THE BICOL: Adventure and Experience

Looking for a place with lots of things to offer? Beaches, island hopping, great food cuisines, heartwarming people and a sanctuary like no other? Bicol is the perfect destination for you.

Bicol (also spelled as Bikol) is the fifth among the 17 regions comprising Philippines and is located in the southeastern end of Luzon. The area is bounded on the north by Lamon Bay and Pacific Ocean on the East, the Sibuyan Sea and Ragay Gulf on the west.  It is composed of 6 provinces namely Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon. Accessibility of this region to Manila, the capital city of Philippines is through sea, rail, land and air. It would take 9 hours by land through south road from Manila to Bicol and 45 minutes by air transportation.

An evenly distributed rainfall throughout all year round and a not well pronounced wet and dry season makes the region very suitable for agriculture. Major products are rice, coconut, corn, abaca products, cement and ceramics. Bicol is also a major supplier of geothermal energy in the Luzon Power Grid with its Tiwi and BACMAN (Bacon-Manito) geothermal plants.

The region speaks several languages of the Bikol macro-language which is an Austronesian language related to the Cebuano and Tagalog languages. Bicol languages includes: Bicol-Rinconada, Bikol-Albay, Bikol-Pandan and Bisakol which is of Visayan similarity and is mostly in Masbate and in Sorsogon. It is also of Bicols’ pride of having a literacy rate of 96% with schools and universities at par with those in Manila.

Roman Catholicism is the religion of majority of the Bicolanos. Fiestas (feast days of saints) are the annual celebrations of parishes in the region like those of honoring miraculous saints, good and bountiful harvests for the year and the most loved such as the Our Lady of Peñafrancia  Fiesta with lots of devotees joining the celebration to honor Virgin Mary considered as “Queen Patroness of Bicolandia”. This event is held in Naga City (Pilgrim City) on every 2nd Saturday and Sunday of September. This celebration is headed by a novena (nine days of prayer). A fluvial procession (procession on the river) makes it so unique and marks the return of the Virgin Mary from Naga Cathedral to her home shrine at the Basilica.

With all the facts and generalizations about the region itself, let us now explore and be excited to see what each of its province can offer. First stop would be Albay, where the perfect coned Mayon Volcano is situated. This jaw dropping giant is a really a must in your bucketlist. Mayon Volcano is an archetype of a symmetrical strato-volcano and one of the world’s most active ones. It is also a national park and protected landscape and was proclaimed in 2000 as Mayon Volcano Natural Park. Along with the visit in Mayon, you can also enjoy the zipline in Lignon Hills, Cagsawa ruins and Mayon Rest House Observatory where it has a very good view and a nice and breezy place. One of the great attractions in the area also is the ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) ride on the foothills of the volcano. It has a series of trails with exciting twists and beautiful scenery which will be an experience of a lifetime. Next is Camarines Norte which it’s capital city is Daet. It holds the prestige of being the first town to erect the monument of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. It also takes pride on the Calaguas group of island with a series of amazing and pristine white sand beaches and splendid blue waters. Naga City is a place in Camarines Sur that hosted to Colegio de Sta. Isabel, the 1st known normal school for girls in the Orient. The most famous and talked about getaway in Cam Sur is the Caramoan Islands. It is a haven filled with a variety of marine life, underground caves and rivers, lagoons, terrific rock formations and exotic islets which would be of great marvel to scuba diving enthusiasts. Caramoan has become the favorite host for the highly rated TV series “Survivor”. The world’s smallest commercial and edible fish and is endemic in Lake Buhi, Lake Bato and Bicol River is situated in Cam Sur as well. The sinarapan or Mistichthys luzonensis, are a type of goby and they are transparent, except for the black eyes. The fish have an average length of 12.5 millimeters. Locals fry the sinarapan in oil, or boil them with vegetables.

Sorsogon Province has historic and panoramic places and where the world’s largest fish and whale shark known as “Butanding” can be found. Catanduanes on the other hand takes pride on its white beaches and resorts, an island paradise in the Pacific. Masbate lies exactly at the center of the Philippine archipelago and is also known for mining and cattle industry.

Food and delights

Bicol cuisine contains a combination of hot spices and coconut cream which is usually the main ingredient for it. The topmost dishes Laing and Pinangat. These dishes are Bicol recipe for vegetarians made from local gabi or taro leaves mixed with coconut cream and served with siling labuyo. Next would be the famous Bicol express. This dishes named after a passenger train from Manila to Bicol and its made of alamang and pork, beef or chicken with lots of sliced chili pepper and especially with cocnut cream. Pancit Bato is also a very popular dish in the region. This is made of a type of noodles that originated from Bato, a barangay in Camarines Sur. It is mixed with shrimp and pechay and would be of great match with rice or pandesal. Lastly would be the most famous nut which is endemic in Bicol, the pili nut. This is either made into pili nut brittle, caramelize pili nuts, yema and other sweets.

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