Note : This article was published in the first edition of LAWIG. On March 2021, LAWIG was re-launched underlining photography and design talents from the provinces of the Philippines.
“Blessed are the people of old age for they hold the paramount treasures youth will not bear—memories “
Albay is always associated with the Mayon Volcano – like how a shadow is to light. With its abundance of beautiful seas and coastlines, remarkable tourist attractions and the genuine niceness of its people, the province is not only a keeper of the well-known volcano but is also perceived as a wonderland for travel.
These days, there is a surfeit amount of travel-related stories covering Albay. During the pre-internet age, capturing travel stories and personal accounts are done through fewer ways such as journals, photographs and memories. They are noteworthy.
LAWIG interviewed people who spent most of their lives in the region and asked them to share their most notable recollections in life.
Nievez Marco, 74
“Nang Nievez” from Salvacion, Daraga
With a vibrant aura and cheerful face, Nang Nievez, as how her neighbors call her, told me that the most memorable event in her life was when she met her husband, Jaime in Busay, Daraga. Like her, Jaime was a farmer. Nang Nievez said that Busay used to be a vast rice field and the land they cultivated was near a railway.
Nang Nievez recalled that Jaime eventually fell in love with her and earnestly pursued her for three months. Nievez was 23 and Jaime was 24 when they decided to tie the knot. They lived in Malabog, Daraga (a suburban neighborhood of Busay) for a while but because of a flood that washed away their home, they relocated to Salvacion. Sadly, Jaime passed away 15 years ago. The couple did not have children of their own but have adopted Leticia and Shirley, who are now adults.
Nang Nievez currently lives alone. She used to weave abaca but stopped after having a stroke. She then turned to making a living out of santigwar, a ritual performed by a healer to treat maladies caused by otherworldly creatures. She has been a faith healer for more than two years now and made a name for herself to the point that people from all over town and even other cities visit her when they need help.
Busay is a 10- 15-minute drive from Daraga. It is easy to locate since it is home to the Cagsawa Ruins, the remnants of the 16th century Cagsawa church destroyed by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano. At present, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Albay.
Sabas Loriaga, 68 and Bonifacia Loriaga, 65
“Boyet and Bonnie” from Magayon Drive, Daraga
In their 39 years of marriage, the couple has shared countless wonderful moments in life, but what stood out the most was the ten years they spent in Virac, Catanduanes also known as the Land of the Howling Winds.
Sabas a.k.a Boyet was a senior manager in a bank and was in service for 38 years. During his assignment in 1990 as a branch manager of a bank in Virac, Boyet admitted that the first two months were tough for him but he gained courage and overcame his loneliness. Since his retirement in 2013, he started working as a part-time professor in a graduate school in a university and a private school.
He met Bonifacia, or Bonnie to her friends, in a bank as well. He ecstatically said that, “It was love at first sight!”
With the simplicity of the way of life in Virac, Boyet felt connected to the place instantly. Through his position at work, he gained respect from the people of the community. He was touched and fell in love with the place even more. His family stayed with him in Catanduanes for 10 years. Mr. and Mrs. Loriaga both expressed admiration for the culture of the place. They also felt at home with the unpretentious attitude (wearing ostentatious clothes is not a thing there), friendliness, and warmth of the people of Virac. With a decade of living in Virac, they have adopted its relaxed ways and the people’s prudent lifestyle.
Having a comfortable life and raising five successful children, it is quite a surprise that when asked about their most memorable place, the couple still remembered the years they spent in such a laid-back province. Bonnie reminisced that for leisure, they would go to beaches on Sundays. They took joyrides and spent some of their weekends going on excursions with their five young children. Happiness was that simple and life remains the same for Boyet and Bonnie.
Catanduanes is located off the coast of the Bicol region in the southern part of Luzon and faces the Pacific Ocean. Virac has numerous attractions like pristine beaches, fishing villages, beautiful waterfall and caves and cathedrals and churches a traveler could visit and explore. (Source: guidetothephilippines.ph)
Leslie Ann Lastrella, 51
“Leslie” from Balaguer, Daraga
It was closing time, the town of Daraga was done for the day. Leslie, who owns a flower stall called Floral’s Touch at the town center was packing up. We talked to her briefly and asked her about her most treasured memory of a place in Albay. She answered that her wonderful times can be traced back in 1980 when she would visit Cagsawa Park with her friends. Picture the park devoid of the garden grotto, the souvenir booths and the resort with the pool—that is Leslie’s memory of the place.
It was the serene ambiance, just Mayon Volcano as a witness to their high school group’s antics, merrymaking and whatnot. They formed their group when they were freshmen students and gave it a name. They called it JAMSREL which stands for Jane, Ammie, Mary, Salve, Rael, Eboth and Leslie. Leslie’s face brightened as she talked about the heyday with her friends. JAMSREL stood the test of time and they remain friends until now.
These memorable places mentioned would inevitably change. But the memories will forever be true and indelible to its keeper, to Albay and to the Bicol region.
Photographs by Alexis Ricardo Alaurin, Words by Jenny Zamora