Awesome Oas: 4 Reasons to Visit, From Beaches to Rich Culture
Aris Mape | Feb 05, 2015
The Pastores carollers going around the town.
The Pastores carollers | Photo Credit: Glenn Peralta
Putong Oas, toasted milky ricecakes best for your snacks. | Photo Credit: pinoystores.net
Diwata Imacoto Beach in Cagmanaba.
Sabando Ocampo Beach in Maramba.
Perfect for sunsets
The way to Oas is a road less traveled; however, one thing is sure--a visit to this place is always a homecoming. It’s where you go back to your story, trace your roots and relive the joys of friendship and family.
You go back to Oas to shake hands with old classmates, friends, and relatives.
You go back because you missed home and you want to hear words said in the native tongue where the sound of R roars fiercely, the vowels are short (sometimes with a heavy stop), and the words fly fast.
You go to Oas to see the green fields and smell fresh air, to spend lazy days in the farm where the roosters wake you up and the crickets lull you to sleep.
WHERE IS OAS?
Oas is in the Bicol peninsula, southeast of Luzon. From Manila, you can take a bus from the terminals in Cubao or Pasay and embark on a 10-hour journey to the south. Or, to make life easy, get on a plane to Legazpi City, hail a bus at Legazpi’s terminal and after an hour on the road, hop off at the public market of Oas.
Well-traveled men and hobbits, when asked of places to see in Albay, would perhaps not mention this town. Their list, most likely, will include the regulars: the world-famous Mayon Volcano, the hot springs of Tiwi, and the islands and the beaches of Bacacay. Or perhaps the sunflower farm of Ligao, the baroque church of Daraga, and the city of Legazpi.
Oas, the quiet and humble town it was years ago, in fact, is still the same quiet and humble town today. There are no malls, hotels, movie houses, or a good night life for those looking for the luxury of city life.
With Albay’s extensive focus on tourism lately, Oas is starting to see new light and is poised to become an attractive tourist destination in the province. Laid-back as it is, Oas has a rich culture, unique cuisine, and a thriving cottage industry that can be tapped to jumpstart tourism in the town.
A barangay or town fiesta is one event to look forward to.The whole year round, villages take turn celebrating feasts in honor of their saints.
The merry-making is marked with traditional games, singing contests and local pageants, basketball tournaments, parades, a disco night, and of course, a grand banquet. In fact, these fiesta is one of the main reasons people go home. Other celebrated events are the Holy Week, All Souls Day, and Christmas.
In December, the town is serenaded by carolers known as the Pastores or pastora. Clad in colorful costumes made of local materials, the performers reenact through songs and dances the visit of the shepherds to Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.
The dancers bring their elaborately designed arko (an arch of flowers) and sing Christmas carols from house to house. A group of local musikero accompanies them as they do the rounds in town.
This tradition started in the Spanish times, which explains the lyrics of the song: "Pastores a Belén, vamos con alegría / a ver a nuestro bien, al Hijo de Maria / Allí, allí, nos espera Jesús / Pastores entrad, entrad zagales también / Vamos a ver al recién nacido / vamos a ver al Niño Emmanuel" (Shepherds to Bethlehem / We are going with happiness / To see, to our good, the Son of Mary / There, Jesus waits for us / Shepherds enter; lads also / Let us go to see the newborn / Let us go to see the Boy, God with us.)
2. THE SENSE OF YUMMY
“Masiram” is the local’s word for delicious. And when it comes to food, this town doesn’t run out of must-eats, from pasta to pastries to veggies and meat.
Oas does not have high-end restaurants where you can experience its unique cuisine. Sure, you can go to the public market, check a line of karinderia and eat with the locals. But, remember, your visit is a homecoming. And, as always, there’s no place like home. So here’s what to do: surprise a friend or a relative and head straight to their kitchen.
Oasnuns love "natuk" or coconut milk. Everything–pork, poultry, seafood, vegetable–can be cooked in cocounut milk. Either they swim in rich white sauce or they shine deliciously in simmered coconut oil. Of course, every dish can also get that hot buddy the Bicolanos are known for, whole red chili. In Oasnun, lada.
