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Magallanes is a town of many hidden wonders. Not the 8th-wonder-of-the-world kind -- but the simple, everyday variety. Just a word of caution: the local folks are pretty touchy about preserving the natural beauty of this sleepy town.

To begin with, it's not a mass tourism destination. More like a Tierra Incognita, being at the southern-most tip of Luzon. It's one of the last frontiers of unspoiled natural beauty. But if you'll come clean, with a harmless intention to simply commune with the townsfolk and nature, Magallanes is the place to be.

But first, how to get there. Driving some 600 south of Manila (I can tell you the road is really good, except for a section of the Quirino Highway), passing through the cities of Naga, Legaspi and Sorsogon, two concrete seahorses stand at the diversion road to welcome visitors to this town of 35,000 inhabitants.

If you were to take the South Road, the journey itself is as good as the destination. The South Road passes by many small towns and villages that have their own stories to tell. A night drive is suggested if you wish to avoid the day traffic -- tricycles, students crossing the streets, trucks -- things you'd normally see on the road in these populated areas that are dots of humanity along the way.

A better way to reach Magallanes, though, is by plane. Take a 45-minute flight on a Philippine Airlines (book flights online) Boeing 737 from Manila's domestic airport to Legaspi City. But be careful to check the airline because during the typhoon months, flights can be cancelled anytime. But on a regular day, flights arrive in mid-morning, just in time when the skies clear up to have the best view of the majestic Mayon Volcano.





From the Legaspi airport, one can arrange for private transport to Magallanes or take the public bus (trike from Airport to Bus station) or jeepneys to Sorsogon. (There used to be an airport in Sorsogon, dunno what happened to it). Before reaching Sorsogon City, which is also the capital of Sorsogon Province, one is welcomed by the crab building which doubles as a rest area. This area teems with some makeshift restaurants that offer native sea food delicacies with the cool sea-side view of the Sorsogon Bay. The last leg of the 60-km stretch from Sorsogon City to the town proper of Magallanes is the most exciting for anyone returning home after a long time.

The anticipation is heightened when one gets to the twin seahorse landmark along the Sorsogon-Bulan road indicating the diversion to Magallanes. Another 24 kilometers of concrete road will lead to the one of the most quiant sea-side towns by the Sorsogon Bay.

In the city itself, there is a wide variety of hotels where one can choose to stay. Take note: When in Magallanes, try the local delicacies. One would be binot-ong (rice cake wrapped in banana leaves, topped with sugar or dipped in chocolate); suman lejia (sticky rice and cassava in cube form, wrapped in banana leaves, sprinkle sugar and coconut cream on top); sinaput (banana rolled in rice flour fried and sprinkled with a bit of sugar. Another delicacy in Magallanes is paladbuaya (giant shell shaped like the palm of your hand, prepared dinarang or ihaw (grilled) or in gata(stewed in coconut milk).