Experience The City Of Love; Tabaco City

November 28, 2018

by Frederick Maurice S. Lim

The Philippines is known for crystal clear beaches, hospitable people, good singers, and succulent foodstuff. Tourists of any kind visit our country not just to explore culture but to introspect as well.

The intention of most tourists might be cultural enrichment but they’re actually contemplating too even if they’re not totally aware about it. If you’re yearning for cultural enrichment or personal growth, visiting the Philippines should be on your travel bucket list.

Be Tranquil

Tagged as the City of Love and it might sound cheesy but it’s true, I’ve been residing in Tabaco City for 18 years now and its residents have a calming nature, not unlike Manila where I grew up in. The city is nearby mountains and oceans and being close to nature might be the reason why there’s a feeling of tranquility in residing here.

Bicolanos understand basic English so it won’t be hard to communicate wherever you’re planning to travel. There’s also someone almost anywhere who’s fluent in English.

Early Morning Walk Or Run

Even if there are automobiles, tricycles, motorcycles, and buses, the fresh air will be easily noticed especially if a person comes from an urban place. So try to walk around town to the Tabaco City port, which is only a 4-minute stroll. The nearest beach is 3-miles so try to jog to the Palali beach where you’ll not just enjoy the scenery but will also have a taste of the local culture because people from other towns and cities have a picnic or swim there.

After strolling or jogging, it seems natural to please your tongue with local rice cakes in various variants like suman, ibos, latik, and binutong. All of them are made of glutinous rice. The first three are wrapped in buri palm, buli, or banana leaves, and the last one is simmered in coconut milk. Accommodate the treat with fresh coconut water. All of the mentioned treats are available in the market and you’ll be full in $1. You can have 5 rice cakes of different variants and fresh coconut water is just 50 cents.

Where To Go In Tabaco City

These are some recommendations if you’ll just stay for three days in Tabaco City before going to another destination in Albay or Bicol. It’s better to start visiting places that are a bit far to avoid regrets so it’s better to experience distance spots on day 1 and just settle for nearby locations on day 3.

Mayon Skyline

It’s a 35-minute drive from the city. It’s best to visit during summer to dwell in the magnificence of the Mayon Volcano the nearest. There are cottages to sit and relax while enjoying a bird’s eye view perspective of Tabaco City. There’s also a science park that kids and adults will enjoy.

Busay Falls

Can be added in the afternoon itinerary after visiting the skyline. It’s a 7-tier falls. For safety, hire a guide to trek the 7 falls. It’s slippery so just carry the essentials and be meditative.

The first falls will satisfy you already if swimming in cold refreshing water is your thing. It’s not in Tabaco anymore but I included it because it’s only 7.3km or a 20-minute ride from the city proper. It’s a must experience if nature’s your thing.

Busay Falls

Busay Falls

San Miguel Island

It’s a 10km boat ride and the fare is cheap. Whether traveling solo or with friends, the serene island can talk you out of your troubles. Swim or just spend the late afternoon or early morning waiting for the sun to rise or set.

Tabaco City Supermarket

Shopping for souvenirs might be better to arrange on your third day. It’s decent to haggle if you feel that the price isn’t right.

St. John The Baptist Church

It’s a century-old church, which took more than a decade to build. It’s made up of stones and dark volcanic soil from the area. This national cultural treasure is a must visit if you’re religious or spiritual.  The rococo designs embedded on the bell tower and the stonemason marks on the walls of the church are worth inspecting

Tabaco City Church

St. John The Baptist Church, Tabaco City

What To Do In Tabaco City

Ride a Padyak

Other countries in Southeast Asia are popular for Tuktok and riding it is a must experience. It’s the same when you’re in Tabaco City; it’s a must to ride a padyak whether you’ll visit the market, church, park, or just want a stroll to experience the city. The padyak, which is also known as a pedicab, cycle rickshaw, or tricycle taxi is the major means of transportation in the city. In fact, Tabaco City is known as the padyak capital of the Philippines.

10 pesos is the minimum fare per pax and there’s no exact distance for this so it’s better to negotiate first before riding. For a cozier travel, hire a padyak driver for an hour or two. 100 per hour per head is fair. There are no bicycle rentals in the city and riding a padyak will give you an experience to remember.


Tabaco City Padyak

Visit a Cutler’s Workshop

Tabaco is famous for its scissors, knives, and bolos. Going to a cutler’s workshop is just 5 minutes away via padyak. They’ll be appreciated as souvenirs and to experience a blacksmith at work is enriching. They’re not expensive and you can sell them a higher price. Just remember that they won’t be accepted in airports.

Indulge in Local Delicacies

The city of love has a lot to offer when it comes to sweets. Their famous pili nut has variations such as roasted pili, salted pili, roasted sesame coated, mazapan de pili, crispy pili with honey, and yemas de pili.

Pilis can also be taken as a major viand; it can be dipped in fish sauce or seasoning with lime and chili. You can buy 2 variants for $1. You can buy 60 pieces of raw pili for a dollar if it’s seasonal.

Don’t have regrets by not trying Bicol Express even if spicy food is not your thing. This might be an educational experience for your taste buds. Try to emulate this stew made from chili, garlic, pork, onion, shrimp paste, and coconut milk for the enjoyment of your folks back home. Bicolanos are fond of chili so ask the restaurant that you’ll dine in if you want your serving to be mildly spicy or neutral.

Explore the Local Culture and Architecture

The ancestral house of notable Filipina poet Angela Manalang Gloria is worth visiting if you’re into history, literature, and culture. The chapel or cimburrio of the public cemetery is worth visiting too. Both places are only a 5-minute padyak ride from the park.

Manalang House in Tabaco City

Manalang House in Tabaco City

Places To Stay In Tabaco City

Accommodation is not expensive and there are a lot of options such as my recommendations below. They’re just a 2-minute walk from the park or church.

Hotel Fina

It is nearby the LCC shopping mall, which is the city’s biggest shopping center. They have airport transfer, restaurant, coffee shop, laundry and iron service, and strong Wi-Fi.  They have a rooftop pool with a perfect view of the Mayon Volcano. Get a classic room for $32 while the deluxe room is $76.

JJ Midcity Inn

It’s just a 3-minute walk from the park. The rooms are affordable and the personnel are friendly. It’s cozy to hang out in Bona’s coffee shop, which is situated on the second floor. They have a rooftop pool and restaurant where you can enjoy city sceneries. You can relax at an economy room for $18 per day. For a special deluxe room, it will only cost $47.


Buy a sim card for communication and information. The Internet is inexpensive in the Philippines and it’s cheaper than other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. A sim card might cost you $1. For $2 via the Smart network, you’ll have 1GB of data that you can use for a week.

Take a lot of photographs and write journal entries for memory sometimes fail us. Be spontaneous.




Frederick Maurice S. Lim

By Frederick Maurice S. Lim

Erik Lim is a poet, filmmaker, and film photographer. When he's not spending time on his work, craft and family, he spends time contemplating about travels.

Read more at eriklim.com

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