The home of Pili Nuts and Spicy delicacies, Bicol is one of the best destinations in the Philippines where a traveler may enjoy most of what could be found in the country. Hospitable people, sweet treats, the best dishes, beaches, falls, and mountains.
As kids, we were often asked by our parents about the places where we wanted to go. We never thought about how much it cost them or how hard they prepared for our dream vacation. Then we became adults, we realize it’s actually hard finding a place where we can have the most comfort without spending too much. But, when we get a job where field work is a duty to accomplish, a huge window of opportunity may come with the brightest of colors. This is what happened to me and my colleagues during our weekends at Bicol Region where we were tasked to implement our project.
Our first out of three weeks took us to Sorsogon. We took off without visiting the local spots since it was too scattered in the locality. Typically, provincial offices are far away from the commercial city, it could take at least a ride to be able to go somewhere to eat. In these instances, traveling personnel like us are provided with food three times a day. It’s a blessing to get free food, but, what’s special about it is they serve the province’s specialties!
After that week, we headed straight to Legazpi but we were invited to spend time there before we go back to Manila. Little did we know that our duty to Albay was to become one of the best, even with all our official work travels mashed up together.
The city of Legaspi is abundant with people, malls with cheap cinema, parks, and the like. I visited the nearby malls just to get a glimpse of the city whenever I got a chance. It was also a perfect spot to see the Mayon Volcano. Even at night, the flowing lava of the volcano could be seen from the city.
On that week, the manager at our Albay office was scheduled to sign off from her years of service. To most people in the industry, to retire means there shall be parties and treats. We were very lucky indeed, and on time. Cheers for that. We were invited for a tour on the weekend that followed after the weekday of work.
Accompanying us for the weekend wander was the resident accountant, Nikka. A charming little lady with a humor that reached beyond mine. Even before we rest our eyes at night, we invite her over for laugh offs and card games. She did make our trip to Albay a bit more unforgettable. One dinner she took us to Albay’s original restaurant 1st Colonial Grill for a taste of Bicolano dishes.
Gearing up for the weekend. I just had my camera, not that I needed cash but some of it just for souvenirs, and my anticipation, then we were ready for our adventure. A newly opened restaurant at Sumlang Lake seemed to be a nice place to have lunch. The lake is a good place to have a photo op as well. They have rafts for people to ride on and enjoy. Shortly, we went about Cagsawa Ruins, an old Church that was destroyed by the past eruption of Mayon. Souvenir items could be bought at the site.
A highlight activity when going to Albay is the ATV ride. A traveler may enjoy different tracks at different rates, depending on your preference, the shortest shall take an hour and the longest up to three hours. It ranges from 500 to 1500 per vehicle. At that time, the Mayon Volcano was on high alert level and the longest track was not available. Even so, we still enjoyed the short ride.
A little warm up to get lay of the vehicle controls were necessary, as it applies to everyone. The slowest rider goes first, followed by the rest of the group. We had two guides who rode with us. They were really helpful with taking photos and of course keeping us safe. A good tip though, wear sunscreens or long sleeves during the ride.
The bumpy track is a sure way to shake our adrenalines up. After a series of breakdowns and naughty pictures, it still left us hanging because we wanted more than we’ve experienced. Passing through a couple of barangays, we went on to Kawa Kawa Hill. Let me tell you that it is not ideal to go there at midday. The high steps and the long walk in the park will tire you up and dehydrate you down. Even a stopover for halo-halo at the hilltop will not suffice.
Kawa Kawa Hill is a pilgrimage. It exhibits the stations of the cross. Funny thing, we also witnessed lovers cuddling, snogging, whatever, along with the long stroll. After all, it’s still a park.
As mentioned, one of Bicol’s specialty is Pili Nuts. Along Guinobatan is Marcon Food Enterprises. They sell quality pasalubong pili treats. I recommend the Pili bar called Mazapan. Sugar-coated pili nuts are delicious too.
On a damper part of the rural area of Albay is Hoyop Hoyopan Cave. It’s located in the municipality of Camalig. Like most caves that are crazy full of rock formations, this cave formed amazing structures as well. If you look well enough and have a creative imagination, you might find yourself constructing your own life-like formations.
It’s said that during the Japanese occupation, soldiers used the cave as a barracks and for hiding. Also parties, like dancing and amusement. Maybe they did, a dome-shaped room inside the cave might have served that purpose.
Cooling down. A nice ride back to Legazpi along the hill-roads stretched away our fatigue. Also, a good view of Legazpi could be seen from the highlands. It was a perfect spot for a cool breeze and dandy Mayon shots.
Besides the Legazpi highland, a nice view of the city could be seen from Lignon Hill, it’s only within the city and is accessible via tricycle for only 60 pesos. The smooth road to the top is good for joggers and those looking for a warmed up walking exercise. Meanwhile, an ocean view could be enjoyed at Legazpi Boulevard.
