"Legaspi City" Legaspi by Martialsk

Legaspi Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 106 photos

That's a pretty big volcano over there...

This little piece of the Philippines ended up on the itinerary thanks to our friend that we were travelling with and her uncles, who are resident here. They live in a lovely home on the edge of Legaspi City, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the giant but perfectly formed shield volcano that is Mt Mayon.

Not a massive metropolis, Legaspi is the largest city in the Bicol region with a population around 180,000. It is an example of the 'real' Philippines - the undressed version.
The city provides easy access to it's major tourist attraction - the Mayon volcano rising to the lofty heights of 2,426m, it is the Philippines' most active volcano and along with it's stunning forest, has become extremely popular with outdoor trekking enthusiasts. Other nearby sights include the Cagsawa Ruins, the stunning views from Ligñon Hill, the upmarket resort of Misibis, Donsol, for one of the world's largest annual migration of whale sharks and the white sand beaches of Sorsogon and Catanduanes.
The airport lies below Ligñon Hill, with that volcano as the stunning backdrop.

Most people here live very basic lives, in very basic homes. Some exist teetering on the very edges of the poverty line and others have unfortunately long dropped below it.
Their main export is nursing/ domestic staff and interestingly, the biggest 'customer' is the USA. Most countries will accept Filipinos on extendable working visas but few countries will actually grant them citizenship. Much of their income is sent home to support their families. Driving along suburban roads, it is interesting to note huge villas - often only part finished - surrounded by shacks built of the very basic of materials - reeds, wood and maybe even a little bit of brick. In somes cases, people don't like concrete and refuse to use it in favour of tradition, with others, poverty doesn't give them the choice.
There are no flash cars, no flash anything.
On an unusual note, this country does hold the number one spot for the biggest 'texting' nation in the world! Few city people can afford a landline, rural people can forget the option to own a landline because the cables don't run that far, but right after the TV, everyone has a mobile phone!

On the day we arrived, we took a little wander through the local village which was basically made up of one main street running parallel to the waterfront promenade. This street comprised of many tiny shack-like houses closely stacked together, often with grass roofs, poor street maintainance and lots of little kids and dogs, the odd rooster, plenty of hens and even a couple of pigs.
Along the waterfront, we stopped at a cafe and drank some coconut milk fresh out of a coconut. A first for us, this was absolutely delicious! Then we went home, sat up on the 3rd floor roof terrace and watched the sunset over Mt Mayon. The skies are beautiful here.
Apparently the volcano erupts regularly every few years and locals are very used to it's smoky habits so much so that an eruption is considered a social event.
Typhoons & cyclones wreak the havoc here!Torrential rain, wind&landslides kill people here almost every year because of where people build and the materials with which they use to build. Victims of circumstance in some cases but with little support from a broke government, it's very difficult to be a judge of a cycle of bad habits. The last really very bad cyclone was in 2006.
The biggest underlying fear of course is the risk of earthquakes and the tsunamis that tend to follow in their wake. The Philippines is flat bang in the middle of the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire and the risk is very high.

Our hosts are firm believers of rising early to make the best use of each day because although the sun rises at about 5am, it is stiflingly hot and humid by 8.30am and the sun sets (gloriously beautifully) at 6pm. The humidity was extreme and took some getting used to!

Out and About...

Soon after arrival we had worked out our plan of action. We climbed Ligñon Hill at 700m for the views over the City. Extremely humid but worth the hike! Then we caught a 'tricycle' (motorbike with a sidecar) to the Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church before finishing up the evening at a cafe overlooking Mt Mayon. This church is quite famous for its baroque architecture - built in 1773 by Franciscan Missionaries. Unfortunately, the authorities decided they needed to protect the facade by painting it over with lime which turned the original black volcanic rock facade into white. A shame.
Settling in to the lifestyle here, we caught a mini-bus to Donsol to see if we could get an opportunity to swim with some whale sharks. Unfortunately, bad luck for us that it was actually off-season - but sharks are known to come into the area all year around so we thought it was worth asking. Anyway, the public transport trips there&back were enjoyable, the vans airconditioned and the scenery spectacular. The 'green' colour is so irridescent-brighter and greener than Ireland but maybe that's because the sun shines here everyday and in Ireland it does not! Most of the public transport vehicles have bald tyres, bad suspension and wonky steering but they drive so slowly that if an accident were to happen, it couldn't really be classified as an accident.
The drivers are a very relaxed bunch of people and speed is unheard of. We rarely heard horns blaring and bikes, tricycles, people, jeepney buses all regularly drive all over the place and somehow everyone knows what everyone else is trying to do and compromises are easily reached.
Following that excursion, we met our trekking guide to one of the 'lower' base camps of Mt Mayon - a walk reputed to take about 4.5hrs one way! If climbing to the summit, the walk would be a few days, with the first day being a 7 hour walk to the highest base camp. Such a beautiful trek through the most stunning forest, but we didn't complete it because our friend's asthma decided to interfere with our challenge and we all took the decision to turn back rather than leave her on her own for hours in a clearing somewhere!The bit we did was tough going made a little easier by the constant steady ascent all the way to our turning point which was better than dealing with awkward terrain, but, the humidity was a challenge all on it's own! It's bad enough through the forest when there's so much going on - like finding nasty little centipedes and venomous green snakes - but in the clearings, the sun just beats down on you like a giant wielding a cudgel and the urge to curl up and die is a pretty hard feeling to overcome.
After a coconut milk pit-stop, we headed over to the Malilipot Busay Falls for a quick spot of bathing. The waterfall was a stunning bit of tranquility after trotting around a sweaty mountain!

