saturday misadventures in Albay

Before I even write about the surreal joy (and dangers) of butanding (whale shark) watching in Donsol, I'd first like to write down about our crazy Saturday adventure in Albay. I need to, just so I do not feel like such a loser. Maybe it's the modern-day trick of the tikbalang, who knows. I'd just like to laugh at myself and Jan for what we had to endure yesterday.

It was one of those rare occasions when I go to a place with no plan at all. What was just clear was we do all the fun stuff in Donsol on Friday, then on Saturday Jerry and Ninin will leave Jan and I to our own devices since they have to fly back to Manila.

Friday evening, we were still undecided whether we stay in Donsol, transfer to Pilar or go back to Legaspi. The weather has been uncooperative since we had our awesome interaction with the butandings. Somebody up there was switching the rain faucet on and off for the rest of the day and nothing indicated that Saturday would be any different.

Jerry suggested that we might like to give Daraga a chance since Mayon was there in the first place. Plus, there was also the Daraga church which had a special place in JVPs hearts since its doors had JVP crosses (Jerusalem cross) carved on it. I thought, why not? I have always meant to do that anyway.

Saturday morning, we were on the van on the way to Legaspi. The weather was still unsure whether it wanted to be drizzly, rainy or simply cloudy. I fell asleep on the trip only to be awoken by "Daraga na." Huh? Uh? Huh? Uh, okay? Jan and I got off the van as Je and Nin sped off to catch their flight. The rain was strong. We stood in front of a paint shop. My mental faculties were hardly awake. A tricycle driver was asking us if we wanted a ride. We did, except I did not know where we wanted to go. Finally we asked the driver if he knew of a clean and affordable place to stay for the night. He said he knew exactly where to take us.

He finally dropped us at a place that looked doubtful from the moment we went down from the trike. I could not remember the name except it had the words "inn" and "24 hours." Those words always smell fishy when associated with a "hotel." I mean kelan ba hindi 24 hours ang hotel?! We took a look at the rooms anyway (aircon at P450 and non-air for P300++). Cheap, yes. Clean, yes. Like, no.

We decided to look for other places. We asked the dude at the counter if he can show us the way to the mall. He pointed to the right direction and told us it was walking distance. Experience has now taught me never to trust a guy who you took business away from to give you right information. Yes, it would have been a 20-minute walking distance on a good day. But if you were carrying several kilos of clothes and contraptions on a rainy day... Let me just say, we never got to the mall.

I told Jan that we should just proceed to Daraga Church instead and figure our plan from there. Might as well have a bit of sight seeing already. It was at a trike stop that we decided this. Again, an ever vigilant trike driver offered to take us to the Church for P30. I was in doubt of this price and said... "baka naman yan sinisingil niyo sa amin dahil di kami tagadito." He answered, "twenty pesos kada isa nga dun kasi pataas." I still doubted his price but I was tired, my back hurt from the bag and I just needed to be somewhere.

Putsa. We were already at the foot of the church before we rode the trike. It would have been a five-minute hike up. This was actually the only time that I was annoyed and almost ready to burst with road rage. I told the driver, "kasama ba dyan pababa?" Of course, he was not answering. Jan, being the nice guy that he is, just said that I let it go. (No I have not, to be honest).

The church would have had a spectacular view of Mayon on a sunny day. But since it was not, this was all we saw.
If you look hard enough, you might see the faint outline of our majestic mountain. Use your imagination, go ahead.

It would have been all okay if the church turned out what I expected it to be. I thought it would look like this. But no!
Somebody had the stupid idea to make it look like a plaster of paris model of Daraga Church! The photo actually looks better than the actual monstrosity we saw. I'm sure it is still unfinished. But the very thought of painting over the beautiful stone finish of an old church just makes me question the taste of whoever thought of that brilliant idea. Calling on the Bishop of that Diocese!!! Some lessons on basic appreciation of architecture for your people, please. Sigh.

I had to make do with the JVP cross on the doors, which really, wasn't all the impressive either.

I went inside the church to look at its nooks and crannies for other hidden JVP crosses, but I can't seem to find any more than what I already saw.

I just had to make it fun for my self taking photos of what I thought was interesting. Below is a photo of my favorite part of the church.
When I couldn't find anything to amuse me anymore, I dragged Jan so we could grab something to eat. However, the rains just got stronger with winds driving the drops at 45 degree angles. We had to wait for thirty minutes before we can get out of Daraga Church.

It was still drizzling a bit when we finally left the church. We decided to eat at the Bigg's we passed by on the way. It was just fitting since 1) when in Bicol, Bigg's is it and 2) Jan worked for Bigg's as graphic designer before.

Bigg's was probably the best thing that happened to us that day. The crew were polite and very professional and the restaurant was clean. We also had the chance to catch up on the news since they had newspapers to read for those who were waiting for their orders.

