Bicol has always been popular because of the diminutive superstar who took the country by surprise in the 70s. But there is more to Bicol than famous movie stars and pretty beauty queens. Home to some of the country’s gorgeous beaches, the biggest fish in the world, fiery cuisines, and world’s perfect cone – you are bound to create an adventure in Bicol that would be unparalleled in the years to come. Let Juanderkid, a true-blooded Bicolano who recently went on a Bicol road trip with his friends, inspire your new escapade.
My friend and travel buddy M have been eyeing a Bicol adventure since 2010 but we only got to finally schedule our trip this year. We were joined by M’s boyfriend, P, also a Bicolano, who helped me tour M around Bicolandia. Star, M’s car, was obviously in good shape for this journey, and with P as our willing chauffeur, we left Manila at 11pm on March 7.
DAY 1. MARCH 08.
The trip to our first stop was short and easy (only because I was asleep the entire time!). M is that little mermaid who loves the sea so I thought of taking her first to Calaguas, in Camarines Norte. Camarines Norte is your gateway to Bicol when you are driving from Manila. I have been to Calaguas twice via the Paracale route, but since I was not so sure if it’s safe to leave Star in Paracale, we decided to head to Panganiban where another friend of mine, S, lives.
This was the view that greeted us when we parked our car in front of Panganiban’s police station at 5:45 am.
After our breakfast in Evia’s (they have wifi at 6am!), we met S, a municipal councilor who made all the arrangements for us. She introduced us to some police officials who will look after Star while we’re away, and even let us use the municipal hall’s comfort room so we could refresh. These are my friends S, M, and P.
We reached Calaguas by 11am. We were the only guests on the beach (until 3pm when another boat of four people arrived) so my friends had a field day in paradise.
We spent the night on a tent and we were really fortunate the moon was on its full glory. It was bright enough to light our night. One of us decided to take a bath by the shrubs, under the moon, and fully-naked since a moment like that doesn’t happen too often in this lifetime.
DAY 2. MARCH 09.
We made a quick stop in Daet (one-hour drive from Panganiban) for lunch and although we would like to see Daet’s Bagasbas beach and try surfing, we decided to skip that for now and went straight to Naga City (two hours away from Daet) where we paid homage to Bicol’s Beloved Mother, the Penafrancia.
Every September, thousands of devotees from all over the world flock to Naga to participate in the celebration of Our Lady of Penafrancia where a fluvial procession takes place.
We then dropped by the famous CWC, a watersports complex in Pili, Camarines Norte (just a short 15-minute drive from Naga City). The place was beaming with foreign enthusiasts and since M and I aren’t really big fans of extreme sports, we spent the time people-watching.
And had merienda in one of CWC’s restaurants where we partook on its famous Bicolana Pizza, a fusion of Bicol Express and Laing (taro leaves with coconut milk) which flavor literally explodes in your mouth. It was delish!
We could have just went straight to Sabang, the jump-off point to Caramoan, but considering Star’s safety again, we made our way to Tabaco City (an hour and 45 minutes drive from Pili), P’s hometown, and spent the night there.
DAY 3. MARCH 10.
P asked his friend to drive us to Sangay in Camarines Sur (one hour from Tabaco) where we took the ferry to Caramoan. The ride via Joroan Road in Tiwi, Albay to Sangay was exciting and scenic, we stopped at the sight of this at 5:30am.
By 10am, we were already island-hopping around Caramoan where the reality television series Survivor USA was filming and around seven islands were “closed to the public” for it. We learned from our boatman, Kuya Ute, that Survivor India had just finished filming as well. We did not insist to go to the different islands anymore and just settled to spend the day in Lahos Island and Matukad beach.
I climbed one of the rock formations that lead to a lagoon, believed by the locals to be enchanted.
At this point, we’re just having too many fresh seafood and Bicolano dishes such as Bicol Express and Laing.
DAY 4. MARCH 11.
From Caramoan, we traveled by boat to Sabang (two hours) where another couple friends of ours were waiting for us. We drove back to Pili (one hour from Sabang) and had lunch at Bigg’s Diner, a popular Bicolano food chain whose ambiance reminds my friend M of Baguio’s famous 50′s Diner.
We then proceeded to Kawa-Kawa Hill in Ligao City, a natural park which houses larger-than-life statues of The Way of the Cross. The place was so named since its upper portion resembles that of a kawa (a frying pan they say, but actually more like a wok). Think UP Diliman’s Sunken Garden, only bigger and deeper.
We headed back to Tabaco City (another 45 minutes from Ligao) to spend our night there. In most of our travels from Camarines Sur and around Albay, we were always greeted by the majestic Mayon Volcano.
DAY 05. MARCH 12.
We left Tabaco at 8am and drove straight to Barcelona (around three hours drive) in Sorsogon. Barcelona is a coastal town which church wall was built using corals in 1874.
In front of the church is another old structure that dates back to the 17th century, where I had my photo taken with the local kids on their way home from school.
After our brief stop in Barcelona, we drove to Bulusan to see its lake (drive to Bulusan from Barcelona is one hour) and found rice fields after rice fields that were just too eye-candy to be ignored.
By 12:30pm, we had our lunch by the Bulusan Lake, which is at the heart of the Bulusan Volcano National Park.
And pedaled our way around the lake with the help of a water bike (rent is PhP250).
After which, we drove to Donsol (two hours and a half from Bulusan) and stayed at our place, Amor Farm Beach Resort. We had a short merienda before we took the firefly tour. Too bad it was low tide so we had to take the tour from the bridge and had to forego the sunset part of it which you enjoy when you take the ride from our resort.
DAY 06. MARCH 13.
We woke up early and took the 7am whale shark tour. We were joined by a German couple who saw four whale sharks the day before. After an hour and a half of going around, we spotted one whale shark and both my friends were able to swim with it, albeit for a very short period. It must have been the weird weather pattern at this time of the year (think Manila heavy rain in the middle of the month) that scared the whale sharks to show up that day. Nevertheless, M and P were just too happy to have finally seen a whale shark.
Before we headed back to Legazpi City, we had lunch at Kawnkita Restaurant (Amor Farm Beach Resort) where the star of the show was the Kinunot, a local delicacy made of fish meat, malunggay, chilies, and coconut milk. Yummy!
We were back in Legazpi by 3pm (Donsol is an hour away from the city) where we dared each other and enjoyed the zipline ride that gave us a stunning view of Mayon.
We ended our day and our week-long Bicol adventure by devouring Bicol Express Pasta at Small Talk, a local restaurant famous for their fusion Bicolano dishes. We certainly had tons of fun!
Meet Star, our official carrier.
A lot of things certainly await you in Bicol. Whether it’s an adventure that would take you to some rugged mountains and beaches, or up in the sky, or under the sea, or a personal journey that would bring you closer to your faith and the universe, Bicol has one for you. Catanduanes and Masbate are not yet covered here, so expect to double the fun when you also visit the charming islands of Catanduanes and Masbate.
What are you waiting for? Call on your friends and family and start working on your Bicol adventure now!
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust!
- All photographs, except that of the moon, P on a zipline, and the sunset, were taken with a Canon 550d.
- Moon and sunset photos taken with a Nikon d300.
- Photo of P on a zipline courtesy of Alvin Luminario of Lignon Hill Zipline Adventure.