At least once in your life, as a Filipino, you should experience the sight of landing at Legazpi airport, Albay, and see the perfect cone that is Mayon volcano. It is a majestic picture—one you’ve seen so often in textbooks, postcards and other tourist stuff, but it’s quite different when you’re descending on it and it’s ascending before you.
That sight greeted us last Holy Week as we went for the second time to Siama Hotel in Sorsogon. Siama is a one-hour drive away from Legazpi airport.
So beautifully designed, with classy accommodations, good food, Siama makes a good base when you’re in Sorsogon. From there, you can see the sights of this very verdant destination and enjoy its beaches.
You’ve been to Bohol, Cebu, and your kids shoo you away from Boracay (especially if it’s “Laboracay”), so that makes Sorsogon a very attractive option for the rest of summer. It’s relatively unexplored and unexploited.
Thanks to our good friend, leading architect and designer (Movement 8 fame) Milo Naval, we first ventured out to Sorsogon about two years ago to see the boutique hotel Naval had conceptualized, designed and furnished, and which he and his lean and pretty wife Kat have been running.
With less than 30 rooms, Siama has a modern tropical feel which has been lauded in features/shoots here in Lifestyle, Cocoon design magazine and other local and foreign glossies. Naval, after all, has won acclaim for his modern Filipino furniture and interior designs that have brought pride to the country in various showcases, from international exhibitions abroad to the Apec receptions last November.
At Siama, native materials such as rattan and abaca, and native wood, are cast in contemporary lines, creating a symmetry that is very clean and elegant—be it as rattan sliding doors or ottomans covered in solihiya pattern or in the butaka that greets the guests entering the lobby.
The lobby that also has the social and dining area has an open-plan design, like a tropical home should be—hardly no wall between the outdoor and the indoor. But just brace for the typhoon. And Sorsogon has its share of battering typhoons.
Although there’s an a la carte menu, the guests welcome the buffet at the lobby/dining room or in the social hall, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dishes are home-cooked, typical of the coconut-rich food of the region, yet they have been tweaked a little to suit a city slicker’s palate, from the escabeche pampano to different native vegetables (sigarilyas, kangkong, to name a few) cooked in coconut milk to the popular lechon kawali and inasal chicken. Even the desserts are sumptuous but healthy, like sweetened kamote.
One can just chill in the boutique hotel, in the pool, or in a vast divan in the garden.
Or, from Siama, guests can venture out to Donsol, more than an hour’s drive away, for the world-famous “butanding,” or enjoy the beaches.
We went for lunch on Pagol beach, with a side tour to Banao Port on the way to the beach. Siama set up an ihaw-ihaw seafood/chicken/liempo lunch on the beach. One can swim and paddle-board. It’s only a 30-minute scenic drive away from the hotel.
Sorsogon has a lure to the young and fitness junkies. It’s a surfing destination. Siama has a tour package to Gubat, a surfer’s paradise, where the community members—and they are young and many—can teach you how to surf.
Among them is 12-year-old surfing champion Vea Estrellado (Philippine Wahine Classic 2014, first runner-up of Majestic Surfing Cup 2014, second-runner-up Aurora Surfing Challenge 2015, among other surfing events in the country).
There are old churches to tour, which we did last Holy Week: the Annunciation church and San Roque parish in Bacon, and the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Sorsogon City.
Easily, Sorsogon can be the next hot destination, and this summer is your chance to enjoy Sorsogon before the crowds come.
Follow the author on Instagram @ThelmaSiosonSanJuan