The food was good. Not just because we were really hungry. Jan ordered pork cordon bleu. It tasted good but my favorite was the baked potato. Mmmmm....
I ordered the baby back ribs which was also good. The meat was tender and easy to chew. The vegetables was crunchy and slathered with the right amount of butter.
It was at this point that Jerry texted us that their flight was cancelled and they decided to take the bus to Manila instead. Let us just say that this part of their adventure somehow influenced ours.

After our meal, we finally decided to go to Legaspi City and look for an accommodation there instead. I was able to research something about Tanchulling Hotel, which had good reviews. I told Jan, at least we know one hotel we can stay in Legaspi.

So off we went. We realized that Daraga was really near Legaspi, so I took note of possible places we could go back to once we settled in Legaspi. We went down at LCC Mall and asked for directions going to Pacific Mall which is supposed to be near Tanchulling. As we searched for the hotel, we found a hostel across Pacific Mall called SedCen. I was attracted to the place because it was supposed to be a cooperative. I took a look but there was no receptionist. I peeped into the rooms and saw it was clean and comfortable though the comfort rooms were common. I would not have minded it at all. Too bad there was no one to entertain us.

We decided to resume our search for Tanchulling. After finally finding it, I wanted to curse the hell out of whoever reviewed the hotel. I had a feeling that the dude might be related to the owner. The place was creepy and dark, much like the stuff in Filipino horror movies. Our room was at the very end of the second floor, right next to a fire exit with an axe (The Shining anyone?). The walls and the ceiling were of plywood that was curling probably from exposure to moisture. The bed was creaky and the mattress was so thin. Our lights were not working so we wanted to call the front desk. Hep, the phone was not working either. Jan suggested that we take our money back and just look for another hotel. Thankfully, they let us cancel our transaction.

Off we went again to look at Dreams Hotel recommended by the guard at Pacific Mall recommended to Jan. It was as bad as Tanchulling, only smaller. I was surprised that I was still not annoyed at this point. There we were at two in the afternoon, with heavy bags in tow, no place to sleep in a place we have never been to. I would usually have blown my top by then.

Anyway, Jan and I decided to give SedCen Hostel another try. Jan went up again and still found no person there. There was a souvenir goods at the ground floor, which seemed to be the same company as SedCen so we decided to ask the staff there. We were informed that they only had work on Mondays to Fridays, but she was kind enough to get in touch with the manager to explain our predicament. After her call, she asked us to wait because the person would come and see what he can do for us.

We decided to stay at their coffee shop and take advantage of the free wifi. We were still full, so I decided to order their strawberry smoothie. Jan ordered the same. The lady at the counter was very nice and friendly. The smoothie was awesome too!

Taking advantage of the wifi, we decided to look on the web for other hotels we can stay in. After an hour's worth of searching, we were down to Legaspi Tourist Inn and Casablanca Hotel. Initially, it was a stark difference in price. What we saw was LTI was P900 for standard rooms while Casablanca was P1700. I was torn. If the weather stays as bad as it was, then it would be best to stay in a nice, cozy place where we could just hang out. If the weather gets better, then the room would not matter. But the way the rains continued, I was inclined to get a room in Casablanca Hotel. After calls made, LTI turned out to cost P1,200. We finally decided to go to Casablanca Hotel, especially after being informed by the staff that SedCen was booked for the night.

We paid for our smoothie and was about to get a ride to Casablanca when I suddenly remembered something. Jan and I saw a Jessie Mendez overnight spa for couples which cost P1,500 for the night which was inclusive of massages for two pax. I told him we should check it out before we proceed to Casablanca since it was just across SedCen anyway.

As we were walking I thought of something again. I asked Jan if we should just go home to Manila instead. Jan said we should check the weather report for Sunday. When we checked, the weather will stay the way it was which meant we will not be able to do any going around the city as we initially planned.

So here was how our train of thought went:
1. Je and Nin's Cebu Pacific flight was cancelled in this weather. We were riding the tin can plane of Zestair. The likelihood of that being cancelled was quite high. If that happens on a Sunday, we will be forced to take a ten hour bus ride home and go to work on Monday looking like zombies.
2. If we stay in Legaspi, we will be spending on the hotel as well as food and transportation. Plus if our flight gets cancelled, then that would be another expense. So if we go home right then and there, we just spend on the bus. Never mind throwing away an P870 plane fare for the two of us.

Yup, going back to Manila was the best thing to do with that situation. It was after all, five in the afternoon. We would not have maximized our hotel stay anyway. There was really no point any more.

The great thing about it was, I still got to have my sili ice cream from 1st Colonial Grill! I went to the mall to withdraw and saw the restaurant. I ordered one scoop and wow, it was no kidding anghang ice cream but since it was made of milk, it kinda balances off. I actually liked it. Jan appreciated it as well but would probably still order chocolate next time we are there. :P

At 6:30 in the evening, Jan and I were on board the Cagsawa Royal Elite bus to Cubao. We arrived at 4:45 in the morning in Manila. Happy to back but actually a bit glad to have had a bit of crazy adventure in a strange place. :P