Archive for the ‘Albay’ Category

Buhi-Malinao road ushers in more commerce for Bicol

February 27, 2009

Linking communication is the most obvious benefit of having a road between towns and villages. Alternative routes of trade and commerce are made easy. These are expected in the recent completion of the 35 kilometer road (about half of 66 kilometer highway) which connects the 2nd and 4th districts of Camarines Sur to that of 1st district of Albay.

Leading to the port area of Tabaco, Albay, the highway makes it easier to reach Catanduanes Island in Bicol. Travel from Manila will be shorter than before.

The new road starts from Hanawan Ocampo, Camarines Sur onwards to Barangay Burokbusoc and Sagrada in Buhi, Camarines Sur, reaching up to Malinao, Albay. It is heralded as an accomplishment by LV Castaneda of the Department of Public Highways, (DPH.)

But Buhinon Jesus Valenciano (in a letter to Bicol Mail’s editor,) writes to question the integrity of the road. He fears that the “all-weather road” in some sections need cementing or asphalting. He says, without good maintenance, this road can easily fall into disrepair. —-Bicol Mail (02/19/09; 02/26/09) (Photo Credit: =0=


Charles Dickens’ Artful Dodger comes to life in Barbara Ricafrente’s short story

January 20, 2009

Despite his poverty, Awil had a happy disposition. He had neither expectations nor goals. He did not bother to get employment anywhere, join his peasant neighbors reap palay for local landowners during the harvest season, weave weed baskets for local middlemen in the lean months like his neighbors did, or sell rice biscuits or puto in nearby cities for extra income. He simply lived each day as it came.”—Manuel (01/20/09, Ricafrente, B)

The colorful sketch of Manuel’s life (Awil) by Ibalon’s Bambi Ricafrente resurrected my memory of Artful Dodger, the smart petty robber in Charles Dicken’s moving story of Oliver Twist (1838). The clever pubescent Dodger introduced gullible Oliver into the world of stealing headed by the old merry patron Fagin in the dark dingy slums of London.

Yet, the similarity of Manuel’s life to the pickpockets in the squalid backstreets of the 19th century England abruptly ends. I learn there is more to Awil’s thievery than what meets the eye. Bambi describes an extended and complex life that is curiously worth learning from.

In an ill-descript Bicol town, Awil has to wrestle with fate and intergenerational circumstantial snags that shape adaptation and dampen acrimony against the changes of the seasons. His life and that of Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist seem intertwined. In all of them, the antagonism between good and evil must really be fought relentlessly until the last.

If one stands on Awil’s shoe, the forbearance to survive pulsates at a rate and vibrancy of a baby’s racy heart. His story tells of the struggles of ordinary people—those who are fallen and redeemed. Awil’s imperfect life isn’t far from what the Catholic preacher Rev. Fulton Sheen often referred to: a “life that is worth living.” (Photo Credits: George Cruikshank; Bohirab) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Manuel” Posted by Bambi Ricafrente at 1/20/2009

Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and page illustrations by George Cruikshank for his work in 1838 which mirrors society’s paradoxical influences in the lives of ordinary people. The story of Oliver Twist portrays wholesome dignity and antithetical sordidness in a world where good and evil exist and are in constant debacle. The popular English author of Victorian vintage had A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers, and A Christmas Carol among his great works. (Photo Credit: Charles Dickens PD; George Cruikshank x 2 PD)


Bicol Vignette: Bambi Ricafrente’s Antero

December 17, 2008

“Though a non-Chinese, Antero grew up in China. He was only about five when he migrated to that country with his stepfather, a Chinese merchant, who brought him along in place of his mother, who had refused to board the boat when it was time to leave. He had been orphaned by his Filipino father soon after his birth in January 1900 in Albay, a Philippine province famed as much for the majestic Mount Mayon as for its dishes done in generous amounts of coconut milk and the hottest of peppers – the siling labuyo.”—Antero (12/17/08, Ricafrente, B)

Many lives go their usual pace until they reach terminus without being written; their unchronicled mundane beauty are regrettably lost forever. Yet, UP Ibalon’s Barbara M. Ricafrente (Bambi) does it differently. For posterity, she shares a crisp and fascinating tale of a guy whose “breath was sweet as the White Rabbit candies.”

