The Treasures of Tabaco City

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

tabaco city tabak

This is the eighth installment of the Spread the Impact series -- a collection of travel narratives and guides to less-traveled places in the Philippines, with the aim to spread human impact to the environment as well as uplift the lives of communities through tourism.

Discovering beauty in a place that's often overlooked is a skill and joy travelers are familiar with. Going beyond the surface, delving further than the obvious, almost always has rewards that no pre-made itinerary could ever replicate. 

Tabaco City in the province of Albay has been mostly relegated as the gateway to nearby Catanduanes. Yet beneath its facade of modernity, Tabaco possesses a diverse natural landscape and a culture unabashed and proud. 

Proclaimed in 2001, Tabaco is one of the three component cities of Albay. It's also one of the eight towns that share jurisdiction over the famed Mayon; its southern borders going all the way to its top. A total of 47 baranggays, with 5 located in the island of San Miguel in the Lagonoy Gulf, make up Tabaco City. Along mainland Tabaco's fringes are the towns of Malinao, Polangui, Oas, and Malilipot, and the city of Ligao. 

Tabaco's name came from tobacco – the city's primary product in pre-Spanish times. Yet in February 1966, another version of its etymology was emblazoned into the city seal: the tabak, or bolo.

Related Adventure: A Tale of Two Tabacos

Visit a National Cultural Treasure
Inscribed in June 22, 2012, the Tabaco Church is one of the only two of declared National Cultural Treasure sites in the Bicol region (the other being the Daraga Church).
tabaco church albay

It features a distinctive dark and worn-out facade because of the volcanic soil and stones used for its construction. Some of the volcanic stones are engraved with mason's marks – an unusual feature in Philippine churches. The church also has a baffling floor plan, containing compartments with no obvious use. But the church is best known for its characteristic rococo bell tower.

Learn More about the Mayon
Opened in 2006, the Mayon Planetarium and Science Park offers a different perspective of the ever picturesque Mayon Volcano. It features a mini geological museum, a library, an audiovisual hall, and a virtual room.
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A panoramic view of surrounding towns and the ubiquitous Mayon are afforded by its observation decks. Situated just at the foot of the volcano, within the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone, a trip to the Planetarium is not just educational but also thrilling.

Go Island-hopping
Just beyond the Tabaco Bay is the capricious Vanishing Island – a white-sand shoal that appears only at certain hours. While it is under the town of Malilipot, the island can be accessed via the Tabaco Port. 
There are also boats in the port that could take you to Pinamuntogan Island – an inlet with  powdery cream sands located in the town of Bacacay. A trip to here can be paired with a foray to Vanishing Island.
pinamuntugan island albay

Chase a Waterfall
One of Tabaco's least known attractions is Oras Fall in the upland baranggay of the same name. This cascade is tucked in a patch of forest and spills out into a runnel that runs along the baranggay. 
It could be reached by a quick 15-minute trek. The basin beneath it is not that deep and gathers waters that are cool and clear. With an awning of thick foliage, the pool is in constant shade, making it a perfect bathing spot.

Celebrate with the Locals
Tabaco's Tabak Festival is a celebration meant for its people. Held every June, it's done to put a highlight on the city's industry of smithing and cutlery-making. But more than this, it is a great showcase of the traditional Filipino fiesta. 
tabak festival albay

To take part in it is to get to know an important aspect of Tabaco's identity. It's a fun, fun way to be introduced to the Tabaco way of life.

Related Adventure: Angono's Higantes Festival

Indulge in Elevated Forms of Pili
Perhaps one of Tabaco's greatest weapon in its tourism arsenal is Cafe Molave and Souvenirs. This homey, classy cafe serves a menu of great tasting dishes that could hold its own against a fine-dining restaurant. 
cafe molave albay menu

Definite must-tries are the Pili Butternut Cookies and Pili Chocolate Orange Bars – a pair of desserts featuring the prized Pili nut. And if you think pili is just for desserts, there's also the savory Pili-Almond Chicken Fillet with Honey Dip.

Cool Down with a Pinoy Favorite
Tabaco's climate may be more rain than sun, but it could get pretty humid during the day. What better way to cool down than every Filipino's favorite dessert: halo-halo.
best halo halo in albay

Albay is home to DJC Halo-halo – a chain of food places that's famous for its halo-halo. The main branch is in the town of Tiwi, but there's one in the city center.

Take a Bite of the Tallest Puto
Cooked in a clay pot over an open fire, the marcasotes (or marcazotes) is one of Albay's native delicacies. Steamed in hand-cut wax paper, this mixture of flour, margarine, milk, and sugar is often described as the tallest puto, but the two taste quite differently. 

Maracasotes is a bit like a fluffy broas (lady fingers). It is buttery, sweet, and sticks to the roof of your mouth. It frustrating to eat because some of it clings to the wax paper, but it's with coffee or tea and highly addictive!

Get Something Sharp
Tabak-making is one of Tabaco's main industry. It thrives most at Brgy. Cobo where most of the city's blacksmiths are found. Here, you can purchase quality knives and scissors straight from where it's made. 
brgy cobo tabaco

It's considerably cheaper here and the quality is undeniable. A pair of scissors or garden shears is a great practical pasalubong for your loved ones.

From Manila, there are daily flights to Legazpi City by Philippine Airlines, and Cebu Pacific. Estimated travel time by plane is 45 minutes. Average regular one-way fare is Php 2,000.00. Once in Legazpi City, head to the Integrated Bus Terminal and take a bus to Tabaco. Fare ranges from Php25 to Php35, and travel time is about 30 minutes.

If you are to choose the land route, the bus terminals in Pasay, and Cubao have buses that go to Tabaco. Travel time is 10 to 14 hours depending on traffic. Average bus fare is Php500 for non-AC; and Php900 for AC.

Office of the Mayor
Tabaco City
+63 52 487 5238

Kuya Hermie Veron
Boatman, Vanishing Island and Pinamuntugan Island
+63 916 873 4408

Cafe Molave and Souvenirs
Zone 2, Ziga Avenue, Tagas
Tabaco City, Albay
+63 920 955 8050
Monday to Sunday, 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

What other less-known places should Celineism feature next?

Enjoy traveling to off-the-beaten paths? Check out the rest of the Spread The Impact series

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