LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 8 (PNA) -- Amid a sunny weather and with the majestic Mayon Volcano as the background, the celebrity-studded XTerra Albay 2015 reeled off Sunday morning as Albayanos warmly cheered.
Some 307 triathletes are participating in the competition, 48 of whom are foreigners and only 20 percent are females.
"The most unforgettable experience of the triathletes in their lifetime is the natural mystical character of Mayon Volcano. We did not change the terrain, we did not pick any single stone at its course or trail. What you see is what you get," remarked Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda.
Salceda said the beauty of the Mayon Volcano is in the story behind it.
Mayon, he said, comes from the Bicol word Magayon, which means beautiful, symbolizing an Albayana – beautiful in character and appearance.
Salceda said the Mayon Volcano has the largest forest cover among the active volcanoes in the world.
He said that based on a study of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Bicol regional office, the volcano has 88-percent forest cover.
Wilfred Uytengsu Jr. of the Sunrise Event, co-organizer of the triathlon together with the Province of Albay, agreed with Salceda that it is the beauty of the province that attracted them to hold the Xterra Philippines here, especially the trail around Mayon that will be negotiated by the triathletes.
"Indeed Mayon Volcano has a unique mystic behavior. Its trail is like a fire road, with the beautiful scenery around," Uytengsu said.
Earlier this week, famous world and local personalities started to come to the province.
Movie actor Ryan Agoncillo arrived with wife Judy Ann Santos and two children, while on Friday, Matteo Guidicelli and Paul Jake Castillo planed in.
Senator Pia Cayetano also came to join in the triathlon.
Also participating are professional triathletes of the world like 2014 World Champion Flory Duffy, 2014 XTERRA Philippines Champion and Swiss national Renata Bucher and 19-year-old Mexican triathlete Mauricio Mendez.
Princess Galura, Sunrise Event project director, said 48 foreign triathletes will join the PROs Category, among them, Ben Allen, Bradley Weiss, Joseph Miller, Jacqui Slack, Charlie Epperson, Fabrizio Bartoli, Daz Parker, Carina Wagle, Mieko Carey and Dimity Lee Duke.
Galura said all of them have positive feedbacks about Albay and their wonderful experiences in the province.
“They were all mesmerized by the beauty of the Mayon Volcano,” she claimed, adding that the guests always post their photographs with the volcano, Cagsawa and triathlon trail in their respective Facebook accounts. Gayondin ang Cagsawa Ruins at trail of the competition.
Guidicelli praised the beautiful scenery and the famous delicacies of the province like the Bicol Express and other foods coconut milk.
He lauded the Albayanos for being hospitable and friendly.
Duffy marveled at the beauty of Mayon and its surroundings, saying she could not help falling in love with the volcano.
The Triathlon champion vowed to tell her countrymen about the beauty of the Philippines, particularly Albay, and the mystical charm of Mayon.
"Albay is a very beautiful place, Mayon Volcano is pretty magnificent, I can't stop looking at her, the hotel is upon the hill and it looks near to the volcano and it’s just so cool," Duffy blurted out.
In terms of safety, Salceda said there are 300 well-trained health emergency personnel ready to ensure zero casualty or minimal injury.
He disclosed that the winners in the competition, particularly the first 50 finishers, will join the Xterra World to be held in Maui, Hawaii, in November.
A prize of USD15,000 awaits the winner for the Pro while Php100,000 is at stake for the Elite winner.(PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/PJN