Three days, three nights in Albay

(Today’s column)

Our Lenten trip started with an early morning flight on Holy Wednesday. I’ve been to a lot of airports but it was the first time I spent such a long time perspiring inside one. Passengers on our flight were assigned to Gate 116 and it was an oven in there. I would have entertained myself by surfing with my iPhone but there was no free Wifi. The only signal we could capture was the locked Wifi service of Cebu Pacific. So much for modernity and international airport standards.

We arrived at the Legazpi Airport at 7.00 a.m. and proceeded to Tabaco City in a rented van. We checked in at the Ogma Balinese Rest House inside the Dhio Endheka resort. I found Ogma through a write-up at Click the City (clickthecity.com), saw the photos, read a lot of positive comments and got in touch with the owner. I made inquiries, asked about the place and the services, made the reservation and paid the down payment. The price was P5500 pesos per day plus food for the days we wouldn’t be going out.

Over and above the board and lodging, we were obliged to pay an additional P2400 – that’s P200 per head per day – as entrance fee at Dhio Endheka. See, Ogma is inside Dhio Endheka and there is no way to get there except through Dhio Endheka. During the negotiation period, I complained that we would be checking in only once so the daily entrance fee was unreasonable. But, according to the Ogma owner, the Dhio Endheka owner had already lowered the price and that was that. Besides, she said, the entrance fee entitled us to the use of Dhio Endheka’s facilities.

Neither the Click the City article nor the owner mentioned that to get to the rest house, we would have to go down some 120 steps on foot. Sure, there were porters to carry the big bags but it would have been more honest if the article writer and the owner had mentioned the stairs. Still, we were glad to have finally reached out destination. I noted the huge tarpaulin sign at the top of the stairs that said Ogma services included a chef and uniformed staff, and a masseuse.

Because I could not gauge the size of the house by the photos in the Click the City article, even before I made the reservation, I asked the owner how many people Ogma could accommodate. Fifteen people, I was told. Since there were only eight of us in the group, and two were small children, I was expecting something spacious. I mean, you bring eight people to a place meant for fifteen and that’s twice as much space for every single person.

When we reached the rest house, I was shocked. It wasn’t exactly a house. The only walls were the folding doors around the bedrooms and the tiny bathrooms inside. After we placed our bags on the small space around the bed, there was hardly any room to walk on inside the bedroom. There was no spacious activity area and the dining table could comfortably sit eight. What happened to the assurance that the place was big enough for fifteen? The TV and DVD player, both part of the package we were paying for, weren’t working. And there was no chef and uniformed staff – there was a Manang and her assistant to serve the meals. There was no masseuse on call either.

casaveneracion.com adobo and laing

The Manang and her assistant were nice and friendly locals but their cooking skills weren’t exactly to drool over. Lunch was undercooked pork adobo and too-salty laing (above — and, yes, that’s it for eight people). Dessert was three mangoes for eight people, sliced in such a way that the cheeks were thin and the stones were thick. Like, instead of everyone getting a mango cheek, some would have to settle for the stones and the flesh around them (see photo below). Together with a pitcher of iced tea, lunch was priced at P150 per head. Overpriced would be a mild way of putting it.

casaveneracion.com sliced-mangoes

(Addendum on April 15, 2009 @ 11.59 p.m. At P150 per head multiplied by eight, that was a P1200 lunch. Compare that with our P1500 lunch at Waway Restaurant in Legazpi City.)

Our friend, PJ Juinio, goodnaturedly said we should just make the most of it. He took his eight-year-old son, Joshua, to Dhio Endheka to play billiards but they were back a mere few minutes later. Use of the billiard tables wasn’t free, he said, and I wondered what the P2400 payment to Dhio Endheka included. Free use of the pools, apparently, but why would we want to use them when we had our private pool in Ogma?

casaveneracion.com mountain spring pool

The mountain spring pool, I have no complaint about. The water was cool and free flowing and dipping in it was relaxing. No lapping definitely because if fifteen people were in it all at the same time, they would only be able to stand a move a few steps around. Not a big pool, obviously.

casaveneracion.com cobwebs

It was the nights that we really found trying. Except in the bathrooms, there was no ceiling. When the lights were on, thick webs wrapped around the beams were visible (above) and you don’t have to strain to see. Bugs inhabiting the grass roofing excreted all night long and their droppings were all over us. There was a canopy like mosquito net overhead but it only covered a third of the bed. By morning, the droppings were one-inch apart on the mattress. Were the beddings changed everyday? No, they weren’t.

So, was the Albay trip a disaster entirely? No, it wasn’t. We spent the next two days exploring Tabaco City, Legazpi City and the surrounding areas. Granted that going up some 120 steps on both mornings wasn’t exactly fun, we did have our fill of Mayon, pili nuts, Bicol Express and laing. I’ll tell you about the rest of the trip in a while.

