Tag Archives: Bicol

BICOL Summer Spree: DAY 4 – Last day of country leisure

Don’t miss DAY 3.

On DAY 4, we were back to Naga City. For our last day, we just eased up, wandered around town and ate, ate, ate before we set out to Manila in the evening.

The night before, we chilled out at PBar on Magsaysay Avenue. We had our dinner here and shared a pitcher of cocktail. The bar was full of life and music on a Wednesday night. It’s enlivened by conversations and cheers by groups composed of still-sober fellows tolerating their drunken wiggly friends. I wondered if they had work the following day. As for us, conveniently we didn’t.

On our last day, we checked out establishments along Magsaysay Ave–lots of eating places! It’s a road where you can easily jump from one store to another if you’re really in for a food trip. We spent a rainy afternoon in Starbucks, sipped our Frappuccinos and wrote letters to each other extemporaneously.

I guess the main mode of transportation around Naga City is tricycle as opposed to most towns in the Philippines wherein jeepneys rule. We could go anywhere around the town by tricycle for only 8Php each. (Don’t get fooled! Once, a driver charged us 30Php instead of just 16Php for the two of us. A trick is just don’t ask how much anymore.)

We went to the marketplace where there are many carinderias (local eateries) that serve cheap home-cooked foods. Near the mall, SM City Naga, there are also chains of carinderias so instead of eating at common restaurants, we went here. It’s not at all hard to explore Bicol cuisine.

In the evening, we finally boarded a bus back to Manila. Another long ride filled with snorts and cuddles.

Journey

Read from the start: BICOL Summer Spree: Starting Point

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BICOL Summer Spree: DAY 3 – Haunted by a volcano

At the end of DAY 2, we headed to Legazpi City, Albay excited for the next day’s surprise.

It had been tiring going around the city trying to decide which hotel we’d go to. We did not make any reservation in Legazpi city because, unless it’s peak season, it’s nice to discover good local accommodations for yourself. Though there are good and reliable online reviews and recommendations, sometimes they don’t cover everything. There may be some undiscovered havens around the corner.

To be honest, I wouldn’t brag about the hotel we checked in to. Because we were tired from roaming around the city (which was fun), we settled at Dreams Inn (See honest reviews here) which is at the center of the city and conveniently near the mall and other establishments.

Except the hotel, everything else was great. Food trip is in abundance—inside the mall and restaurants and on the streets. What we enjoyed the most were the rows of street food stalls on one lane along Quezon Avenue. One can go here for a snack of foods on sticks and finger foods or sit for a meal of authentic local dishes such as Bicol Express (my favorite!) and Pinangat among many others. For dessert, we refreshed ourselves with spicy ice cream. It’s like ordinary ice cream in the mouth, but you’ll feel the spice once it’s in your throat. Bicol is really living up to its being a region of spicy cuisine.

We got tired from walking on the streets but never hungry.

There are two highlights of our Legazpi City escapade:

Cagsawa Ruins & the symmetrical magnificence

After countless eruptions, the majestic view of Mayon Volcano from the ruins has stayed undamaged. And the remnants of the old Cagsawa Church aren’t all that razed. The site remains a restful place to watch clouds blocking out the volcano slowly reveal its precise form and a romantic spot for a cheap prenuptial shoot.

We were standing there overwhelmed by the view when we realized we left our camera at the hotel. We were depressed about not being able to take pictures until we found this guy (there are other guys, actually) who offered four instant 4R photos for only 100Php. We thought it was a great offer and an opportunity for us to have nice photos even when we didn’t bring our cam.  I’m not a photography geek so I can’t really say if the photos were good, but at least we loved them. For us, it actually seemed like we’re a real couple and had our friendly prenuptial photo-shoot in a really special place.

There are many souvenirs and food stalls around the area. This time, we had chili fruit shakes after a meal of longsilog (longganisa, fried rice & egg).

Worthwhile trek at Ligñon Hill

Another highlight of our escapade was our hike up Ligñon Hill Nature Park where one can find much splendor and adventure. On our way up, we walked through the old Japanese tunnel with a tour guide for only 20Php/person.

Since it’s really a long walk up the 156-meter hill, we rented a motorbike (habal-habal style) to take us to the top, and we’re glad we did. It was a really exciting ride. The bike quickly ran up the hill despite the slope. The wind was blowing our faces. As we went up, we could see a larger view of the town from the hillside road.

Of course, food stalls await hungry hikers.

When we got there, we spent a long while just looking at a wide view of the whole town with mountains on one side and the sea on the other. We turn around and there’s Mayon Volcano. This volcano haunts you. You can’t lose sight of it wherever you are in the town—we could see it from the city center, while on the road, at the ruins—even if you wanted to (of course you wouldn’t want to).

We passed on the zip line. I’m sure the zip line here is super fun, but I still need to slowly contend with my fear of heights (Sorry!). But I took the courage to cross the long, wobbly hanging bridge with my companion. I was shaking all the way, panicking and getting mad at my partner whenever he makes shaky movements. In the end, we took a photo of both us beaming (as if I wasn’t at all afraid).

BICOL Summer Spree: DAY 2 – Whale Shark Interaction

Read first about DAY 1 here.

There had been much anticipation of the beach that morning. What I hadn’t anticipated was the surge of butterflies that increasingly brushed my stomach as I road the boat, held back and waited, and finally jumped and glanced at the gentle giant swimmer of under the sea.

