My Philippines: Exploring art and nature in Cebu and Albay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) - Beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eyes of the beholder, and the Philippines has a lot to offer with its various art scenes and natural wonders.

Just about an hour and a half from Manila via air travel is Cebu, where artist Chai Fonacier explores the array of artforms in the province.

Fonacier explained why she thinks Cebu was touted as the country's "Queen City of the South." 

"Some say it's because of our booming economy, others say it's because of our tourist destinations, while others say it's because of our rich, colorful history. But personally, I think it's because of our vibrant art scene," the Cebuana artist said.

First, she met up with her filmmaker friends Christian Linaban and Ara Chawdhury, as they discuss Cebu's artistic style over delectable meals in Larsian in Cebu City.

"There's a lot of religious iconography and religious subjects," Linaban said, referring to the citizens' firm Catholic roots that strongly influence their outputs.

Fonacier then visits fashion designer Dexter Alazas, who employs "Hablon," atraditional weaving process native to Argao, Cebu, in creating bags, clothes, and shoes with fancy and intricate designs from materials such as cotton and abaca.

Next, the "Bunso Dolls," created by Sophie Secco, showcases culture-inspired designs through hand-painted ragdolls.

The dolls are available in Holicow in Crosswords, Cebu City. The shop also features rags, mats, furniture, bags, accessories, and a host of other products made with native materials showcasing artistic forms.

Finally, Fonacier ends her journey by reconnecting with her friends from the music scene, which highlights the diversity of artforms travelers can revel in when visiting Cebu.

However, if you want to connect more with nature, then hop on to an adventure inAlbay, which is just over an hour away from Manila through air travel, or about ten hours via bus.

Miss Bicolandia 2017 Kayesha Chua gives us a quick tour on what's in store for wanderers who want to explore the natural wonders of Albay.

"Albay never ceases to amaze me. That's why for me, its natural beauty is its mainattraction," Chua said.

The province's most iconic attraction, the cone-shaped Mayon Volcano, is perhaps the biggest selling point of the province.

To get as close as possible to this magnificent sight, Chua crossed rough terrain ridingan ATV at the JACS Outdoor Adventures in Barangay Pawa in Legazpi City.

A short trek from the base camp then took Chua to the lava trail, then eventually to the Black Lava Wall-the mark of Mayon Volcano's 2006 eruption. Going back to the base camp is a lot more fun though, as one may enjoy the view through a zipline.

The pageant queen next visited the Mirisbiris Garden & Nature Center in Sto. Domingo. The nature lodge, which emphasizes its strong preservation of the province's flora, was named after the Bicolano word for water trickling over the rocks.

After exploring the greenery, Chua then took a dip at the Jovellar Underground River in Camalig, Albay, where thrilling activities such as rafting, diving, and hiking around the area await.

She also explored the various rock formations and fossils at the Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave in Camalig, Albay, which got its name from the wind breeze that gushes through the opening.

After a long and tiring day exploring the natural wonders of Albay, Chua had a hearty meal with the province's iconic pinangat (meat combined with coconut milk and taro leaves), adobadong manok (native chicken marinated in soy sauce and vinegar), kinunot na manok (shredded chicken), buco batchoy (beef stew with noodles and coconut meat), and the rice delicacies Suman sa Ibos and Binut-ong (both made of glutinous rice and either coconut milk or cream).

So if you're looking for an inspiration, whether it be in artform or the nature, be sure to check out the wonderful sights of Cebu and Albay!

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