By the afternoon of our first day in Albay, we had made transportation arrangements for the following day. We wanted a closer look at Mayon Volcano, we wanted to sample the famous Bicolano cuisine and, well, we basically just wanted to experience everything there was. On the list of “places to visit” were Tiwi Hot Springs (and the famous halo-halo), the Cagsaua ruins and Donsol (home of the butanding). The only available vehicle for hire was a jeepney — and there was only one jeepney stationed at the resort so we really didn’t have much of a choice — so we hired the jeepney and the driver for the following day.
On the morning of Maundy Thursday, up we climbed the 120+ steps to the resort gate. Of course, I was cursing beneath my breath but I wanted a closer look at Mayon, didn’t I, so I gritted my teeth and climbed. We boarded the jeepney, asked the driver to please wipe the seats because they were thick with dried dust, and off we went. The first stop was the gas station.
Yes, that was the gas station. Those bottles contained diesel.
And that’s how the driver got the fuel tank filled. He pushed his backrest forward to expose the fuel tank opening and took out a cut out soft drinks (Sprite?) bottle fitted with a hose in the mouth. The hose went into the fuel tank and the diesel was poured through the cut out bottom of the bottle. It was a funnel, get it?
Since it was after 10.00 a.m., we asked the driver if he could recommend a good place to have lunch. He said there was a restaurant up in Mount Mayon and we said okay, we’d have our lunch there. From Mayon crossing (Km. 517), we started the uphill drive to Mount Mayon. On the road, we passed several fruit and vegetable stalls and so many young children who were waving at us. Very friendly, I thought, and I smiled back at them.
The driver stopped in front of this abandoned building where a small crowd of tourists were milling around and taking photos. What the building used to be, I have no idea.
This round structure stood beside the abandoned building in the previous photo. It might have been a restaurant since the wide panoramic windows suggest that its main attraction was to afford diners to get a view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. I began to wonder if this was the restaurant the driver mentioned and I started getting nervous. I certainly had no intention of being served lunch by ghosts. But, the abandoned buildings aside, the view from this elevation was great.
Everything below was visible — the valley, the sea, the fields, the trees. But I still wanted to know where the restaurant was. We looked for the driver and he said the restaurant was higher up Mount Mayon. And we drove uphill some more.
We reached the Mayon Planetarium and the Starship Cafe beside it. We checked out the cafe, the menu didn’t look interesting, the food on the plates of the diners already there didn’t look too great either, so we just bought water and ice cream.
We found something interesting though. PJ did, actually, and he told me about it. On the counter was a stack of books. A Tabaco City coffee table book published by the local government. I was drooling over it but the P1500 price tag was really too much. PJ was wise though. He checked out the directory of hotels and restaurants on the last pages and found one where we could have lunch. Solamente, I think the name was, in nearby Sabago.
We exited the cafe and took more photos.
Where are the photos of Mayon? Patience, patience. That’s coming up next. A nostalgic and whimsical piece is supposed to go with the Mayon photos so… patience.
Before I end this post, let me go back to the children I mentioned earlier — the ones waving to us on the drive up to Mount Mayon. Going down, we saw more of them. Waving. Calling to us. I told everyone, “Let’s wave back to them, Princess Diaries style.” So, we waved back. And smiled. And, you know, returned the warmth they seemed to be imparting. Then, the jeepney slowed down on a curve and we found the children near enough to hear what they were shouting at us. The said, “Piso! Piso!” Shucks, they were asking for money. And we thought they were just being friendly.
(Edited at 9.28 p.m.)