The Bicol region or simply Bicol refers to the 6 provinces in the southern part of Luzon comprised of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon in the mainland and offshore are Catanduanes and Masbate. The province is also known by another name, Ibalon, although the origin is unclear. The adequate flatland is utilised for farming and agriculture whilst the different bays yield commercial fishing. Bicol is surrounded by 7 mountains and the most famous of them all is the majestic Mount Mayon, named after a legendary princess ‘Daragang Magayon’ (Beautiful Lady). This serves as the main landmark of Albay province and considered to be the world’s most perfectly formed volcano and as such, is protected as a Natural Park. Standing at 2,462 meters, the magnificent peak is a glorious sight to behold even from a far distance. But up close the havoc inflicted by sporadic eruptions are like scars reminding everyone that Mayon Volcano is after all the most active in the country. In and around the Natural Park are a few of the province’s well-kept gems that continue to lure visitors. Nearby is the Cagsawa Ruins, a 16th century church tower (belfry, or what’s left of it after a devastating eruption in 1814 buried the town) and Hoyop-hoyopan Cave, a multi-layer cavern of natural limestone with interesting rock formations. Unlike other caves, this one can be easily explored with just a few tight squeezes and the gentle breeze that blows through the cave make the experience rather more pleasant. Sumlang Lake in Camalig offers a relaxing cruise along the lake in a kayak, paddle board or the much more home-grown bamboo raft. Kawa-kawa Hill and Natural Park is an eco-tourism haven referred to as a hill without a hilltop.
Further down south in the province of Sorsogon, visitors can either laze around spotting whale sharks or for the brave soul, swimming alongside the giant fish. Butandings, as they are locally called have a large congregation in Donsol and stay around for much longer so that a visit between November to June is almost always rewarded with sightings of these endangered species.
Whilst the southern part of Bicol is all about nature and the wonders of creation, Naga City in Camarines Sur is hailed as the religious centre of the whole region. In fact, the largest Marian devotion in Asia is celebrated in honour of the Patroness of Bicolandia, Our Lady of Penafrancia. A week long fiesta culminates on the third Sunday of September with all roads leading to the city. Naga, with its colonial churches also pride itself as part of the early religious history being the oldest diocese in the Philippines. In recent years, multitudes of visitors have another reason to flock to this side of Bicol, this time for recreational reasons. The CamSur Water Sports Complex (CWC) has earned a glittering reputation amongst water sports enthusiasts for its world-class facilities. Visitors can try different sports from the tamed waterskiing to the more challenging cable skiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, wakeskating, and what have you---surely a test of one’s stamina and endurance. Not to be outdone is Caramoan National Park & Gota Beach, Philippines’ secret paradise until its natural beauty was unmasked in Survivor, an internationally acclaimed TV series. Chosen as the location in 2008, Caramoan is the latest to join the long list of places in the Philippines known for pristine beaches. Great adventure awaits every visitor to Caramoan with stretches of white-sand, coves, limestone forest and tranquil lakes.
Daet in Camarines Norte and Catanduanes have long been favourite destinations for local seasoned surfers.
Bicol is synonymous to sili (chili peppers) and gata (coconut milk), which are staples in every Bicolano’s kitchen. Bicol Express, La-ing and Pinangat are first on everyone’s mind at the mere mention of Bicol. And yes, sili ice cream, toasted siopao, pili candies, pancit bato, pinakro and kinalas are a must-tries.
There are 2 main airports in Bicol. One is Naga Airport (WNP) and the other is Legazpi (LGP), both serviced by major domestic carriers. Multiple flights are scheduled on a daily basis.
Travel by public transport takes 8-10hours with regular departures from major points in Manila, Cubao and Sampaloc. Travel by private car takes about 6-7hours.
*Take the scenic route to Bicol from Manila by bus. It takes a lot longer but traversing the ‘Bitukang Manok’ is surely fun and the views are amazing.
*Heavy traffic is expected along the route during Easter and Christmas periods.
What else to see?
Another active volcano in the region with 4 craters. There are also 4 hot springs around this mountain in Sorsogon. At the foot of the mountain is Bulusan Lake surrounded by lush tropical rainforest.
Natural Carpet Industries
Manufacturer and exporter of exquisite abaca products of the finest quality. Carpets, rugs, placemats and living room furniture are meticulously hand crafted.
Situated in an isolated island in Matnog, Sorsogon with a pinkish-coloured sand. When the tide is low, an underwater cave nearby appears and can be explored.
Juag Lagoon Marine Sanctuary
This sanctuary allows visitors to swim with the fish and feed them.
Kalanggaman Island (Leyte)
Leyte belongs to the Visayas Island but travel by land from Masbate or Bulan, Sorsogon will take you to this castaway paradise. It is purported to be a smaller version of Boracay island.