Read her. Posted in the blog, her scintillating story cuts across an extraordinary Bicol experience. The deservedly admired work effectively knocks open the door of our soul—as if we’re back home again for a holiday.—mesiamd(12/17/08)

RELATED BlOG: “Antero,” posted by Barbara M. Ricafrente at 12/17/2008


30,000 families to be relocated in Bicol train rehab

December 13, 2008

It’s like Rip Van Winkle coming out from sleep. At last, the plan to repair the Philippine National Railways (PNR) from Laguna to Legazpi City is alive again. For the project to push, it will require the relocation of 30,000 families settled on the 15-meter clearance of the train’s path.

The government plan is definite good news to Bicol, but it’s mind-bending why only now will repairs be undertaken. The train plying the southern end of Luzon is different from how it looked decades ago as it meandered in the craggy mountainsides of Quezon Province to the foot of Mount Isarog in Camarines Sur and Mayon in Albay. Huge numbers of people have already crowded the tracks, the 483-kilometer stretch from Manila.

Vital to travel in the Bicol region and the rest of the country, the PNR had been largely neglected. It practically operated in meager maintenance budget even if plans to extend the line, about 135 kilometers from Legazpi to Sorsogon had been on the works.

Wooden planks and metal supports on the transportation line were continual victims of thieves who used them as firewood or sell them as scraps. For many years, almost nobody took action for their upkeep, to the disappointment of Bicolanos. The yearly torrential rains caused infrastructure damage. The government did little to prevent people from building houses along the railway tracks.

This early the concern for the legal rights of the squatters has been raised. Human rights groups are pushing for standard eviction amenities. The enormity of the problem causes some interested investors to back out of the project.

“Jun de la Torre, Community Organization of the Philippines (COPE) assistant regional coordinator said they have strengthened their social preparation efforts in favor of the railway settlers by collaborating with 10-federation strong Bicol Urban Poor Coordinating Council (BUPCC) headed by Lorna Chavez to ensure that the rights of these affected settlers would not be derailed when the PNR rehabilitation project starts in the near future.” Bicol Mail, (12/12/08, Neola, J)

The project is rocked with questionable political deals. P17 billion has been allotted to remove the illegal dwellers on the dangerous tracks. It constitutes a third of the total budget of P52.19—the cost of the much delayed project which was earlier scheduled in 2005 to 2011.

It is uncertain when the money will come or if it is adequate. With the postponements that go with government projects, at this time, the railway rehabilitation remains a dream for Bicolanos. (Photo Credits: Orangedroplet; Alcogoodwin; Alcogoodwin; orangedroplet)=0=

RELATED BLOG: “Life on the railway tracks & the fate of Isadora Duncan” Posted on Friday September 12th, 2008


RP’s Toughest Outdoor Adventure Race held in Sto. Domingo, Albay

November 25, 2008

Carrera Habagat 2008

Carrera Habagat 2008 Champion Team Mulatto Davao composed of Paulo Dino Ouano, Keith James Argones, Jeffer Jatico, Cherryl Araneta and support crew Marjun Balaite and Charlito Esparar receive their trophy, medals and cash prize of P100,000 during the awarding ceremony at the Black Sands Beach Resort in Sto. Domingo, Albay last November 15, 2008. Also in photo are Event Director Randy Su, Mr. Nico Delos Angeles and Vice-Mayor Edna Banda.

Carrera Habagat Adventure Race organized by Summit Outdoor Equipment and Services, Inc. is widely considered as the Philippine’s toughest outdoor adventure race participated in by the country’s toughest outdoor enthusiasts, most of whom are tri-athletes with international race experiences. The organization is a firm advocate of environmental awareness and protection as well as respect for people and local cultures. Most notable past participants of this race were the Philippine Mt. Everest Team and Team Santorini, the 2001 winners who competed in the 2001 Eco Challenge in New Zealand. For this year’s 8th edition, the race dubbed “Isang Linggo sa Sto. Domingo” was held from November 12-16, 2008 in Sto. Domingo, Albay, a coastal community that faces the Pacific Ocean in the east and Mt. Mayon Volcano in the northwest. It was the first time that this race was held outside the Visayas-Mindanao area and the first time in Luzon and Albay.

