It's a 12 to 14 hour drive from Manila, but Albay is worth the trip. There's an underground river you can explore, waterfall, and — of course — viewing Mount Mayon with your own eyes to see what all the fuss is about.
If you're taking that long drive, you're bound to want to consume as much laing and Bicol express as possible when you reach your destination. However, it's a good idea to take a few dining tips from Drew Arellano, a frequent visitor of the Bicol Region who hasn't run out of new things to try.
Here are some delicacies waiting to sate your craving for that signature spicy Bicolano kick and some surprising takes on old favorites!
Just like Bicol express and laing, pinangat is a staple of the region's cuisine and you can have it two ways: traditional or deconstructed.
Locals like Aling Zeny produce pinangat the old fashioned way, including using a wooden contraption to squeeze milk from coconut. The coconut milk or gata is doused over gabi leaves and bound before being cooked. Instead of rice, enjoy this dish with good old pan de sal.
Aling Zeny makes prepares more than 200 pinangat a day and it's usually sold out, especially since she receives pre-orders.
At Oriental Hotel in Taysan Hills, Sto. Nino, Legazpi meanwhile, pinangat is served in patty form. Executive Chef Andhei Nacion uses the same main ingredients — gabi and gata — and modernizes its look.
Tip: There's no reason you can't have both!
Find a friend to share a lunch date with at Balay Cena Una in Daraga, because you'll need help trying all the dishes. First up is kandinga, their version of bopiz.
Unlike bopiz however, kandinga is dry and is made with lungs. The dish had Drew going "whoa" after the first bite. Take the time to enjoy the restaurant's beautiful exterior, too.
Come ready to feast because Balay Cena Una also serves...
3. Ginulay na santol
The name is pretty straightforward and it's not hard to enjoy — the taste is fresh as the ingredients are locally sourced. The gata is strong, but not so much that it masks the flavor of the santol.
Sinigang may reign supreme for some, but Albay has a delicious alternative to the sour soup. Ladies and gents, meet cocido. It's sourness comes from calamansi and is made with local vegetables, talbos ng kamote, and buho is sometimes added.
The meat in cocido is usually fish and it's perfect for those who want a milder sour soup.
5. Pili Cheesecake
For local dessert, look no further than 528 Cafe in Pacific Mall. There's a humble looking cheesecake that is bursting with Filipino flavors. Pili nuts top the cake and is also mixed in the crust, but it's the pili meat that stood out for Drew.
Unlike other flavored cheesecakes that usually just tastes like cheese with a faint hint of a blueberry, Drew testifies to the strong, creamy pili flavor in this cake.
6. Ice Cream galore
A trip wouldn't be complete without actually eating Bicol express, but know that you have the option of eating it cold. Ice cold. Ice cream cold.
In Lila, there's Bicol Express ice cream served with pineapples and, of all things, bagoong. The dessert is salty, spicy, sweet, and crunch all at once.
For those with extreme love for ice cream, Albay has 1st Colonial Grill at Luis San Los Baños Avenue to keep you busy. They serve sili ice cream with different levels of spice and you can also go loco for malunggay, cucumber, calamansi, munggo, pili, kalabasa, and much, much, much more.
Try not to go too crazy!
7. Straight up sili
If you can, try to schedule a trip to a sili farm like the one in Salugan, Camalig. This is what Albay is known for after all and a visit to where this beloved spice is grown is a fun and education homage.
With luck on your side, you might even get to try a special kind of sili — one that has absolutely no heat or spice. If you've ever wondered what sili tastes like without the burning sensation, this is where you'll find answers. — AT/LA, GMA News