Seating back, in front of my computer while on community quarantine for two months, I cannot help but look back on my previous travels, and look forward too on my booked flights with Cebu Pacific this December 2020. Memories triggered when I properly indexed and organized my old travel photographs, and there led me in rediscovering my first ever flight. We are bound to Legazpi to explore Albay and go home to my grandmother’s ancestral house in Pili.
It was October 2013 when I flew for the very first time. We had 6 hours of excess time before reaching NAIA Terminal 3. However, we got stuck in traffic in NLEX, and only have 3 hours left before the closing of boarding gates. Upon reaching Cubao, we hailed a cab and rushed to NAIA 3. Being a buzzer-beater, the counter was doing the last call for passengers on our flight. Even with a long queue in front of us, they allowed us to check-in. With cold sweats, the gentle smile of the Cebu Pacific staff handed my first ever boarding pass and instructed the board gate number. We hurried as if we were candidates for the reality show Amazing Race, just include a cameraman trailing us and we will complete the look.
We reached the boarding gate just in nick of time. We had less than 10 minutes to catch our breath, and momentarily, we are boarding. I strongly remember the feeling. My heart was quite pounding on the first acceleration of the plane, and the funny feeling on the stomach as the plane took its ascent. The flight was less than an hour, and shortly, we can see Mt. Mayon waving through our windows. It was a smooth landing. My heart is smiling as I thanked the Cabin Crews, and even shared with them that this was my first flight. Imagine the stress of a first-time flier – buzzer-beater and fear of flying – all dissipated with the help of Cebu Pacific’s approachable counter staff and charming cabin crews’ smile and care during the flight.
Upon disembarkation, I called my uncle in Pili that we arrived safely. We plan to explore first Legazpi and see Mt. Mayon, first. However, my grandmother gave me a marching order, she wants us to have a courtesy call at home ASAP. This filled the 19-year gap since of my last homecoming. I was a young elementary student when my relatives last saw me.
After taking pictures around Legazpi downtown, we proceeded to the terminal. After less than 3 hours of waiting and transiting, I alighted on the van and knocked on the gates.
I was welcomed with tight hugs and kisses. My relatives were surprised by how tall I have grown and my surprising resemblance to my late mom. Since my grandmother also grew in Pampanga, she knew as well the Kapampangan kitchen techniques, hence, I am welcomed with an array of dishes on the dinner table – best of both worlds – Kapampangan and Bicolano fusion. But what I really wanted for a long time, is to try again my grandma’s version of “natong” or Laing. We are also thought how to use one of the traditional tools in opening the tough shell of a Pili Nut. It was a fulfilling dinner with lots of catching up with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
The next morning, we headed out early, took a bus bound to Sabang. We plan to visit another relative in Ilawod, Caramoan. It took us almost half a day just to reach her house. After a 2-hour outrigger boat ride, and tricycle ride, we arrived at their very home.
I love the laid back feels – simple hut, and with traditional kitchen tools. We ate dinner cooked in “palayok”. The night was so quiet – I can only hear coos and crickets. It was just past 8:00PM and the feeling seems already wee hours. We went out, and we welcomed with cooler air. There are many fireflies.
The morning we woke up, it was still blue hour, and mists cover the horizons and surrounding landscapes. I went out to see the glorious sunrise, whilst I sniff the air with a typical “barrio” scent – relaxing and rejuvenating to a tired soul. We head out to the beach, just a few minutes walk from the house. The sound of crashing waves and gusts of wind were my therapy. I sat at the beach, staring on the horizon, and counting out the islands I can see. I can see huge whitewash and waves afar – a clear sign to not proceed to island hopping. Still, we enjoyed our time there, surrounded by towering karst rock formations. Afterwhich, we headed to the trek up to the huge Blessed Mary statue. It is one of the spots in Caramoan to see the panoramic islands.
Going home in these places is always my goal. It nourishes my tired body and spirit. Hearing and listening to the advice and stories of my grandparents, uncles, and aunts is therapeutic. Adding up is the culinary journey I have just within the walls of the ancestral house.
I am supposed to go back this summer, however, we all experienced the lockdown. We are worried about each other’s safety. The technology was able to connect us, however, physically being there, taking attention to my grandmothers there gives me far more security. Now that they have added more years, they need more care from us, their grandchildren. Being a nurse, as well, I have a call to personally see my grandparents.
I really missed my stay in Cadlan. The laughter I had with my cousins, the pets we run with, the brook at the back where we used to fish and catch snails for dinner, the market scenario where dried taro leaves is a staple on our basket
The Naga Airport is nearer compared to Legazpi Airport. I am thankful that Cebu Pacific offers direct Manila to Naga flights. My grandmother’s house is less than 10 minutes drive from the airport, which is really convenient for us, wherein Legazpi Airport is just an alternative for us.
Flying to Naga City gives access to the beautiful beaches and islands of Caramoan, the towering Mt. Isarog, a perfect destination for mountaineers, the deer farm in Ocampo, the surfing beach in Bagasbas, and also, nearer access to Burias Island of Masbate. These are my side trips whenever I visit Bicol.
On this trip, I was able to visit Sorsogon, as well. I hopped from town to town via jeepney rides only. I was able to see the old house in Juban, the beautiful churches in Irosin, Barcelona and Sorsogon City. I was able to have a glimpse of Matnog Port and the Samar Island on the horizon, all in one day.
Luckily, I learned to speak the Bicolano language and was able to converse easily to locals. “Gurano ni?”, “Igwa kamo ning ____?”, “Maduman ako centro”. etc.
In Albay, I was able to see black beaches of Bacaycay, the miraculous church in Joroan, walk around Tabaco City, try the DJC Halo-Halo in Tiwi and its famous hot spring resorts, climbed up to the Daraga Church, and visited the iconic Cagsawa Ruins, and finally, the adventurous Lignon Hill.
Now that a pandemic lies in between us and our families from afar, it is virtually impossible to come home during the community quarantines, with all the public transportation shut down by the government. Even before the community quarantines took place in the Philippine archipelago, Cebu Pacific was able to respond ahead of this. Preventive measures are engaged and practiced to protect the passengers and their crews. From cabin sanitation and disinfection after each and every flight, proper meal preparation and handling, passenger monitoring and in-flight care, cabin air filters, and many more, Cebu Pacific is ahead of the curve to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. I feel safer in flying with the airline especially when I learned about the HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter they already have in every plane, capable to filter out even the virus clusters. Their added measures are based on the requirement of the Philippine Bureau of Quarantine, and a standard set by the World Health Organization.
Cebu Pacific’s Legazpi and Naga direct routes will bring you closer and conveniently to these amazing destinations. Remember, I just scratched the surface of the Bicol region. There are far many destinations to see and experience. I do not need any more to endure the long land travel that wears my lower back. In less than an hour’s flight with Cebu Pacific, I am already in my destination and with my family in Bicol!