A total of eleven teams, 4 from Manila; Cebu (2); Leyte (2); Davao (1); Iligan (1) and Sto Domingo, Albay (1) composed of 4 racers (one of whom must be of the opposite sex) and 2 support crew per team, participated in this extreme adventure 4 day non-stop race that combined trekking, biking, swimming, paddling and rappelling. The 11 teams started out in Sto. Domingo proper and went through 20 Control Points (CP) or destinations in sequence provided only with the coordinates of the CP’s and armed with their multi-disciplinary skills, navigational skills and the right team dynamics. The route took the participants from Sto. Domingo where they got their passports after climbing a palo sebo to Camp 1 Mayon, Centennial Park, Alimsog, Starship Café, Tabaco, San Miguel Island, San Antonio School in Cagraray Island, Maninipot Shoreline, Barangay Misibis, Sula Port, Mt. Cabugcay, Malilipot Port, Bagacay Church, Pili Pier, Namantao Island, Buhatan, Sula Port and finally to the Black Sands Beach Resort in Sto. Domingo. The team’s support crews were only allowed to provide and replenish the team racers’ supplies at 4 designated points.

During the first day of the race, Team Merrel took the early lead at Control Point 7 at 21:07 followed by Blood Red Cebu, Team Mulatto and Team Iligan Pride at CP 6. AFP Power Trekkers and Sto. Domingo were slapped 4 hours penalty for bypassing a control point. Slowly but surely, Team Mulatto took over the lead which they retained until the end finishing the race in barely two days with the team members getting only 17 minutes of sleep. Team Merrel finished second while Team Iligan Pride was third. Two teams out of the 11 were not able to finish while Team Sto. Domingo, a neophyte finished a respectable 8th place.

For their efforts, Team Mulatto Davao proved that they’ve got what it takes and retained their title. They are the first team to emerge as back to back Champions aside from winning P100,000; trophy, medals, certificates, gift packs and the bragging rights of being the best in a grueling race that tests the limits of human endurance. Team Merrel wound up second and won P60,000 among other things while Team Iligan Pride who placed third won P40,000.

Mr. Nico Delos Angeles made the initial overtures to bring the race in Sto. Domingo, Albay which was adopted by the Municipal Government of Sto. Domingo led by Mayor Celso Delos Angeles, Jr. who doubled the prize money and provided the Black Sands Beach resort as the race headquarters. In his message, Mayor Celso Delos Angeles said, “The holding of the yearly ultimate Philippine adventure race and the gathering of outdoor enthusiasts, from the fresh breeds of backpackers to the hardcore mountaineers, in this part of the country is very timely and significant as the Municipal Government under the present dispensation, in coordination with concerned government agencies and other stake holders, is doing its best to put Sto. Domingo, Albay in its rightful place in the global tourism map”.

Mr. Randy Su- Event Director on the other hand admitted during the closing ceremony, “I was apprehensive that the Carrera Habagat will be held outside our comfort zone which is the Visayas Mindanao area. I became more hesitant when I learned that it will be held in a little known town in the Bicol region. But when I saw the place, I knew it was the perfect venue.”

The race participants on the other hand were euphoric and have only kind words for the hosts. “Sa lahat ng editions ng Carrera Habagat, ito ang pinakabongga! May hot shower pa.” Aside from the excellent food, the spacious rooms and luxurious amenities provided, the participants experienced first-hand the breathtaking sceneries of Sto. Domingo and the neighboring towns as well as the first-class hospitality and good nature of the people of Albay.

The young Bicolanas of Mutya ng Ibalong 2008

October 23, 2008

As I read Dusktildawn’s interesting post showing this year’s young Mutya ng Ibalong candidates, I can’t help but be happy seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the stylish ladies on stage.

As soft as the sunrays sending warmth and sheen to the trees, the ladies are refulgent to stir gladness in the heart.

Never losing to find ways to have a bit of fun, they join a community endeavor with showmanship, grace, and remarkable optimism. In spite of the looming presence of difficulties around us, I see in their smiling radiant faces the positive outlook that all of us need. Hope, amity, along with reliance in one’s potential, is what the next generation needs. My kudos to all the beautiful women of the pageant! (Photo Credit: MlJ555) =0=

More of Andy’s Whaleshark (Butanding)

September 15, 2008

About this time of the year till December to May, the Butandings (Rhicodon typus,) the huge whale sharks come around to their usual haunts in Bicol in the farthest tip of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Many sightings of these gentle creatures which can grow to about 15 to 40 feet are in Sorsogon Province particularly in towns of Donsol, Pilar, Castilla, Magallanes, but may occasionally be encountered in the neighboring seas like in Camarines Sur, Albay and as far as Bohol in the Visayas and parts of Mindanao.

Harmlessly docile and friendly, the butandings allow people to go near and swim with them. With characteristic white spots (reminiscent of leopards,) on their gray-blue bodies, they quietly feed on minute planktons and krill abundant in the area at certain times of the year.