Comments

  1. says

    @pinayhekmi: not sure about that, but that would be a shame. we were there last year for a brief, half-day family outing (linked). (we live close to the place.)

  2. Miguk says

    I usually rely on “click the city”. That was quite expensive for the province — and not worth the money :-(

  3. Marvin says

    Sana nag out of the country nalang kayo! mas sulit pa!

    Sobrang trusting ka kasi Connie, kaya ayan (hehe)

    Anyways, dagdagan mo yung pics! bitin kami!

  4. says

    I’ve been there four years ago. The use of the facilities before was free once you’re staying there overnight. The 120 steps “trek” made me breathless. We didn’t know that, too, and we were carrying coconut fruits on the first day (dropped by to the market before going there). Hahaha. Lost weight because of that. I agree that the food being served there is not that good. But the resort and its surrounds were awesome then.

  5. says

    Oh I’ve no complaints about the surrounding lush greenery. Beautiful. But the owner said mayon was visible from OGMA but the staff said what was visible was another mountainon the opposite direction, not Mayon. So I lost my appetite for picture taking.

  6. says

    It was supposed to be Chiang Mai via Bangkok. Then fighting broke out in Bangkok. So we said Batanes instead. But the package was 21k per head. Terrible. More pics coming up. Am out of the house right now surfing with my iPhone and sloooow smart EDGE.

  7. lemon says

    Oh no. Suddenly, I’m not feeling the Bicolano pride. Just that food for the expensive fee? E ang mura-mura ng gabi and coconuts sa Bicol ah.

  8. says

    kung mayon lang naman hanap mo, you could have stayed sa pepperland hotel in legaspi city. malapit lang sa airport. the food is good, maganda ang facilities, although maliit lang ang place. No pool. tapos just go and visit dhio sa daytime. and sassy, you should have gone to donsol and see the butandings. sayang, patapos na yung season.

  9. says

    We also wanted a change of scene and pace. That’s why the lush greenery setting was appealing. Hard to find in a city hotel. For a day trip, I don’t think we’d care to visit Dhio. I reaaalllly don’t think so.

    We were supposed to go to Donsol but ran out of time. The driver kept getting lost — on both days — and we wasted so much time. But that’s for the next story. :)

  10. says

    I was so shocked at the prices you quoted! My maternal grandparents are from Albay, I’ve been there many, many times but not the last 10 years.

  11. Marvin says

    Oo nga. Time to review “Click the City” hahaha

    Based sa prices you mentioned na realize ko mas mahal pa mag vacation dito sa atin, unlike kung nag abroad ka. Yun lang nagkaggulo sa Thailand…bummer….

    Teka, why not a pool in your house? I mean in the future?

  12. Trosp says

    Ha ha ha…

    No offense intended – one of the times na napahalakhak ako ng todo ng post mo.

    An OT one – for others who would like to go to Boracay this summer time, we all know that almost every thing there cost twice as compared with Manila. Meron din palang kapareho ng presyo which is the lechon manok.

  13. Ria says

    Hi Ms. Connie. You mentioned about Batanes. Do you know if there is any other plane going there except Batanes air? I saw Batanes Air in Tuguegarao airport during our last vacation and it looked too small and scary. I know it’s a little off the topic but I would appreciate if you can provide some alternative.

  14. says

    Dang! It’s so hard to rely on online reviews and pics when it comes to travel. Thanks for the heads up on that place. I normally try travel.yahoo.com and see what others have to say but for local places I suggest… post it on your blog first! One of us, your visitors, will probably have more honest reviews for you!

  15. says

    Hi Connie!

    Make Sorsogon your next vacation destination (still via Legazpi City airport). Have you experienced Donsol whaleshark interaction? And then you can check-in in Sorsogon City. I could vouch for our pinangat, ginataang langka, bicol express, spicy baluko here. The hotels are not five star but at least they are all clean=)

    http://sorsogontourism.multiply.com/

    see you soon!

    cheers!

    keng

  16. says

    Zest Air also has Basco flights, last I checked (which was last year, he he), their fares are only slightly cheaper than SEAir. we went to Batanes last year, group of 10, and yeah, it really does come up to around 20k, half of which was airfare. But the memories, the beauty and uniqueness of the place, its people and its culture, really made it the trip of a lifetime for us. i wou I hope you’d consider it next time, before taking a foreign trip :)

  17. sugarloo says

    Wow for nature lovers the view is fantastic.

    I dont know why waway and pepperland is advertising here.. lol

    pepperland smells like smoke and all the air fresheners wont work there not to mention the traffic noise and waway is just mediocre cooking if you chose that over these there really is no difference. Try bringing the food on waways down the resort. The price is for people that can afford it on ogma obviously.

    Your comment about the pool rocks you should be a columnist. lol

    About your comment about the lying owner. We should confirm that ourselves, not your travel agent.

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