Last Gasp in Legazpi

Trip Start Oct 22, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of Philippines  , Bicol,
Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dei had some work out in Legazpi, and I joined her on the trip...a last opportunity to see something new before we head back to the States.

Legazpi, named for the Spanish conquistador who arrived in the Philippines in 1565, is a small city with a big history forged by its location on a deep water bay in the shadow of Mount Mayon, and in the path of Pacific typhoons.

I spent an afternoon on the waterfront Embarcadero, watching ships come in and ships go out, while sipping San Miguel Pale Pilsen with my pulutan, kilawing tuna. Pulutan is a snack to have while drinking alcohol, like pretzels or peanuts in the States, but in the Philippines having pulutan with your beer is pretty much a rule. A rule I like. For my pulutan on this beautiful day I had kilawin, raw fish marinated in vinegar, pepper, fresh chilis, garlic, onions, and kalamansi (lime) juice. Of the many Filipino dishes I've tried, kilawin is consistently my favorite.

In the evening, Dei joined me and we enjoyed the breeze while sampling more of the Bikol region's specialies. Nilaing na pusit (grilled squid stuffed with taro leaves) and ginataang kalabasa at sitaw (squash and long beans cooked in coconut milk), which was incredible. Like me, Bikolanos like their food spicy, and no trip to the region would be complete without trying Bikol Express, a dish made of chilis, onion, garlic, coconut milk, shrimp paste, and pork. 

Dei and I went to sleep fat and happy.

We had Saturday to explore, and drove closer to a "shy" Mount Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines known for its "perfect" symmetrical cone. We caught glimpses of her peak only when clouds parted, though evidence of her impact was easy to spot, driving around huge black boulders, and over streams that carry water and lava down the mountain to the sea.

A memorial marked the death of 700 Bikolanos during Super Typhoon Reming in 2006, when the massive rain fall and floods carried ash and boulders down the mountain into the villages surrounding Legazpi. A typhoon just last week wiped out the road in front of us, and so we left our car crossing the river by foot on a bridge made of boards and trees tied together. 

In a village on the other side, we sampled local snacks of puto (steamed rice cake filled with grated coconut), banana-cue (bananas on a skewer rolled in brown sugar and grilled), and honey-coated pili nuts, while strolling through the Cagsawa ruins. Cagsawa was a 16th century Franciscan church destroyed by the massive 1814 eruption of Mayon. Amid the ruins, the belltower still stands proudly.

Following the stream to the sea, we stood on black sand beaches looking out to the Pacific, and I considered the Beauty and Anger and Violence and Peace of nature.


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