Supervised tours to see this giant wonders of the sea are available in the area. For more information, check the PDOT web site at, call (63) 52 435-0085 or e-mail The Donsol Tourism Office in Dancalan headed by Salvador Adrao Jr. can also be contacted (0927) 233-0364. Snorkeling gears can be rented from the resorts.=0=

Jokes louder than walnuts breaking, an “H” in a name, and an Ibalon child of tomorrow

September 14, 2008

Each time I look at the pictures of Dr. Ramon Ray G. Rayel and his wife Bessie , I can’t help recall our days in UP Ibalon and Molave Residence Hall in Diliman campus. Things are far better now for my cardiologist-buddy who travelled the world to go to Philadelphia, PA, Nova Scotia, CAN, Iron Mountain, Michigan and a bit later settle to a beautiful place called Clearwater, Wisconsin.

From the Philippines to Australia, to Canada, and the United States, Dr. Rayel has been hot in the business of taking care of the heart. A self-deprecating humorous guy from Polangui, Albay who knows by rigid training the workings of the fist-sized pulsatile organ in the chest, Ray throws jokes louder than the pop of champagne and the sound of cracking walnuts in a charcoal grill. When he plays sports, he shoots the basketball right at the goal to win.

With that stubborn curly hair on his head, Ray watches, listens, and patiently dispenses remedies at the heart’s murmurings. Like a one-man charitable institution, he helps all those who come to him with problems, including those who need treatments and those requiring some baring of the soul.

His best contribution to the world however is nothing less than the cute and cuddly little Bea, Ray’s youngest kid in the brood of three who delights us with her big smile, fashionista sunglasses, and that kiddie backpack (see photo.) It is something we like to see the pixie angel do for her doting parents. By a stretch of imagination, I thought she may look like her loving grandma, the late Lourdes G. Rayel.

Coming to New York a year ago, little Bea proves to be a child of today and tomorrow. Nimble, smart, and delightfully inquisitive the girl with big round eyes and a budding sense of humor is a joy to watch. As I relish looking at her sit comfortably with her parents in their warm and cozy living room, I have to thank God for taking good care of the family who makes me and all Ibalonians happy and proud.

A true friend who taught many to rein over their personal devils, conquer health difficulties, look ahead, and appreciate life’s unexpected complexities, Ray gifted me with a name which to this day I respond to like a poodle. His generous counsel before I took trainings in UP-PGH, SUNY Downstate & NYU Medical Center became part of my decision to be a pathologist—for which I am very thankful.

The only wise advise Ray gave me which I rejected (I’m sorry Ray!) was to put an “H” on the spelling of my nickname. Shown to me in a crumpled paper, I thought it was “elegant” with the concurrence of Drs. Arnel V. Malaya, Mario B. Genio, and Julius A. Lecciones who excitedly insisted it would make the eyes of other Bicolanos spin. They expected the “H” would make me popular and the Ibalon girls would swoon. But there was a hitch. The spelling couldn’t bear the persona of their buddy: the slow itinerant “promdi” (from the province) of Naga, Camarines Sur! =0=

International Literacy Day: education opens the golden door

September 9, 2008

Bilang mga bata, tayo’s pag-asa ng mundo, bilang kabataan tayo’y realidad.”

“Como mga aki, kita esperanza nin kinaban, como mga jovenes kita an realidad.”

“De ninos somos la esperanza del mundo; de jovenes una realidad.”

As children we are the hope of the world; as youth we are a reality.

–Revisita Maryknoll(09/08 Vol.29, #7)

On a wonderful day, UP Ibalon’s Dan Daz, an artistic photographer of Legazpi City, Philippines takes this picture in a feeding center in Rapu-Rapu, Albay of an innocent child who’s among the hopes of our country. Poverty can be an obstacle to literacy, but nurturing brings hope. What does she want to be in the future? Education transforms and opens the golden door.(International Literacy Day, September 8, 2008) Photo Credits: Dan Daz; JunCruznaLigas;


Mayon Volcano grumbles as Penafrancia Fiesta draws near

September 2, 2008

While the Penafrancia fiesta boils and gains steam in Naga City for its September 2008 celebration, majestic Mayon Volcano in Albay on whose feet Legazpi City rests, shows signs of restiveness and possible eruption. White steam clouds billow on its summit.

For the last few weeks, an advisory to keep distance—at least 6 kilometers away from the crater is in place by Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhiVolcs) as series of minor tremors of tectonic origin are felt in the area. Even Taal volcano in Batangas also shows similar activity; light earthquakes are felt in the last 24 hours. Inquirer (09/02/08, Aguilar E.).