Get to Know Bicolano Man: A Proud Ambassador of Everything Magayon
Masbate, Albay, Sorsogon
Rafael Reynante | Apr 13, 2016
When asked during an interview about what he was proud of, Renato Jao, more famously-know as Bicolano Man said that, simply, he was proud to be Bicolano.
However, more than simply being Bicolano, Renato is first and foremost a citizen of the Philippines, and is a true Filipino at heart, and shows his vast love for the Philippines through his works of art, his various advocacies, and of course, his love for food.
But his big heart wasn’t a product of his sudden rise to fame within the circle of landscape and food photographers; in fact, he was already a kind-hearted individual ever since he was born in Sorsogon, where he spent most of his life in, growing accustomed and fairly intimate with the sea and its countless bounties. In 2001, he moved further upland in Legazpi, where he safely lived beside the Mayon Volcano, which was perhaps the thing that drove him to love Bicol even more.
At this point, he was already becoming proficient with social media, trying his hand at blogging and Facebook, and sharing images of Bicol on his accounts, with proper credit to whoever took them. However, what truly pushed him to start learning photography on his own was when he was approached by a photographer who had reprimanded him for using their work without written consent. He apologized, and took up photography so that he would never have to rely on the photos of others for his work.
Of course, this was not the only thing that occupied his time; a truly multi-talented man, he often gave supplementary meteorological information to the local government in Albay, helping them predict the weather for a certain number of days. Renato was also part of the group that correctly predicted the onslaught of Ondoy, which led to Bicol having zero casualties when the typhoon finally hit. His contributions to the local government, plus his excellent artistic work, made him a close companion of the city government.
When asked why he loved Bicol so much, he simply claimed that Bicol, in spite of its beauty, is often under the radar compared to Boracay or Baguio. He spends so much time helping the region and the people because he wants the region to grow and become more prosperous, with the goal of attracting more tourists.
According to him, simply put, Bicol is beautiful because it has "the most beautiful volcano in the country - [anyone] would love to see Mayon."
Thankfully, his efforts are paying off, and Bicol has seen a steady stream of travelers in recent times, with most of them visiting three places, namely:
Albay, because of its proximity to Mayon;
Sorsogon, because of the beautiful Bulusan Lake and Subic Beach,
and Masbate, because of its cowboys and “Marlboro Land” vibe.
In concluding the interview, I asked him a simple question: Why should Filipinos choose to visit and fall in love with Bicol? To which he answered simply, “Mayon.” Truly, any visit to the fiery land of Bicol would be incomplete without seeing the beautiful “Daragang Mayon,” but in case you did miss seeing the volcano on your last trip, there’s always next time!
Nowadays, Bicolano Man happily spends his time juggling photography, travel, and Culinaria Albay. We’re just as happy for him.