We registered at the Tourism Office, waited for other tourists to share the boat with and watched a video on proper whale shark interaction. We were ready with the snorkel and diving fins that we rented the day before. I and my companion met two law students and a foreign couple. I noticed a lot of rashes on the foreigners’ legs and back, and found out they had been stung by jellyfish when they swam by the shore. I was so happy to have chosen the resort pool. (Whew)

Friendly foreigners on the boat
Friendly foreigners on the boat
My dear companion on the look out
My dear companion on the look out

Three hours. We only had three hours to find it (or them, if we’re lucky). Excitement and anxiety gradually filled me as our boat sailed farther off shore. We were alert. As soon as the BIO (Butanding Interaction Officer) told us to, we had to jump.

It all happened quickly. I jolted when I heard a shout and the next thing I knew, I was racing in the water towards where the BIO pointed us. I struggled to catch up. I became so nervous. Maybe it was fear of being on the deep part of the water. Maybe it was the anxiety of knowing that there’s something huge beneath me. Or maybe it was the anxiety of like meeting love for the first time.

I submerged my head into the water. At first, I saw nothing. Then, like a matchmaker, the BIO pulled me towards it. My heart thumped. I smiled, and I felt my heart did, too. It was swimming right beneath me. A whale shark slowly, gently swimming away from the surface. I said, “Hi.” With my head underwater, all I heard was the slow ­blob-blob-blob of the water until the creature faded out.

It’s ironic how this ocean creature is so huge and physically intimidating yet it swims so softly that it drags time slowly along with it. When I was looking underwater, it felt like time ran slow.

For a period of three hours, we only saw two whale sharks—each just for a brief moment. It was enough. Afterwards, we were given a short while to just swim.

Much up-close with the whale shark!
Much up-close with the whale shark!

Whale shark interaction is the main attraction of Donsol beach, though the Tourism center also offers island tours and firefly watching by boat on the river. The whale shark peak season is from November to May. So, in other months there is no whale shark interaction, and some beach resorts are also closed since there are much fewer tourists in Donsol. When the whale sharks come back, life consisting of tourism and livelihood, also returns to the beach.

BICOL Summer Spree: DAY 1 – Donsol, Sorsogon

It was a fun jeepney ride with the townsfolk—women with large bayongs, parents with children on their lap, men hanging on outside the back. There were vendors, too, from whom we bought local sweet treats as snack during the long ride to Donsol beach.

Woodland

 

We’d made a reservation in advance to make sure we didn’t run out of affordable rooms. We took a very! reasonable ₱1,500 room at Woodland Beach Resort. It was big and cozy enough for the two of us. We enjoyed the upstairs room with the scenic view of the beach outside the huge glass panel.

Outside closer to the beach are the bar and the pool which we really enjoyed. We had a sumptuous lunch with the gust of warm salty air from the ocean and the striking noon sun. At night—a relaxing seat at the bar with a glass of cocktail while listening to the mellow bar music and faint ocean waves. After dinner, we went out to the shore and literally watched the galaxy gleam above us. I was lost with the countless stars. After a long moment of snug silence, we headed back to the pool and had a swim. I actually like swimming at the pool better than the beach. I’m too anxious about jellyfish and sea urchins.

Woodland bar

The following day, we got up early to catch the sun come awake in the horizon. You know how beautiful sunrise is at the beach. Then, we were there at the shore, looking up, searching, but found no sun. Just the colors of the breaking dawn. We realized we were at the wrong side of the world, and the east was blocked by tall trees near and far. Nonetheless, it was still nice to wake up this early to catch the daybreak and the morning breeze.

I looked in the distance, into the sea, filled with anticipation for something hiding deep under. Read about it here.

Anticipating something BIG
Anticipating something BIG

BICOL Summer Spree: Starting point

May 18, 2014. Sunday night. We assertively headed to the Turbina bus terminal in Calamba, Laguna. We were cool about it until we saw the queue of sitting and standing people at the terminal. No more tickets at the first bus station. We went to another. And another. We were starting to feel anxious about having to postpone our most anticipated trip of the summer. Even a day of postponement was unacceptable. Our mistake that we had been so confident about not reserving a ticket. We hadn’t expected this rush of commuters to Bicol. We did not crumble easily and pushed our luck in another station. We fortunately got two vacant seats in a bus to Naga City. We were going to Sorsogon which would still be 2-3 hours away, but we took the bus anyway.

Travel by bus to Naga City is about eight hours while it’s only less than an hour by plane. But we still prefer the bus because it’s relatively cheaper, and I love long commutes. I and my companion both love long commutes. I especially love it because I’m with him. Long commutes don’t really matter when you’re with a special person. It can be the most comfortable thing because we can lie close to each other. I can fall onto his shoulders and our sleepy heads can bump into each other without having to be conscious about it.

The night of our departure, we did not sleep right away, but we watched the bright and yellow-orange moon following us. We watched the street and the houses that quickly passed by. We snuggled beside each other while making up scary stories until we fell asleep.

Ah, the country.
Ah, the country.

We woke up to the sunrise and a refreshing view of unfamiliar landscape outside the window. Then, we knew we were in the province. Lots of small wooden houses and green terrain passed our eyes, and we watched zealously. We were finally in Camarines Sur.

We got off in Naga City under the tickling heat of the summer morning sun. Later in our expedition we would explore this city as well, but first in our itinerary was Donsol, Sorsogon. So, we found the van terminal, rode through the countryside and sought the beach.

Read about DAY 1 here.