Albay is a province of the Philippines located in the Bicol Region in southeastern Luzon Island. The name Bikol first came to be known as the name of the biggest and longest river in the region. The river comes from the outflow of lakes and springs from the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte and form a large stream that exits in the San Miguel Bay, off the shores of Camarines Sur. The people of the region are called Bikolanos and the language is called Bikol.
The citizens of Albay are called Albayanos. Albay is a province composed of 15 towns and 3 cities. The capital of the province is Legazpi City. It was named after Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the Spanish conquestador who came to the Philippines in 1565 and started the massive colonization. The country became the colony of Spain for the next 300 years. As a result, the Albayanos became devout Catholics.
The symbol most associated with Albay is Mayon Volcano, a near perfectly-shaped active volcano, 2,462 metres (8,077 ft) high, which could be seen throughout its 13 towns and 3 cities as well as in the surrounding provinces of Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes.
Albay has a total land area of 2,554.06 square kilometres (986.13 square miles).
The province is generally mountainous with scattered fertile plains and valleys. Aside from Mayon Volcano, it has two other major peaks: Mount Masaraga and Mount Malinao.
The western coast of the province is mountainous but not as prominent as the eastern range with the highest elevation at around 490 metres (1,610 ft). Among these mountains are Mount Catburawan in Ligao and Mount Pantao in Oas & Libon.
Long before the Spaniards arrived in 1569, Albay had a thriving civilization and a rich culture. The land was fertile, lush vegetation covered the plains and the mountains. The earth yielded minerals, including gold.
In July 1569, Luis Enriquez de Guzman, a member of the Spanish expedition led by Legazpi, and the Agustinian Fray Alonso Jimenez landed in the southeastern side of the region, in a town called Gibalong and travelled by land until they reached the town of Camalig, now almost in the heart of Albay and at the foot of Mayon Volcano.
Catholicism was first introduced to the Bikolanos in 1569. The coming of the Franciscans in 1578 started a systematic and sustained process of Catholic conversion.
In 1572, Juan de Salcedo, in search of gold, penetrated the Bicol Peninsula from the north and made it as far south as Libon, establishing the very first settlement called Santiago de Libon. In 1574 the Spanish adventurers in Bikol returned to Manila with over 4,000 ounces of gold. They believed they have found the land of “El Dorado.”
In April 3, 1574 the place called “Baybayon” became an encomienda assigned by Philippine Governor General Guido de Lavesares to Juan Guerra. This place would later be called ““Baybay”, then “Al Baybay” and later shortened to “Albay.”
The development of Albay was largely the work of Jose Maria Peñaranda, the governor of Albay from 1834 to 1843. His monument stands in a plaza bearing his name in front of the Provincial Capitol.
THE AMERICAN COLONIAL PERIOD
When the war between Spain and the United States of America broke out in 1898, the sovereignty of the country was transferred to the United States after the Treaty of Paris in 1898. During the Philippine-American War, that followed, the American forces led by Brigadier General William Kobbe, landed in Legazpi, on the beach now called Victory Village, and occupied the province. A civil government was established by the Americans in Albay on April 26, 1901.
General Simeon Ola, with over a thousand men continued to fight the American forces and was the last to surrender to the Americans in 1903.
Albay under the American rule experienced peace and sustained economic progress.
WORLD WAR II
The Philippines got involved in the Second World War through the United States of America. After its attack of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial Forces occupied Legazpi on December 12, 1941. But Bicol guerilla forces continued to resist the Japanese forces until 1945, when the country was liberated by the Allied Forces. The United States granted independence to the Philippines on 4 July 1946 via the Treaty of Manila.
Thus, Albay has been under the influence of the Spanish, American and Japanese colonial forces for 377 years, from 1569 to 1946. Traces of the culture of these colonial periods are preserved to this day and have become interesting places to visit. The native culture of the Albayanos was likewise enriched by the melding of different cultures.
Based on the May 2010 census, Albay has a total population of 1,233,423, which makes it the 20th most populous province in the country. Based on the 2007 census, there are 208,640 households in the province with an average size of 5.22 persons, significantly higher than the national average of 4.99.
