By Abdon M. Balde Jr.
THE NAME BIKOL.
Bikol is a region located at the southernmost tip of Luzon Island. The province is spelled Bicol in Spanish and English orthography. But the local name is Bikol. The name Bikol was 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 name Bikol is believed to have come from the characteristic of the big, meandering river: Biko-biko and Ikol-ikol. The people of the region are called Bikolanos and the language is called Bikol. No place in Bikol is called Bikol. Bicol Express was the name of the train that used to bring passengers from Manila to Legazpi and back, it does not run anymore to Legazpi anymore. Today Bicol Express is the name of a type of spicy food the Albayanos are fond of, but that would be another story that would come later.
The citizens of Albay are referred to as ALBAYANOS. Albay is a province composed of 15 municipalities and 3 cities. We shall keep track of the individual cities and municipalities later. It is divided into three political districts. Northward, the third district which starts from Libon to Guinobatan is the largest. The second district, from Camalig to Legazpi is second largest and the most prosperous. Most of the government centers are in the second district. The first district from Santo Domingo to Tiwi is the smallest. There are 720 barangays. As of 2020 census the population of Albay is 1,374,768 with a density of 530 per square kilometer. This means that if you measure one kilometer by one kilometer area, you will find 530 people inside, on the average. Of course, in reality, the people are clustered in the urban areas, especially in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao. Albayanos are fun-loving people, relatively carefree, love karaoke and sili laden food, very hospitable and want to travel. The Albayanos speak different dialects: Miraya Bikol with variations in almost every town from Libon to Daraga; and the standard Albay Bikol for the coastal towns and cities from Legazpi to Tiwi.
The capital of the province is Legazpi City. The capital was named after Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the Spanish conquistador who came to the Philippines in 1565 and actually started the Spanish colonization of the country. But Legazpi never set foot in Legazpi City. The city was named after Legazpi in order to gain approval from Imperial Manila for cityhood and most probably because it was his grandson Capitan Juan de Salcedo who first explored the region in 1572. In fact, the town of Daraga was briefly called Salcedo in the early 18th century. During the 300 years of colonization, the barefoot Franciscans spread Catholicism in the province. As a result, the Albayanos became devout Catholics.
The icon most associated with Albay is the majestic 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. It is often compared to Mount Fuji in Japan. But there is actually no match, Mayon is far too beautiful and perfect than Fuji. Mayon is the source of pride of the people because of its outstanding beauty. It is also the cause of too much destruction when it erupts. And it erupts very often. We shall feature Mayon later.
TOPOGRAPHY: Albay has a total land area of 2,575.77 square kilometres. 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 eastern coast of Albay faces the Pacific. The western coast is mountainous but not as prominent as the eastern range with the highest elevation at around 490 metres. Among the minor mountains are Mount Catburawan in Ligao, Mount Toktokan and Mount Bulakawan in Malilipot and Mount Pantao or Cagongcongan in Oas & Libon.