We drove home along the 'scenic' route - the rural district, rice paddies and tiny hamlet villages! A very enjoyable, eye-opening experience - particularly when we stopped at a little tin shack for a bite to eat!The only things I didn't eat were those that I could define - the chicken heart, raw liver and chicken feet (including the claws...) But the rest on offer was properly cooked and delicious! The stall owner was very welcoming and everyone - especially the kids, were so curious and friendly - the whole snack/ meal cost us GBP1.00 in total. One Filipino Peso = GBP£ 0.01...

Out and about some more...

Following that,we hired a local fishing boat to take us to the coral reefs for a spot of snorkelling.This bucket must have been about 35 foot long with 'stabilisers' on either side - a bit like a miniature catamaran!No luxuries mind - Mylen was a working boat,but considering she had a 5-man crew in attendance,we reckon she weighed in at a few tonnes and took some work to handle!Thankfully she also had a very good engine that trundled us there and back in one piece and I was very impressed with the smoothness and comfort of the ride.I will say we could have done with a ladder to get back into the boat though...there was no 'ladylike' way of hauling oneself out of the water delicately...more like heave, jump, flop, flap around like a damp fish, sit up and look away into the horizon like whatsherface on the telly...and pretend that didn't just happen!
An amazing experience, we saw many varieties of fish and coral in crystal clear urchin-infested waters (a sign of clean water).We ended up giving up our beach time to stay in the water as much as we could before we went on land for a quick coconut pit-stop!The numerous star fish were just beautiful, all different colours and sizes.
We left at 7am and got back just after 1pm right on the heat of the day - but more importantly, a massive storm had been brewing out in the Pacific since we set off and the crew were not keen to hang around longer than they needed to!Pre-sailing, there had been options for us to go visit another island and some caves, but they refused to even entertain the idea by the time we had our coconut pit stop and we certainly didn't push it! It had rained here every day so far and we figured that the rain might hit at the same time again and I for one, wanted to be off that little boat before the storm arrived.
Well, shortly after we got home, the storm hit - and a great big howler it was too!The wind screamed and howled rattling everything, rain poured down at all angles for ages, the lightening and thunder just horrid!And down there in the harbour we could see Mylen hopping and bouncing all over the place! We were glad we were safely home and I can bet the crew were glad to to be in the pub having a well-deserved afternoon off! They had provided an exceptional excursion.

Our host's impression of the storm was one of mild amusement bordering on indifference of one who lives with tropical weather day in day out. This was just a nomal event for the Phillippines it seems...I don't think I have it in me to imagine a typhoon!
After the storm subsided, we headed down to the waterfront to visit some of the local watering-holes and meet some local residents.Such friendly, hospitable people!
We'd been on the go since we got here, so just before we departed we had a couple of days where we did very little! Slept in, lazed about, caught a tricycle into town to buy beer and look around, then back down to the waterfront to spend some time in the pub and listen to karaoke, a popular past-time.The weather also turned overcast and wet during our last couple of days so outdoor excursions were difficult and limited. The roads have a tendency to turn into mud slurries but we managed to get to the limestone Hoyop-hoyopan caves in Cotmon Camalig & the Cagsawa Ruins - a church destroyed by a violent eruption in 1814 which buried everyone who sought refuge there.
What an incredibly awesome 10 days!!!!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:untouched by tourism, beautiful
  • Cons:severe litter, extreme poverty
  • In a nutshell:The real Philippines. This version is not dressed up...
  • Last visit to Legaspi: Oct 2011
  • Intro Updated Apr 14, 2012
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Martialsk

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