by Diana A. Uy
This time around, we witnessed some of the highlights of the annual month-long celebration of the Magayon Festival: Mutya ng Magayon 2011, Magayon Bikini Open, and the heart-pumping 9th Gayon Bicol Festival of Festivals Showdown sa Magayon Festival.
Bicol, as we have come to know, has produced the country’s international beauty queens like Miriam Quiambao (1999 Miss Universe 1st runner up), Precious Lara Quigaman (2005 Miss International) and Venus Raj (2010 Miss Universe 4th runner up). Come November Dianne Samar Necio will be competing in the 2011 Miss International. No need to mention that the Mutya ng Magayon has been Bicol’s way of not only honoring its local gems but also reinforcing its claim as the land of beautiful women with or without an international title.
Except for Raj, the Bicolana title holders reunited at the Albay Astrodome to witness the coronation of 17-year-old Roxanne Jesalva, from Sorsogon, as the 2011 Mutya ng Magayon.
The Magayon Bikini Open or Magayon’s Mr. and Ms. Bikini Fashionista took the competition for best body physique to a whole new level. The contestants, a mix of Fil-Ams, Manileños, and locals, left us transfixed and gaping not only at their toned bodies but also at their flexibility and bouncing energy on stage. They were impressive and entertaining by the way they were bending their bodies this way and that, flexing their muscles proud, or dancing ala Beyonce or Lady Gaga.
In the end, the Bicolanos named Raymond Alvero of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and Andrea Del Rio of Pasig City as the 2011 Magayon’s Mr. and Ms. Bikini Fashionista.
It was pure adrenaline rush and pageantry at the “9th Gayon Bicol Festival of Festivals Showdown sa Magayon Festival.” Rain or shine, the Albay folk pulled out all stops in showcasing some of their streetdance pride: The Ibalong Festival of Legazpi City, Pulang Anggi of Polangui, and Tabak Festival of Tabaco City.
Neighboring towns participated as well like Sorsogon with “Sosogon;” Magarao, Camarines Sur with “Voyadores;” Pili, Camarines Sur with “Cimarrones;” Bato, Catanduanes with “Sibubog;” Pilar, Sorsogon with “Parau;” Placer, Masbate with “Himag-ulaw;” and Daet, Camarines Norte with “Pinyasan.”
The amazing and adorable kids from Masbate won the hearts of the crowd with their powerful performance and fixed smiles. They were all flashing their pearly whites the whole time they were dancing that one wondered if some of them experienced locked jaw.
Food and church tripping
We capped our tour of Bicol with various tummy-filling stops like at DJC Halo-Halo and Snack Inn, which is arguably dubbed as home to one of the country’s most delicious halo-halo afterwards.
DJC stands for restaurant owner Djoun G. Clutario. At P75, you get a halu-halo supreme special which basically means you get your fill of top ingredients like shaved ice, ube ice cream, leche flan, ube halaya, corn, banana, sago, milk and believe or not, cheese. Pair it with toasted siopao and your taste buds will soon find a match made in heaven.
A trip to Bicol will never be complete without tasting pinangat, one of the more famous local dishes in the region. Visitors are advised to head to Camalig, Albay where you can get your bar of pinangat fresh from the stove. And if you asked gently, the locals might show you how to do it.
The macapuno rice puto is probably one of Bicol’s best kept secrets. We discovered this fluffy, little rice cakes filled with slices of macapuno while were driving along Legazpi’s major highway. Sold by small stalls, the macapuno rice puto are comfort food local style.
Bicol and siling labuyo are spoken almost in the same breath in this touristy region. Naturally, Bicolanos always think of ways to explore its edible possibilities. One such innovation is the sili (chili) ice cream at 1st Colonial Grill restaurant in Legaspi City. It is simply a must-try.
Of course, we made the rounds of some of Bicol’s century-old churches like the Camalig Church, Daraga Church (now covered in a white hot lime coating or protective covering) and Tabaco Church.
We tried pottery making as well at Brgy. Putsan in Tiwi Albay. We called it a night at the Embarcadero de Legazpi, which is a waterfront retail and commercial establishment boasting of al fresco restaurants and a magnificent view of Mayon Volcano.