Bikol is the primary language spoken in Albay. It has many dialects, specially in inner towns.The majority of the Albayanos also understand and could speak English and Filipino. The official documents are mostly in English. Most of the local daily newspapers are in English. About 95 percent of the books and publications in its libraries are in English. About 80 percent of the movies in theaters and television are English and Hollywood movies. Signage in stores and public facilities and restaurant menus are in English. Entertainment centers and service facilities like banks and hospitals, by night or day, are manned by personnel who are fluent in Bikol, Filipino and English, a few could understand Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Agriculture is the major industry in Albay, which produces crops like coconut, rice, sugar, and abacá. Handicrafts are the major source of rural income. It continues to provide fairly large share in the small-scale industries of the province. Forestry, cement production and paper-making are other sources of livelihood. The manufacture of abacá products like Manila hemp, hats, bags, mats, and slippers is one of the main sources of income in the rural areas. Fishing is the main livelihood along both shores of the province. Tourism is a sunshine industry and the Provincial Government’s current major focus.
The weather is generally fair throughout the year with moderate rainshowers during the second half of the year. A relatively warm and sunny season is experienced from March to July.
In the past, until the late 80s the province used to experience frequent weather disturbances, sometimes experiencing as much as 18 typhoons in one year. This prompted the province to launch a massive disaster mitigation and climate change adaptation program. It was the first in the country and probably in the world to establish a Climate Change Academy.
However, climate has changed and in 2012 not one typhoon hit the province.
By water, Albay is the region’s principal trans-shipment point with its sea ports: Tabaco International, Legazpi National, Pio Duran Provincial, and the Pantao Regional Port.
By air, the Legazpi Airport is the entry point for most of the travellers going to any province of the region. The airport is also the region’s gateway from Manila and Cebu City in the Visayas. The larger South Luzon International Airport is under construction in the municipality of Daraga, west of Legazpi City.
By train, since March 2012, train service from Manila to Albay and vice versa, has been resumed by the Philippine National Railways. The Mayon Limited is a 10 1/2-hour one-way trip between Manila and Ligao City with the extension to Legazpi under construction.
By land, the province is accessible through many highways (460 kilometers) from Manila, and from other parts of the country. The main roads of the province are all well-paved and maintained.
EDUCATION & HEALTH CARE
Education and health are two of the main focus of the provincial government. Compared to other regions, Bicol has the most number of school and medical institutions as a ratio of its population. The provincial government aims for one college graduate for every family. Among its premier institutions are:
BICOL UNIVERSITY (BU) is a state university in Albay. Bicol University offers 67 degree programs with varying number of specializations spread into 14 academic units: Agriculture and Forestry (CAF) in Guinobatan; Education (CE) in Daraga,; Engineering (CENG) and Industrial Technology (CIT) in EM’s Barrio, also referred as the East Campus; Polangui Campus (PC) in Polangui, Albay; Tabaco Campus (TC) in Tabaco, Albay; and across the Legazpi main campus are the Graduate School (GS); Science (CS); Arts and Letters (CAL); Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP); Business, Economics and Management (CBEM); Nursing (CN); Open University (OU); and the Institute of Physical Education, Sports and Recreation (IPESR).
BICOL REGIONAL TRAINING & TEACHERS HOSPITAL (BRTTH): Founded in 1918 by the Americans, it soon became the Albay Provincial Hospital. It was occupied by the Japanese forces during the war, destroyed by typhoons several times, it was designated in February 1973, as a training and teaching hospital. In 1994 the hospital services was upgraded into a tertiary regional training and teaching hospital to be called Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital. The hospital has the capability for curative, diagnostic and rehabilitative services. It is a venue of quality training of medical and other paramedical personnel. It ventures into scientific researches along lines of prevalent diseases in the region. It adopts a social philosophy of community involvement as part of the hospital’s health advocacy program, focused on the hospital as a center for wellness.
Tourism in Albay has three priority areas:
The GREEN ZONE is basically eco-tourism, highlighting its natural resources and nature formations, such as natural habitats, waterfalls, caves, beaches, and ecoparks. Mountain climbing, rafting and boat rides, flora and fauna interactions are also included here.
The SILK ROAD takes the visitors to trade and souvenir centers where the best native products are displayed and are sold, including abaka handcrafted products, pottery, woven fabrics, cuttlery, precious and semiprecious stones, and art products.
The EL CAMINO COLONIAL or Colonial Road takes the tourist down history lane, where the heritage of our colonial past are highlighted, including museums, cultural centers, colonial houses, churches, monuments, tunnels and other man-made structures.
Of course there are the usual cultural attractions such as the Festivals, the theme parks, the shopping complexes, recreation and amusement centers, mountain and sea resorts.