Mylah at moonlightingmdl@aol.com

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