The Bicol Region is more than just the Mayon scenery and Pili nuts pasalubong. The region is composed of 6 major provinces – Albay, Catanduanes, Sorsgon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Masbate. It has a rich historical culture with a wide variety of colorful traditions and amazing stories from the locals. In addition, the Bicolanos are also known for their local taste of spicy cuisines that our own mothers surely have in their cooking handbooks.
The Bicol Region, geographically situated at the tail of Luzon, has an abundance of natural perks from volcanoes, to amazing stretch of beaches, and to boondocks that saved the locals from several harsh calamities.
Crazy for beaches? Well, hello there Catanduanes!
Catanduanes, known for its rich supply of abaca, is dubbed as “The Happy Island” of the Philippines. Besides the fibre abaca, Catanduanes also has a lot of beaches to offer. If you opt for a scenic view of the volcanoes on the mainland along the beach, then the Mamangal Beach is the best option for you. It is a wide stretch of white sand overlooking to the mainland with several nipa huts to have picnic at.
Not far away from Mamangal Beach is the Batag Beach which has a rock arch formation on its cove tail that will leave you in awe. Not only this beach offers a photogenic rock formation for your dream photoshoot, it is also a glorious white stretch of sand that will make you want to have a dip at its crystal clear water. Like Mamangal Beach, you can bring your tent if you want to stay overnight with the stars.
A favorite yet underrated attraction in Catanduanes is the Binurong Point, located in Guinsaanan, Baras, East Catanduanes. The best time to go here is at dawn so that you can witness the beautiful rising sun in the horizon. It is indeed called “Batanes in Catanduanes” for a reason. However, since we have limited time to explore the province, we were able to visit Binurong Point in the afternoon, before sunset, and it still amazed us with its view. Best of both worlds standing on top of grasslands overlooking the waves crashing into the rocks.
Locals in Bicol are extremely fond of spicy cuisines. The famous Bicol Express, a creamy and spicy dish with pork meat and chili fingers, is definitely a must-try. Though there are quite a lot of spin off of this dish here in the metro, it definitely tasted better in the province of its origin. In addition, the spicy dishes Laing and Pinangat shouldn’t be missed as well to complete the authentic Bicol cuisine experience! These spicy cuisines are made with local ingredients found within their vicinity such as gabi or taro root leaves and of course, the gata, or coconut milk. These dishes are simply perfect with a steaming hot rice.
The main attraction of Legazpi City, the Mayon Volcano, can be seen from every angle in the province. Its incomparable and unimaginable beauty can only be appreciated in person, with your very own eyes. Lignon Hills, an eco-park development located on the apex of the hill, is directly close to the foot perimeters of the Mayon Volcano. Its high point presents the panoramic landscape of the whole Legazpi City. Furthermore, a few minutes away from the city is the famous Cagsawa Ruins. This spot will give you the iconic view of the volcano and the remnants of the old church including the bell tower.
Another scenic hub is the Kitwinan Hills in Camalig Albay. Because there are less structures and manmade developments in the area, the view of the Mayon from here is more serene. This is also a local standby not only for tourists, but also for local scientists and reporters because of its high vantage location and vivid view of the crater making it a disaster tourism spot in Legazpi, Albay.
Sorsogon serves as the gateway to Southern Philippines wherein the main port and shipment is located. Besides visiting the port, there are also other activities to do in the area like surfing. Traveling further to the south of Sorsogon will take you to another sleeping giant in Bicolandia, the Mt. Bulusan. Near the mountain is the the Bulusan Lake which offers different water activities such as kayak, camping and trekking, they even have a floating spa for your relaxation! A perfect family getaway near Mt. Bulusan. Along the way to the lake is an abundance of Pili trees and Abaca which is one of the main source of agriculture in the province.
One of the main and best activity also in Donsol is Whale Shark watching. However, since the whale sharks in Donsol are exposed to a free habitat (which is healthier for them), it is a possibility that there are no whale sharks to watch during certain times of the year. But even if you don’t manage to see one, the panorama of Donsol coast with the Mayon on its background is perfect enough to complete your whole boat ride experience. Also rich with mangroves, Donsol serves as a home to thousands of fireflies nesting in the area. After sunset, opt for a nice walk along the river banks and watch these fireflies court each other along the riverbanks of Donsol.
Elysia Beach Resort, located in Donsol Sorsogon, gives you the perfect view of beach coast and the sunset in the horizon. Elysia Beach resort is just one of the few developed beaches in the coasts of Donsol, Sorsogon.
We had a quick visit in Camarines Sur or CamSur (Baao & Naga) and we were able to see the city’s hidden gems. This province serves as the dwelling place of the patron saint of the whole Bicol region, Our Lady of Penafrancia. CamSur hosts over 1 million pilgrims every year to celebrate her feast day every September, highlighting the religious devotion of Filipinos. Hence, it is called the Pilgrim city of the Philippines.
The first stop in Baao was BidiBidi Café owned by the very creative individual, Bernadette delos Santos. We are so blessed to meet her and she was able to show us around her shop. Her bags and other items are very well-crafted and unique. She also let us try their Banana Blossom Burger which we did not expect to be so delicious.
After that, we went straight to Naga to see eat lunch and see its wonderful churches. Our Lady of Penafrancia Shrine is the first one we visited. Followed by San Francisco de Assisi Parish which was near our hotel and Porta Mariae & Naga Cathedral.
The other provinces in the Bicolandia region we were not able to explore much yet, but definitely in the list of our next destinations to visit, are Camarines Norte, Masbate, and the beaches of Camarines Sur.
Camarines Norte, teeming in abundance of white sand beaches, sparkling blue waters and hidden rivers is a definitely a must-visit for every nature and beach lover! Be sure to go to the Calaguas Islands and Mampurog River!
Be transported back to the 19th Century Wild Wild West in Masbate, the ‘Rodeo Capital of the Philippines’ and get to experience the Rodeo Festival celebrated every April. A peaceful but equally fun alternative activity is to become one with nature and explore the beautiful island of Ticao such as its rock formations, scuba dive in the hidden lagoons, or take a dip in the waterfalls.
Bicolandia is sure a big region with lots of activities and sceneries to unwind and discover, a perfect getaway for every kind of traveler!
Explore the Bicolandia region with Aisela Travel to ensure a smooth, fun, and hassle free experience! Thank you to our reliable travel partner, Jessica Wong of Donsol Eco Tour. We are beyond excited to work with you in promoting local tourism in the Philippines! #ExplorewithAisela
Words by Ivan Lantin & Marielle Barraza
Edited by: Frances Nito
Photos by Ivan Lantin