It seemed that the day was a very long one. So many places traveled, and new experiences collected. Still excited for the next day trip, we were assured to anticipate another long ride. This time, to the far side of Sorsogon.
Waking up early in the morning, we had no idea where in Sorsogon they’re gonna take us. My colleagues and I were just carried by a group of staff from the office as they were to celebrate the manager’s send-off party. After almost four hours on the road. We reached Rizal Beach at Gubat, Sorsogon. If you enjoy quaint beaches with few people and a far-away from civilization vibe, this beach is perfect for you. The long beach is perfect for families and kids, with a little risk of getting injured or what’s worse since the shallow water is stretched far from the shore.
Beaches are my kind of soul food. I find it very fulfilling whenever I get to the beach, let my feet soak in the water and my body drenched in sunlight. My colleagues and I prepared lunch while I took the photos, we had seafood, grilled porks, fresh mangoes, and rice, a typical Filipino beach lunch.
Without changing into drier clothes. went straight to Barcelona, Sorsogon. A ruin that dates back to Spaniard colonization stood by the seaside, entangled with plants and vines that formed through the years.
The road past Barcelona goes straight up to Bulusan Lake. Too bad I felt uncomfortable with my clothes soaking wet, I preferred washing up and changing than taking photos of the hot lake. When I got off the bathroom, they were all gone. Everyone was in the car waiting for me. No time to take photos of the lake. I’d give anything for a single shot.
Before the afternoon turns into twilight, we went to visit Paguriran Island and Lagoon, located at Bacon, Sorsogon. Not willing to get wet right after a good wash, I did not join the stroll in the water to the island. Another reason I’m very eager to go back there.
By the time we got back to Albay, it was already dark. My colleagues, still soaking wet, got chills as they traveled from Sorsogon to Legazpi at the back of a pick-up truck. As for me, I was sitting comfortably inside the car, but I won’t mind the chills if I get another chance to visit the lake and lagoon.
Another week passed and we got off with warm thanks and goodbyes. I was left with one of my traveling partners. On the road to the port to Masbate, I said to myself, there is no saying goodbye to Mayon. Yes, I shall see you again.
It took us exactly one hour and forty-five minutes to Masbate through an OceanJet ferry at Pilar Port, Sorsogon. As I stepped down the boat, I saw the busy port of Masbate, not what I expected. I was surprised by the crowd and the urban vibe. I did not think there’d be Jollibee or Mang Inasal. Right then and there, I assumed there has to be a Gaisano Mall nearby. I was correct.
We only had a short time even in fulfilling our assigned tasks. However, they still invited us for a quick trip to Buntod Island, just so we can experience Masbate’s paradise feel. The island is just five minutes away from the mainland, through a small boat. I had no idea about how the island looked like since I did not really know anything about Masbate, well, maybe a little bit, that there’d be rebels within its deeper, darker parts.
Surprised was my first reaction. Then amazed. Then joyful. Buntod island is a precious little sandbar in the middle of the sea an is surrounded by opposing waters. The other side is warm and shallow, while a few steps on the other is cold and deep. It was relaxing to the eye. Nearly a few hours later, the tide engulfed half of that little island and the waves crashed with each other.
Have you tasted the belly of a Yellow Fin Tuna? It’s to die for. It made the trip much more appetizing than it already was. I even had some couple of hard drinks. I can’t believe it. I don’t drink, I rarely eat seafood. Well, this time I did, during midday. It might be the island telling me to get out of my comfort zone.
There I knew about Masbate. And there are so much more to visit. But, we didn’t get enough time to visit them all. Early on the following morning, we went back to Sorsogon for our final journey with our provincial colleagues.
Around the middle of a Saturday afternoon, we got prepared for a short trip to Casiguran, Sorsogon. A fancy resort called Residencia del Hamor offered unwinding experience to travelers who might enjoy peace and quiet with family or a loved one.
Turon, wrapped sugar coated Banana. A phenomenal Filipino dessert.
There is no more perfect time for a hot bath but during a cold summer night. We took off straight to San Benon Hot Spring at Irosin, Sorsogon for our final night together with the team. It was a crowded resort, but there are three hot pools to choose from. Also, the entrance fee is cheap, around less than a hundred pesos per person and a few hundred for a cottage. The hot water comes directly from Bulusan Lake, a volcano lake far behind the mountains. It was like a large hot water spa from nature.
The night had stricken us with tired dehydrated bodies. But, that feeling is perfect for a good night sleep. Since the next day was a fifteen-hour ride back to Manila.
I could say that my colleagues and I were truly blessed. I love the way we were treated by our co-workers from far away places. I guess that’s one thing about Filipinos, always treating everyone as a family is a value embedded in our DNA. Filipinos are known for remarkable hospitality after all. So, yeah. Extraordinary people. perfect timing, and an awesome workplace. That’s how I ended up spending nothing on this travel.