So what food to try while in Oas? Here are some of the cool ones.
1. Laing–Don’t just watch and eat. Ask your friend to let you experience the whole process. From picking the leaves at their backyard, peeling the stems, tearing the leaves, preparing the spices and cocounut milk, and of course, cooking the gabi leaves.
2. Kurakding–This edible fungus which is harvested from trunks of trees (so far I have only seen it grow on trunks of mangoes, but can also be cultured) can be cooked in–as usual–coconut milk until it’s tender. Vegetables or pork can be added to enhance the taste. Of course, the dish will not be perfect without chili in the scene.
3. Ginataang Santol–This dish is a little weird. Yes, that sour santol fruit, take the meat and have it ground, add it to meat or dilis, and cook them in coconut milk with an overload of chili.
4. Tinutung Pisug (Beans) + Malunggay–I love the perfect combination of malunggay + something cooked in coconut milk. Healthy and yum. Of course, in hot chili heavenly taste.
5. Binasuso–Glutinous rice is ground, sifted, and combined with sugar and coconut. It’s placed in cone-shaped banana leaves and boiled to produce the sweet ricecake.
6. Putong Bugas–This is another rice delicacy loved for its sweet milky taste. Ricecake is thinly cut into moon-shaped slices and toasted in the oven to give that crunchy sweetness best for your snack.
3. BASKETS AND BEACHES
Weaving baskets has been a thriving industry for many decades. It’s heritage passed on from parents to children and grandchildren. It’s a craft polished by time.
More than a source of livelihood that sent children to school and filled hungry stomachs, it’s a sacrifice–a devotion to hardwork and the dream that one day, they will see better days. The basket industry in Oas, however, remains small-scale, with most of the locals weaving for other big businessmen instead of them leading the action.
The potential is big. The talent is tremendous. With further training, innovation, and financial support to the locals, baskets from Oas will still make a big name in the market.
Spending summer in Oas? Don’t pass up the chance of seeing the gorgeous beaches of Cagmanaba and Maramba. Unknown to many, Oas has good beaches, too. With its location, these beaches are great for sunsets, and of course, the usual beach fun that sounds like sea, sand, and sun! Two of the resorts you can visit are the Sabando Ocampo and Diwata Imacoto.
Sabando Ocampo Beach Resort
This resort is located at the coasts of Maramba and about an hour and a few minutes from the town proper. It offers activities like kayaking and banana boat rides.
Diwata Imacoto Beach Resort
This resort is located at Sitio Imacoto in Cagmanaba.
4. A FARM RESORT
If you’re not a sea-lover and just want a dip to freshen up, go check this lovely pool resort in Balogo.
Hidden in the outskirts of Oas, close to the water reservoir at the foot of Mt Masaraga, is a gorgeous destination for summer: Balogo Farm Resort. It’s still a surprise for many that there’s such a nice pool in town.
It’s easy to fall in love with the resort. Besides the sweet fresh air from the mountains, the garden, the giant ferns, and the trees all bring you close to nature. Balogo Farm Resort has two pools–well, it needs some upgrade and scrubbing–where friends and families can swim and dip the whole day.
The resort has cottages for rent, so you can definitely bring your own food. They have a grilling station, too, so why not have that barbecue or tilapia sizzling hot from the grill.
The resort is also a good location for events, seminars, and camps. Nearby, you can also check the river and wade in the cool clear water from the heart of the mountains.
Balogo Farm Resort
Balogo, Oas, Albay
Entrance fee: P40; Cottage rental: P250; Open from 7AM to 6PM
For special arrangements and other inquiries, please contact them at the following:
Can Oas catch up and actively participate in the tourism scene? Definitely. It is easier said than done, but yes.
With more visionaries, investors, and leaders overflowing with creativity, innovativeness, and commitment, this town will be able to rise quickly as a tourism haven in Albay. And with more locals that are educated about the beauty of their place, and them seeing the value of tourism in their lives, Oas can rise to greatness.
So that next time a hobbit passes by this part of Albay, he doesn't just pass by because the national road happens to be there. He hops off at the public market and explores the town because it's a great place away from home.