LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 23 (PNA) -- Farmers living at the southeast quadrant of Mount Mayon is now getting additional income as tourist guides and entertainers for visitors going to the famous icon of Albay.
Maria “Nini” Ong-Ravanilla, Department of Tourism Bicol regional director, said Mayon farmers are now being tapped by the city government as partners for tourism promotion as local guides, especially for guests using the all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) for a thrilling adventure.
This development cropped up after the four-story-high lava front formed in 2006 during Mount Mayon “quiet” eruption, which has started to bring employment and livelihood to Mayon farmers, aside from the usual vegetable and other agricultural crops production.
The famous lava front or lava wall, which tumbled down and within the six-kilometer danger zone in the gully of Mabinit village facing the southeast quadrant of this city, is now the region’s top tourist destination following the introduction of an ATV trail going to this nature-made structure.
The blend of agriculture and tourism as a source of livelihood has somewhat raised the farmers' income.
Visitors wanting to experience the excitement of riding an ATV find assistance from Mayon farmers as they go through a snakelike path of the gully and fertile slope of the Mayon Volcano where there is an abundance of agricultural crops, especially vegetables.
The ATV ride for tourists was introduced seven years ago by former city councilor Celoy Chan, whose sons Cyrel and Junjohn manage Your Brother Mayon ATV Tour to promote tourism adventure with the semblance of a science thriller.
The first set of riders that braved the ATV ride going to the the base camp near the lava front are the city government officials led by Mayor Noel Rosal.
Subsequently, Rosal introduced the ATV adventure to Ravanilla, who, in turn, brought along her fellow regional directors from different national government agencies to try the ATV ride along the identified trail to promote another avenue and tourism activity for tourists in pursuit of providing jobs and livelihood and bringing back the glory of Albay tourism after the occurrence of super typhoon "Reming" in 2006.
At first, the ATV tourism adventure here was a bit dull until it became popular among domestic and foreign tourists who love to go on an adventure.
The ATV adventure has become well-known following the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference attended by Secretary General Taleb Rifai two years ago.
The UNWTO meet participants, mostly foreign ministers and associates from about 100 countries, explored the ATV ride everyday from Barangay Pawa to Barangay Mabinit, where the ATV base camp is located, before hiking towards the lava front.
Before the adventure, brothers Cyrel and Junjohn brief ATV riders on the sacred rules and safety for the adventure.
"Wear helmet and face mask, no racing and no overtaking, maintain distance from each other and follow the marshals," they clearly emphasized in a pre-departure briefing.
The ATV is an automatic four-wheeled vehicle designed to cruise over rough terrains and can be driven by a single rider even if he does not how to ride a bike, drive a motorcycle or a car.
The first salvo of the trail is to navigate the 15-meter cemented road before going to an uneven rugged pathway, crisscrossing rivers to snake-like bumpy Mabinit gully channel walled by volcanic debris and boulders scattered over the cliff-to-cliff track, sporadically showing residents engaged in small-time quarrying and vegetable planting.
The final leg of the ATV ride is crisscrossing the flat bed of a river with towering verdant canopy of Agoho trees planted by the elder Chan, the city government of Legazpi, villagers and multi-sector volunteers.
After an hour of thrill and adrenaline-rising off-road ATV drive, the last part of the trail is a upland trek to the four-story-high lava wall.
Atop the lava front is the 400-square-meter helipad used as a base point either for rescue missions and tourism perspective.
The helipad was put up by Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy “Zaldy” S. Co.
Beyond this paved helipad is a wide expanse of volcanic rocks and boulders towering over the abundant coconut trees.
While being kissed by the gentle breeze from the sea, tourists can relish the panoramic view of Albay Gulf and a sea of development in the city proper.
To ensure a fast descent from the lava front top, one can find answer through the zipline and be a superman, at least for several minutes.
Ravanilla said there are two kinds of ATV adventure: first the ATV Lava Vein, a two-hour trail navigating an 18-km distance, and second, the extreme ATV Mayon Summit, about 4,000 feet above sea level or a five-hour off-road drive halfway from the summit of the Mayon Volcano.
“Upon climbing about 4,000 meters above sea level, there is a community of farmers waiting for tourists who they transport through a carabao sled to see and experience the rustic life,” she said.
In extreme off-road ATV Mayon Summit, tourists will be served local food harvested and cooked by the farmers such as sweet potato, banana and cassava, served with a refreshing buko juice.
After eating, the tourists will be ferried by farmers through the carabao sled going to the farm where they can harvest and buy a variety of vegetables and crops, Ravanilla said.
“The tourists will be allowed to harvest crops and vegetable of their choice then pay the respective amounts incurred to our farmers. Through this, we are helping the community of farmers in the slopes of Mayon while linking them with agriculture tourism as our partners in national development,” she said.
At least 300 tourists, both foreign and domestic, have been going daily to the area for an all-terrain-vehicle drive where farmers and tourists bond amid a rustic way of life within the fertile slopes of Mayon volcano as the City Government of Legazpi and the DOT promote an off-road adventure in agri-tourism here. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD