Every traveler is looking for something: sumptuous food, awe-inspiring sights, colorful culture, or the atmosphere of peace and tranquillity that rejuvenates one’s weary spirit, among many others.
Our country is luckily blessed with a number of stunning destinations that draw travelers from all over the world. But aside from the popular spots, the Philippines is also home to cities and municipalities whose charms are often underrated.
For instance, the quaint town of Camalig in Albay is like the silent sister of the province’s more popular destinations.
Camalig is home to Bicol region’s second most popular delicacy, pinangat, an age-old local vegetable dish. Pinangat is made of shredded gabi leaves, red ginger, tiny shrimps (balaw) or a slice of salted fish or pork, and crushed pepper. Wrapped in leaves, tied in bundles, and cooked in coconut milk, this dish is a staple of many Bicolanos, and is sold internationally in select markets abroad.
At any given day, motorists and travelers make a pit stop in the town to buy pinangat, while others opt for a meal at homegrown roadside restaurants.
According to Municipal Mayor Ding Irwin Baldo, the celebrated pinangat has put Camalig in the limelight through Culinaria Albay, a culinary tourism program of the province which takes foodies to a food trip circuit around notable dining outlets.
The town recently celebrated its contribution to the region’s culinary treasure at the recent Pinangat Festival.
The festival’s highlight was a colorful street dance parade dramatizing the harvesting and cooking process of pinangat. The townsfolk, led by Mayor Baldo, shared hundreds of servings of the popular delicacy in a boodle fight, and distributed the same to motorists passing by.
Spicing up the weeklong festivity were fringe sporting and special interest activities. It concluded with the municipal patronal feast of St. John the Baptist.
In addition to the well-loved dish, visitors troop to Sumlang Lake, Camalig’s newest tourist icon, with the picturesque Mayon Volcano in the background.
An idle nine-hectare farm swamp a few years back, the villagers, through a bayanihan system, transformed it into a man-made lagoon ideal for a bamboo raft cruise. Today, the area is a landscaped tourist zone with a souvenir shop and a cozy restaurant adorned by export-quality furnishings created by village chief Felipe Napa Jr.
Other hotspots which have been drawing guests to Camalig is the Quitinday Green Hills Formation Reserve whose contour is akin to the famed Chocolate Hills, and the Quituinan Tunnels which served as a Japanese garrison and hospital during World War II.
Camalig is also acknowledged as a heritage town of Albay because of the gentry’s ancestral houses, structures, and antiquities that have survived the ravages of time. The most notable of which is the Nuyda House of the late Congressman Justino Nuyda which now stands as a museum.
Meanwhile, in the heart of the town is the postcard-pretty Spanish-era St. John Church the Baptist, which was declared last year as an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum. Its convent serves as repository of artifacts excavated from archaeological sites in the forest reserve of Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave, one of Luzon’s prehistoric settlements.
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